Drive this Brit icon and taste royalty
It takes just over 600 hours to build one Bentley. Now you know why they are so rare. Like good whiskey that matures over time.
I was one of the few chosen to test drive a very rare Bentley - the Continental Flying Spur Speed. I was sceptical when I received the invite for the simple reason that I did not want to drive the car for only a day. After some persuasion from Bentley's PR, I agreed.
It was a slow start at the Bentley dealership in Sandton as we sat sipping coffee and chatting about these ultra-luxurious cars.
Bentley is not on everyone's lips. This a brand that is spoken of only at very-intimate cocktails and networking sessions.
While waiting for the photographer , my host and I decide to drive around the block. Sitting in the car for a few minutes and not being able to figure out where the mirror adjusters were, was a good indication of the sophistication of the Bentley.
I wonder whether I should get excited yet. I start the engine and slowly drive off. Ten minutes after leaving the dealership, the photographer calls.
I was getting used to feeling like the Queen - a self-driven queen nogal. Pity I had to head back to the dealership to pick up the young photographer. She is waiting in anticipation. One look at the car and she can't stop smiling.
"Wow, what a car," she enthuses.
This is going to be a beautiful day. I explain to her what car it is and the purpose for driving it.
For a moment, I reflect because I am not sure why I was chosen to drive this car.
This particular model has been flown into the country for this purpose. Hence it has UK nameplates.
Our photographer gets into tune quite quickly. She instructs us about the position she wants the car parked for her to take the photographs. The Continental Flying Spur Speed gets back on the floor of the showroom for a couple of photographs.
Every Bentley's interior is crafted by hand. The leather, which comes from 16 cows, undergoes a stringent selection process to meet Bentley's standards.
If the leather does not live up to the manufacturer's high standards, it is used to make the furniture that is then sent to various dealerships.
We drove around Johannesburg and every minute of the ride was spectacular. We reach our lunch destination, the Melrose Hotel. I drive to the front door of the hotel for more pictures. The hotel staff are forgiving, thanks to the Continental Flying Spur Speed. The hotel is roaming with big-muscled Americans as hip-hop artist Akon is a guest, but this does not prevent the Bentley getting its fair share of attention.
Our host tells us that this car is in the country for three months and will be flown back to the UK after the event. From Johannesburg, it is going to Cape Town and back to Johannesburg for its flight back home.
The most powerful four-door Bentley ever made, the Flying Spur Speed blends understated design cues to distinguish it from the Flying Spur.
Its front grille and lower air intakes are dark-tinted chrome, while at the rear, wider rifled sports exhaust tailpipes hint at the potential of the Speed model.
New 20-inch multi-spoke wheels, available in bright silver or darkened tungsten, carry bespoke Pirelli P Zero performance tyres introduced on the GT Speed model, which provide the car with superb grip and feedback. The 12-cylinder 6-litre twin turbocharged engine is something to dream about. It really loved the highway. The only downside is the fuel consumption. We averaged about 27 litres per 100km.
This Bentley's sporting performance is complemented by a highly capable chassis.
Taut handling and greater steering response with sharper turn-in and improved driver feedback is achieved through a re-tuned Servotronic steering system, direct-mounted front sub-frame.