So Saturday was my big day.
The Bride was looking radiant, the Groomsmen were kilted-up and the church was packed. My suit was pressed, shoes polished and I even shaved for the occasion. All I had to do was arrive on time.
Despite some traffic problems and a couple of diversions, I pulled up at the door on the stroke of 12 noon. The groomsmen were the first to emerge from the house, followed by the nervous groom. I helped them into the car and we set off for the church.
No, Saturday wasn’t my wedding day. It was the day I finally got to drive a Bentley.
About time really. I’ve been writing about the company and its cars for a few years now, over on Something About Bentley. I’ve been in and around their latest concepts at the Geneva Motorshow and, in the Spring, toured the fascinating HQ in Crewe but, until Saturday, I had never driven a Bentley.
This time, it was a 2008 Continental Flying Spur, on chauffeur duty as 2nd car on a three-car wedding. The bride was afforded a magnificent Rolls Royce Phantom, but I was quite happy following behind in the Spur.
The leather armchairs and acres of forestry go some way to explaining the enormous weight of the Bentley, which you notice at roundabouts and under braking. But all that heft is shoved along the road with such a powerful motor that it does things that cars half its size can’t even come close to matching.
Pulling away from the big Roundabout at the top of the M9, just outside Dunblane, the barely-believable two and a half tonnes of tin, rubber and cow hide takes off at an astonishing rate. Don’t worry, by now the bridal party were safely ensconced in the luxurious Dunblane Hydro Hotel while the three wedding cars, stripped of their ribbons, were powering back to Glasgow in the sunshine. The 10-year-old Bentley still feels modern inside and, as you’d expect, extremely comfortable. Massage seats have come a long way since this car was made but it’s still nice to feel the lumbar-support rolling up and down my back.
Being, ever, the professional, I don’t tend to rely on GPS, which is just as well, really, as the Flying Spur’s Sat-Nav left a lot to be desired. Maybe we’re just spoilt nowadays by the beautiful displays on our smartphones but the generic VW system in this Bentley cheapened the overall effect of the car.
I loved the polished wood steering wheel and the traditional organ-stop heating controls, which set the Bentley apart from the VW Phaeton on which it is based. The overall design of the dash – with echos of the winged-B logo – was a welcome improvement on the tank-like wall in Bentley models of the past.
Outside, only certain angles, in a certain light, flatter the Continental Flying Spur. This four-door Conti has a “Jelly-mould” shape to it that doesn’t really suit the sporting nature of modern Bentley’s. Having said that, the 2nd generation model addressed this very nicely. Besides, when you’re driving it, you don’t have to look at it, so you can just imagine you’re in the spectacular GT coupe instead.
It was always important to Bentley that it would distinguish itself as a sporty brand, and, aside from the eye-watering power and mind-bending top speed, the sporty character of the car comes out in the sound it makes. Fire-up the 6-litre W12 engine and the luxury limousine sounds like it would be equally at home at Le Mans. A mildly aggressive, throaty gargle is the only way I can describe the ‘welcome note’ before it settles down to a near silent hum – appropriate for the ceremonial duties of the day.
Pulling up at HQ, my lingering thought was: I hope I get this one again. My fellow chauffeurs concur that the Bentley is one of their favourite cars and it received only gushing compliments from its passengers on the day. For me, it was a pleasure to drive and to put it to work in a role that really suits it. I’m already looking forward to my next big day.