As we mentioned the other day, our intrepid editor recently spent a few adrenaline-filled days putting the brand-new Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible through its paces from Phoenix to Vegas via the Grand Canyon and along legendary Route 66.
Here’s Part I of his report from the cockpit of the Flying B…
From Phoenix to Vegas via the Grand Canyon and along legendary Route 66
Perhaps he’d somehow been tipped off to our arrival with intent to bend certain laws pertaining to the velocity of moving vehicles.
Passing through customs at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport, the official on duty admonished us to “Be good” and offered up a crisp military salute.
We stared a moment too long; clearly the mission—to spend a few days driving the world’s fastest four-seat convertible through some of the planet’s most spectacular scenery—had already been compromised.
Which meant only one thing: make doubly sure the coast was clear before putting any of the “world’s fastest” claims to the test.
Driving the world’s fastest four-seat convertible in some spectacular scenery
Before setting off on the 600-mile odyssey, which would take us from Phoenix to Vegas via the Grand Canyon and the fabled Route 66, we assembled at the slick W Hotel in Scottsdale, AZ, to meet our fellow travelers and get acquainted with the car.
Some luxury vehicles, even of this caliber, promise you the earth but deliver a handful of dirt.
The new 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible is not one of them.
Bentley, of course, doesn’t throw around the word “Speed” lightly.
Back in 1925, the firm’s founder W.O. Bentley introduced the 3-Litre Speed followed by the Le Mans 24 Hour Race–winning Speed Six, forever establishing the marque’s claim to the honorific.
Fitted with a 616 hp W12 engine good for a top speed of 202 mph
Mated to the mind-bending performance of the sinuous, stylish ragtop—with a 616 hp W12 engine good for a top speed of 202 mph—is a ludicrously luxurious interior and the kind of comfort that usually has to be sacrificed to achieve such stats.
Bentley, however, has decidedly delivered it all in one exclusive, princely package, a private jet of a car for the privileged few—and for the next 48 hours, ours as well.
Time to go Grand Touring.
Before setting off, however, there was the decision to be made regarding which color car to choose for the first leg of the journey.
Knowing it was likely to be a bit of a dilemma, we’d allowed the W’s pneumatic cocktail waitresses to serve us only one Arctic-cold martini the night before.
The bold St. James Red version appealed to our sense of sprezzatura
While the bold St. James Red version appealed to our sense of sprezzatura, the earth-toned models were sure to blend better into the desert landscape, making it less likely that Rosco P. Coltrane would spot us coming from a mile off.
A little stealth of course being of obvious value when seeking to test the claims of a vehicle capable of landing you behind bars for the rest of your natural life.
And so our copilot Mr. Nick Stecher agreed wholeheartedly—red it was.
Our first leg would take us through a cactus-strewn landscape from Scottsdale to the Grand Canyon via the Tonto National Park, stopping for refreshments along the way in old-fashioned Flagstaff.
We settled in to the 007-worthy cockpit, made the usual adjustments to wing mirrors and such, and happened to glance down at the speedometer before preparing to pass the first of many, many vehicles en route to our final destination.
The needle had apparently already decided it felt right at home at 100 mph
The needle had apparently already decided it felt right at home at 100 mph and was impatiently awaiting further instructions.
The first car full of civilians flashed backward in suspended animation, necks of underaged specimens in the backseat craning comically forward.
Then another. And another. Cars and cacti became a blur as we nudged up to 120 or so, prior to actually applying pressure with our Tod’s-shod right foot.
Shifting into Sport mode, the exhaust answered with a satisfying if somewhat jaded rumble as we leveled off at about 140.
Shifting into Sport mode, the exhaust answered with a satisfying if jaded rumble
“This is a bit more like it,” the GT Speed seemed to say. “Can we please get a move on now?”
There was plenty of tarmac left to consume, and we decided not to be bossed around by a mere hunk of metal, no matter how costly or lovingly handcrafted by little old ladies sitting around stitching leather steering wheels back in Crewe.
Along the way, only one fellow was foolish enough to even challenge our supremacy, a Roth IRA type in a cherry-red Corvette with a bottle blonde young enough to be his secretary riding shotgun.
We toyed with him briefly, pretending to work at keeping pace as he rallied bravely in the next lane while the blonde cooed appreciatively and placed a manicured paw on his polyblend knee.
Then with a flick of the paddle and a well-bred roar we rocketed past, leaving the Corvette disappearing in the rearview like a little red pocket of frustrated Y chromosomes and insufficient bank balances.
The Corvette disappeared like a little red pocket of frustrated Y chromosomes
We had a feeling the fellow was going to be taking his own dictation that night.
The encounter left us feeling a trifle peckish and we gratefully attacked various deep-fried foods at a refueling stop in Flagstaff at the Weatherford Hotel.
Curious onlookers flocked round the fleet of exotic autos parked on the old-timey street outside, brandished camera phones and generally behaved as if Britney Spears had dropped in to do a little shopping at Buford’s Package Store.
Fortified and well filled with polyunsaturated fats, we settled once more into our diamond-quilted berth, admiring the various bits of carbon fiber and engine-turned aluminum decorating the place.
We admired the various bits of carbon fiber and engine-turned aluminum
Next stop: the Grand Canyon.
Clearing the outskirts of town and making a few exploratory thrusts with the driving moccasin, we rounded a bend and nearly rear-ended one of Flagstaff’s finest.
For the next several miles, we maintained a suitably stately pace, until the authorities finally turned off onto a dirt track to set up a speed trap for some less fortunate souls.
Divine providence, it seemed, had chosen to smile down upon our excursion—despite being jealous as hell, we expect.
So as not to appear ungrateful, on the next straightaway—in Arizona desert terms meaning we could see clear into the next county—we flicked through the gears (eight in standard drive mode and seven in Sport), touching a number that we decline to reveal on the grounds, etc.
Divine providence had chosen to smile down upon our excursion
It was then that the Bentley’s impressive electronics system offered a politely worded reminder that it had been fitted with snow tires to navigate some of the Canyon’s higher passes, and would we please endeavor not to place undue stress on same.
It was no more than a discreet cough from Jeeves, yet made us feel as chastened as Bertie Wooster attempting to leave the house in heliotrope
Satisfied that the GT Speed was by no means making idle boasts about performance, we settled back to enjoy the first-class appointments, fiddle with the radio dial and admire the scenery as we crested a butte or something and saw signs for the Grand Canyon…
Stay tuned for Part II…
- Posted February 20, 2013
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