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Drive

Bentley Snow Driving in Sweden

I am even older. What would I buy now given the chance? How about a Bentley Continental GT?


A dream has been fulfilled...

My First Love…

I met my first love when I was only three years old. It was love at first sight. I can remember her to this day; Triumph Herald was her name, a pedal car with battery powered electric lights. Although my pram had decent wheels and tyres, it had nothing on the pedal car, so the pram was dumped, and Mum and Dad’s pleasure of pushing their little boy around on four wheels came to an abrupt end. I had discovered Cars.


 

Decades later, the passion remained. I desperately wanted to own supercars. I couldn’t afford them really, but the heart ruled every time over the years, and several Lotus cars, Jaguars, Porsches, Maseratis and even Ferraris replaced that Triumph Herald pedal car. Yes, I ‘owned’ my dreams; yet oddly I couldn’t afford to really enjoy them. They were run on a strict budget that just about paid for insurance, tax, servicing, and two miles a week on the road. In between they were polished and garaged. I know; sacrilege.

Once I ‘grew out’ of the supercar obsession and married Doris, I started to buy ‘normal’ cars – admittedly they were still powerful and sporty, but not in the same league. I had got the supercar bug out of the system, but vowed that if I ever went down that road again, I wanted to be able to enjoy it without worrying about the cost. Sadly, I spend a lot of time reminiscing; I ‘should have’ driven my Ferrari to Italy on a Ferrari factory tour, I ‘should have’ toured Europe in the Maserati, or driven the Porsche to Le Mans, and…

 

Back to the future…

Fast forward to 2015, and I am even older. What would I buy now given the chance?  How about a Bentley Continental GT?  And why? Because versatile and fast as it is, I could relive all of my ‘back to the future’ reminiscences all in just one car. In fact the model choice would be the Continental GT V8 S. Its 4 litre V8 engine achieves 0-62 mph of 4.0 secs, and a top speed of 188 mph. As it happens I’ve never actually owned a supercar that can go that fast. Combine that with the added advantage of comfortable seating for four, an eight speed gearbox, four-wheel drive, and 358 litres of boot-space, one can hardly complain. ‘Mine’ would have the ‘luxury premier’ specification with the Naim for Bentley sound system thrown in – that includes CD, cameras, and fully ventilated front seats with massage function.

In this scribbler’s opinion the V8 S is the sweetest and most rewarding of the Continental derivatives if you want to get to the heart of the sporting GT driving experience. The standard V8 is wonderful, but less sharp and purposeful, and I can’t think of anywhere in the real world where you’ll be able to fully exploit the Speed Six enough to enjoy it as much as you would the V8 S in day to day use, as the majority of them are used today.

You’ll spot the V8 S by the dark mesh radiator grille, the lower bumper with its three air intakes, the dark rear valance, and its twin exhaust tailpipes shaped into an elongated, side-on figure eight. Another clue to the V8 S’ identity is a red enamel Bentley winged ‘B’.

For the Sporting driver the V8 S offers the best combination of ride, handling, and power. Colour? What the hell; let’s go for bright yellow, and make up for years of frustrated motoring adventure by forsaking Monaco in favour of freezing cold central Sweden. Here, the roads are caked in snow, the driving seriously challenging, and the temperature minus 17 degrees …and that’s when its warm. You may think we needed a snow plough to the back and front of our hand crafted projectile, but the only snow ploughs we had were winter tyres.

A brief overnight stay at an amazing hotel in Stockholm was followed by an early departure for Osterholm airport to pick up our yellow Bentley Conti for the drive. The plan was to drive from Osterholm through some beautiful countryside in the snow to Åre, including a brief diversion to the Millestgarden Moose farm for lunch. An overnight stay, with a bit of leisure time thrown in at the Copperhill Mountain Lodge in Åre was planned as an apt conclusion to our adventure.

A bit of overnight weather googling threatened temperatures of minus 20, so I left the hotel looking like the Michelin Man, with two or three thermal T shirts, long-johns, several sweaters, and my fit-for-purpose super warm and cosy ‘G-Lab Exhibition’ coat. G-Labs by the way are the warmest and best coats ever – worth every penny.

 

Eskimos in disguise

By the time we got off the aeroplane I was literally dripping in sweat, looking like a real idiot; Mr Bean goes to Swede. What really got to me was these Swedish men getting off the plane in loose open necked shirts and jeans, as if we were in tropical Africa for peace sake! They are not human; they can’t be.

As we exited through the self-opening doors of Osterholm airport, the snow was piled high. We needed a tractor, not a Bentley, but then…our eyes met; the bright yellow Bentley was waiting there, its engine purring courtesy of a Bentley minder,with the air conditioning running at a steady 21 degrees. I ran to it like a homing pigeon muttering Triumph Herald! Triumph Herald! whilst the Bentley boys stared at me puzzled. I told them it was a long story, and I am genuinely mentally fit to drive as I eased into the warm cosy Bentley. Ahh..Bliss! – perfect climate cooling mopped up beeds of sweat, as I adjusted my seat ‘every which way but loose’. A rev of the throttle roused the muted burble of the supercharged V8, and I had to take some time to savour the sumptuous wood, the leather and the smart chromed switchgear. You could feel it was  well-made, substantial, quality. The external paintwork was immaculately finished; Monaco’s climate might have been kinder to it, but Sweden makes for a far sterner road test.

As if reading my thoughts, the Bentley moved off with almost arrogant ease, its muted power and authority touching on the point of regal. And this in treacherous snow and ice.  It inspires driver confidence, not only in how it delivers the power, but equally so in the reassuring grip and feel from its four driven wheels. Who needs an SUV or an off roader when you have a Bentley Continental GT? Much more civilised, and for real world bad weather road touring capability, it is just as capable!

As the Bentley reaffirmed its snow driving capability all anxiety was put to rest. ‘One’ is cocooned in perfectly air conditioned luxury, looking out onto the most spectacular scenery and lakes, enjoying that deep slightly muffled rumble of a V8, and the oh-so controllable power and grip. I am torn between admiring nature, or wallowing in the experience of this machine. You don’t even need to be ‘a good driver’ to appreciate the Bentley’s capabilities, just enjoy yourself and explore your own. This was proving some drive, the speedo was reading 60 mph yet the roads are caked in snow. How many Bentley owners do this with their cars? Not many. If you have one, don’t delay; Do it Now – it’s why you spend this kind of money on your motor car.

10 minutes West of Åre is the Millestgarden Moose farm; the most famous of its kind in Sweden. As we approached, tyres churning in the snow, our bright yellow Bentley proved a great contrast to the stern wooden buildings and bleachy white snow. It was great fun feeding the Moose – the trick is to open your hands and show total submission (aka Fear!), then they won’t eat you for dinner. Sadly, some of my mates on the trip ate Moose for lunch. How could they??  I’m sorry, but I couldn’t look the poor things in the face and then go and eat one of their ‘colleagues’! Thankfully the wonderful hotel cooked some nice fish just for me. I’m honoured.

 

To the journey’s end…

The journey’s end came only too soon; my early trepidation about driving in this kind of weather was displaced by real driving enjoyment as  the Continental’s intuitive and communicative handling, made the low-grip surfaces challenging fun. The Copperhill Mountain Lodge Hotel proved the perfect overnight venue to reflect on this great driving adventure in what has to be one of the World’s finest GTs. No need to reminisce anymore; a dream has been fulfilled. Little did I know my Triumph Herald pedal car was really meant to be…a Bentley. Time is a funny thing.

- Kevin Haggarthy

 

Bentley Continental GT V8 S

0-60mph: 4.6 seconds. 0-100km/h: 4.8 seconds.Top Speed: 188mph/303km/h. Combined: 26.8mpg 10.6 litres/100km. Engine: 3993cc. Fuel type: 98 (95) RON.  Max Power: 500bhp/507 PS/373kW at 6000rpm. Max Torque: 660Nm, 487 lb.ft at 1700rpm.