Our intrepid editor recently spent a few adrenaline-filled days putting the brand-new 600+ hp Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible through its paces on 600 miles of scenic road from Phoenix to Vegas via the Grand Canyon and along legendary Route 66.
Here’s Part II of his report from behind the wheel of the Flying B…
When we left off our tale of automotive adventure the other day, we were approaching the Grand Canyon at considerable velocity behind the wheel of a bright-red Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible.
Accompanied by the sound of the W12′s elegantly aggressive vocal chords
With Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros soundtracking through the ragtop’s rather impressive stereo system to the accompaniment of the W12′s elegantly aggressive vocal chords, we ascended to 7,000 feet above sea level.
The air was considerably thinner as it rushed past in aerodynamically channeled zephyrs, and patches of snow began to appear on the roadside as the first sign signaled our approach to the Grand Canyon National Park.
A picture postcard landscape revealing two billion years of geological mischief
The temperature began to drop, but with the sun shining and the Bentley’s air scarf feature going full blast, we barely noticed the difference.
In place of Levitra-powered Corvettes, our progress was now impeded by picturesquely placed does and bucks, prancing about as if they owned the place.
As the sun began its scenic descent and the atmosphere became increasingly alpinistic, we pressed on to the historic El Tovar Hotel, which has presided over the south rim of the canyon since 1905.
A slight air of Stephen King pervaded the place, with its dark log walls, flagstone fireplaces and enormous taxidermied animals looming overhead.
We pressed on to the historic El Tovar Hotel presiding over the canyon since 1905
Happily, the cozy barroom offered six types of locally brewed lager to slake our thirst after the long day’s drive.
Following a sumptuous carnivorous orgy in the capacious Canyon Room with views over the red-rimmed plateaux and a post-prandial glass of port, we retired for the night to prepare for the next day’s journey.
In the AM, the mercury registered a frosty 46 degrees, but determined to take full advantage of the convertible’s amenities, we tied scarves around our necks, cranked up the seat heaters and gamely powered down the canvas.
On a few icy patches, the GT Speed’s permanent all-wheel drive came in handy, but we soon descended into an arid landscape pursued only by the occasional tumbleweed stirred to action in our wake.
How could we not test our powers of acceleration against a 10-ton diesel locomotive?
Freight trains began to appear as the GPS directed us onto the fabled Route 66, iconic object of so many evocative episodes in the lore of the American road trip.
How could we not test our powers of acceleration against a 10-ton diesel locomotive making the big run to points north?
We quickly left it choking on brick-red dust stirred up by our Pirelli P Zeros in a pointless but rather satisfying exercise in torque, power-to-weight ratios and the immutable laws of physics.
Soon it was time for a coffee stop in Seligman at the entertainingly named Roadkill Café—”You Kill It, We Grill It”—whose most menacing menu item turned out to be apple pie à la mode.
A pointless but rather satisfying exercise in torque and power-to-weight ratios
Following which we wisely decided to try and take it easy for a spell.
Engaging the Bentley’s seat massage function, we meandered majestically like movie stars adrift in the desert, dodging producers, accountants and assistant directors demanding our presence on set.
Entrepreneurial roadside types occasionally diverted us with displays of automotive memorabilia and appeals to high-octane nostalgia as we drifted down to Mr. D’s Route 66 Diner in Kingman, AZ, our designated lunchtime destination.
As we pulled into the parking lot, a phalanx of Harleys disgorged a goatee’d gang sporting Mean Machine MC jackets, and we wondered if a rumble was about to take place.
We meandered majestically like movie stars adrift in the desert
Despite the “Trust No One” patches and occasional Delta Force dagger dangling from a belt loop, we realized this wasn’t exactly Sons of Anarchy—they were far too polite and their denim vests were painstakingly laundered.
Refueled once more, we made good time down to the Hoover Dam on the Nevada border, the landscape becoming increasingly featureless but providing less distraction from the pleasure of letting the GT Speed set the pace.
This was where its true character was revealed, a seemingly endless stretch of road where a less commodious car would start to feel uncomfortable and a less capable one inadequate.
The Bentley’s grand touring talents were truly allowed to assert themselves, the iron fist beneath the goatskin glove and the steel under the silk making itself felt amidst a hundred miles of dirt, dust and sand.
Balls with a British accent, guts with a degree from Oxford, raw power with a peerage
Balls with a British accent, guts with a degree from Oxford, raw power with a peerage—however you wish to phrase it, the GT Speed has it in spades.
Its subtle version of super-luxury became all the more apparent when we arrived in Las Vegas, shooting along Frank Sinatra Boulevard to the sensational Strip.
Even in bright red, the Bentley seemed understated in Vegas.
Well muscled but with no need to wear a tank top advertising the fact—the polar opposite of the prevailing Vegas ethos.
Well muscled but with no need to wear a tank top advertising the fact
The celebrity hiding beneath the hat and sunglasses rather than the one offering the paparazzi an upskirt shot at the nightclub.
Appropriately enough, we were lodging in the one luxury hotel that doesn’t feel the need to blare its name in hundred-foot-high neon lights or offer slot machines in the lobby—the serenely elegant Mandarin Oriental.
While a Rolls-Royce blares the bona fides of its owner’s bank account—though one often suspects such ostentation is severely overleveraged—a Bentley commands respect rather more quietly.
Going to Vegas for something other than gambling is a bit like reading Playboy for the articles, but we had no need of further thrill-seeking following our 600-mile odyssey.
Especially in Vegas, a Bentley commands respect rather more quietly
On our way to dinner at the Bellagio, passing by laser light shows, ersatz Eiffel Towers and 80-year-old men escorted by—well, escorts—we marveled at all the people grimly, determined, however astronomically unlikely, to hit the jackpot.
We could only hope that if successful, they’d also acquire the good sense to buy a Bentley…
EARLIER: The Six Hundred, Pt. I
- Posted February 26, 2013
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