Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Rolls Royce”

Bentley Continental GTC V8 – Driven and Reviewed

Bentley Continental GTC V8 frontOf Continents – Just take the name of the Bentley Continental in its literal form, and one gets an undeniable sense of the ethos behind this large GT, which has been a massive success story for Bentley since its launch in 2003. Things have changed a little though.

Having developed an all new V8 in conjunction with Audi, prospective customers have had the option for a couple of years now to opt for a 4.0l, twin-turbo engine under that substantial bonnet, as an alternative to the 6.0l W12 available since launch. But why bother? Yes, it’s a very clever engine, seamlessly sending four of its eight cylinders into ‘sleep’ mode when not required, and yes, it’s a whopping 40% more economical than the full-fat derivative, apparently able to return a not-too-shabby 26mpg on the combined cycle. But, admirable as they are, I can’t see either of those reasons being sufficient to tempt someone with £140K + to spend on their GT, to forego the W, and opt for the V.

V8 models are distinguished by their '8' shaped exhaust tips

V8 models are distinguished by their ‘8’ shaped exhaust tips

But maybe they should; You see, what the V8 loses in displacement – 33.3%, doesn’t correlate directly with the power at the driver’s disposal – 500bhp vs 567bhp. Consequently, performance isn’t found lacking either; 0-60mph is still dispatched in 4.7, losing just 0.3 seconds, and top speed drops from 195mph to 187mph – anyone who says they genuinely need that extra 8mph is lying.

Hang on a minute here though; The V8 GT doesn’t need anyone to make excuses for what it loses to its big brother, that’s not what this review is about; what the V8 gains over the W12 is what’s important.

GT3 upgrade not yet available for road-going models.....shame

GT3 upgrade not yet available for road-going models……..shame

Bentley announced in 2013 that they would be entering the Continental into GT3 racing, a series generally graced with some noticeably more lightweight offerings from the likes of Porsche and Ferrari. Stripping weight is obviously the name of this particular game, so no prizes for guessing which engine Bentley opted to equip their racer with – a modified version of this road-going V8.

Bentley V8 engineI’ve been known to champion the ‘less is more’ school of thinking for sometime, and I’m convinced that this Bentley tows the party line. It’s not exactly featherweight but the reduction in nose-weight the V8 offers over the W12 is undeniably noticeable, especially when it’s guiding a 3 tonne car around some typically British B-roads. The whole sensation is somehow less intimidating, with the car feeling more inclined to encourage pushing on through the bends, not backing off. Slip the ‘box into the inevitable ‘S’ mode and things get even more stimulating; if you don’t fancy changing gear yourself, via either the chunky paddles or sequential-style stick, the ZF 8spd will hang onto gears for longer, keeping revs higher and therefore response from the accelerator more instant. Less GT, more weekend toy.

Bentley Contintental GTC roof upThe more observant amongst you will have noticed that this model is the GTC (I won’t explain what the ‘C’ stands for), and, if anything, it lends itself even more to the V8 than the coupe does. Bentley were evidently concentrating on road-manners and handling when the GTC was conceived – whichever engine one opts for comes complete with the accolade of being the stiffest convertible in the world. Coupled with the fact that this, like 99% of Continentals, sports permanent 4wd, it surely makes sense, therefore, to take advantage of this torsional rigidity and grip, and grace it with a lighter, more useable engine.

It’s a well-known fact that Britain is one of the most prominent consumers of convertibles in Europe and I think I may have just worked out why; It’s certainly not to take advantage of the glorious weather we’re blessed with – maybe we’re a nation of petrol-heads who relish the opportunity to hear the dulcet tunes coming from our car’s exhausts. If that sounds like a theory you could subscribe to, you’ll just love this Continental. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the song the W12 plays, but even in a Bentley, nothing beats the drama of a big V8. Coupled with the optional sports exhaust (£1,860), it reverberates and bellows in a way that the slightly woofly W12 can only dream of. Anyone who opts for the GTC V8 will be praying for balmy weather, if only to grace their own eardrums with this distinctive chorus.

Carbon Ceramic brakes: Squeaky

Carbon Ceramic brakes: Squeaky

Speaking of optional extras and the noises they make, that brings me round conveniently to the carbon ceramic brakes, a £10,405 option on our test car. I understand entirely why this could prove to be a popular option on the Continental GT; at nearly 3 tonnes, it’s not exactly flighty and at the kinds of speeds it’s capable of, you’re going to want all the stopping power you can get, without the dreaded fade. Just be aware though, there’s no escaping the fact that until they’re up to temperature, carbon brakes are noisy, and not in a good way. This isn’t a problem at all for the inhabitants when the roof’s up, but drop it down to soak up some rays and the characteristic squeals and squeaks soon become something of an irritant. I’ve driven this car with the standard, silent brakes and I don’t recall any buttock-clenching near misses because it failed to slow down; I’d therefore give some serious consideration as to whether you absolutely need the upgrade, or whether your £10k would be better spent elsewhere on the voluminous Bentley options catalogue.

Bentley Continental GTC interiorUltimately, there’s no escaping that the Continental is a Grand Tourer, whichever roof or engine it comes with, and it’s therefore essential that it fulfils the criteria that this tag warrants. If you want your touring to be done with the wind in your hair, you may have to pack a little lighter than in the fixed-head model as boot space isn’t as cavernous as one may have hoped (235 litres). The rear seats could also prove a tad on the small side for adults if some significant mileage is attempted, this is all due to the space being taken up by a 90l fuel tank, a 4wd system and the need for somewhere to stow a roof.

Bentley Continental Diamond stitch seatsOn the other hand, the levels of comfort on offer from the front seats are second to none. Even with 21” wheels filling the arches, the ride is never jarring, whichever one of the four suspension settings is selected. The seats are what you’d expect from the likes of Bentley; neck warmers are provided for our potentially disappointing climate, and they’re infinitely adjustable. A feature that stands out for me, though, is the massage function. Normally just a source of irritation, the way one’s back is kneaded and manipulated is genuinely pleasurable, I can honestly say I’ve never said that about this function before.

Bentley Continental GTC V8 sideWith the Continental GTC, Bentley have created a car that has little in the way of competition and when this happens, complacency is an easy trap to fall into. By adding the V8 to the range, they’ve not only increased the time between trips to the pumps, they’ve offered another dimension to the whole driving experience.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications;  Bentley Continental GTC V8, Engine – 4.0l twin-turbo petrol V8, Transmission – 8 spd auto, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 500 bhp, Torque – 660Nm @ 1700rpm, Economy – 25.9mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 187mph, Emissions – 254g/km CO2, Acceleration – 4.7s 0-60mph, Price – £152,900 OTR, £195,270 as tested.

For full details, go to http://www.bentleymotors.com


An Idiot (hopefully) Aboard – The Bucket List (cars to drive before you die)

Having been recently inspired by the hilarious second series of ‘An Idiot Abroad’, I’ve decided that it is my duty to draw up a bucket list with a difference. Instead of a predictable procession of things to do before you die, I feel that what would be far more interesting (to those of a petrol obsessed nature anyway) is a list of vehicles I feel I must own before I die, or the DVLA revokes my licence due to 90% blindness – whichever comes first. Obviously this list is by no means exhaustive and will be updated when I see something else that takes my fancy.

Just to clarify, this is by no means a wish-list of unobtainable, ridiculously priced automotive rarity. Only vehicles which are realistically affordable to the average person are permitted, although I can’t be held responsible for any astronomical running costs that may be incurred.

1. FordCapri280 Brooklands                  Current Purchase Price – Circa £7,000

Ford Capri 280 Brooklands

Ford Capri 280 Brooklands

Having been brought up on a strict diet of various Capris, I can’t even look at one now without going all misty eyed and nostalgic. The sleek Mk111 has always been my favourite, its ultimate incarnation undoubtedly being the limited edition 280 Brooklands. Only 1038 were made, all in metallic ‘Brooklands’ green and signalled the end of the line for  the capri in Europe. Even as a child, I recognised that these were the Capris to own and begged my dad tirelessly to buy one, but unfortunately to no avail. I feel I must right a wrong.

2.  1968 Dodge Charger                            Current Purchase Price – Circa £25,000

1968 Dodge Charger in black

1968 Dodge Charger

Possibly at the limits of my realistic ambitions this one, 12mpg from a 7 litre engine is enough to worry the most committed of petrolheads but, oh my, does that V8 snarl sound tempting. The Charger just edges the Ford Mustang for the title of my ultimate muscle car but it’s got to be a ’68 and it’s got to be black. Slim hopes of actually owning one are only kept alive due to Mrs Harrington also wanting one, although she would insist on it being bright orange with a confederate flag on the roof, can’t possibly think why!

3. Harley Davidson Fat Boy                      Current Purchase Price – Circa £15,000

Harley Davidsom Fatboy Motorbike

Harley Davidson Fatboy

There’s nothing quite like a Hog for fulfilling those Route 66 fantasies and the Fat Boy is the most fantastic. Arnie riding one down a storm drain in Terminator 2 was enough to sow the seed for me and I still can’t hear that distinctive air-cooled, V twin sound without yearning to own a Harley. Fitting a 1.3 litre engine to a motorcycle may seem excessive to us Britons but surely that’s the whole point of an All American Fat Boy – excess.

4. Volkswagen Karmann Ghia                 Current Purchase Price – Circa £10,000

1960's Volkswagen Karmann Ghia in blue

Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

Here’s a little tale for the romantics amongst you. Back in 2002, I was left in no doubt that I had met the future Mrs Harrington when a conversation I was having with my girlfriend got onto cars. Being a devoted lover of all things Volkswagen and air-cooled, I was left awestruck when she told me, without prompting I may add, that the car she desired most was the Karmann Ghia. That’s right, not the latest Range Rover or the most expensive Mercedes sports but the relatively unusual, chirpy coupe from VW. We promised ourselves there and then that we’d buy one but in the end opted for a more practical Type 2 instead. Got to have one someday – it’s our destiny!

5. Jeep Wrangler 4.0                                   Current Purchase Price – Circa £4000

4.0 litre Jeep Wrangler

Jeep Wrangler

I think that my passion for no-nonsense engineering is aroused by the notion of owning a Wrangler. They’re so simple and in some ways antiquated yet undoubtedly a design icon that’s never been bettered. Ok, so the 4 litre – straight six can’t exactly be described as frugal and the ride quality may be a little pony and trap but who cares? This car costs peanuts, typifies the American dream and yet has the steering wheel on the correct side and a main dealership in Stockport.

6. Ferrari 355                                               Current Purchase Price – £35,000 min

Ferrari 355 in Red

Ferrari 355

This one’s really pushing my ‘available to the average man’ rule, I know but their purchase prices are creeping down all the time so maybe with a little windfall, this could be a realistic purchase. Running the thing would obviously be a different kettle of fish, more of a money-pit than a kettle if I’m honest but personally, I’ve got to hold onto the dream. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is the last truly beautiful car to have rolled off the Modena production line. Its graceful angles and purposeful stance are such a visual treat that I couldn’t really care less if it drives like a complete dog, which of course it doesn’t.

7. Ducati 916                                                 Current Purchase Price – Circa £7000

Ducati 916

Ducati 916

When it comes down to motorbikes, my knowledge is, shall we say, sketchy at best. Sure, I admire some of them, I even own one (sort of) but at 31 I’m still a beginner when it comes down to controlling one and when it comes down to superbikes especially, I’d have to look for the manufacturers badge in order to pick one out of a line up. Nope, when compared to the cars, my emotional attachment to bikes is miniscule. All except that is, for the Ducati 916. As a teenager, our neighbour had one and if he were to start it up in his garage, I swear our house used to shake. Visually, it’s typically Italian – audacious yet delicate. Acoustically, it initially gives you a little shock on start-up but turn the accelerator round a fraction and it gives you the fright of your life. Like all the best Italian operas, both overwhelmingly beautiful and crushingly dramatic in equal measures.

8. 1977 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II                Current Price – Circa £10000

Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II

Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II

I don’t care that I’d either look like a dodgy second-hand car dealer or I was transporting the bride to her beloved. I don’t care that the ancient 6.75 litre engine would struggle to achieve over 10mpg yet only provide a somewhat pathetic 189bhp. I don’t care that the wallowing suspension is bound to bring on sea sickness. I don’t even care that many of them were sold in delightful colours, the most popular shades being Costume Jewellery Gold and Angel Delight Brown. What I do care about is that for me, the Silver Shadow is the archetypal Rolls Royce. Yes, it’s still as subtle as a sledgehammer but it also has a certain grace that was lost on later models – it’s slightly round at the edges –a look Rolls Royce have reverted to with their recent land yachts. I honestly can’t think of a more rock and roll car.

9. 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera                                 Current Price – Circa £15000


1987 Porsche 911 Carrera

I know I’m forever prattling on about Porsche, this model in particular but no bucket list of mine would be anywhere near complete without this car. Flawed in almost every aspect of its design and constantly looking for new and exciting ways to launch its driver into the nearest large oak tree but still, every inch an icon. Ultimately, mine would be black with a red leather interior although I can be swayed on colour. What is an absolute must however is the oversize, whale-tail spoiler that must protrude from the Porsche’s rump. I’ll even play nothing but 80’s power ballads on the stereo.

By Ben Harrington

All New Maybach

2014 Maybach

All new Maybach

Readers of a nervous disposition should probably do themselves a favour and not focus too hard on this picture of the forthcoming Maybach, due for release in 2014. See what I mean? – I did warn you!

Since Mercedes revived the Maybach brand and released the imaginatively titled 57 and 62 in 2002, they have been terrifying young and old in wealthy neighbourhoods across the globe and this one looks certain to follow in that tradition, a sort of son of Frankenstein if you will.

According to one Mercedes spokesman, they are keen to use the Maybach ‘as a technological showcase’ for the rest of their line up, a move which seems very sensible; after all, if you can’t use a £500k Limousine as a showcase, what can you use? From customer feedback, they have also determined that keeping the traditional three box design is essential, especially for existing Maybach owners whom they hope to tempt out of their now ageing models.

I’m fairly sure however that when carrying out their customer feedback, they will have received very few, if any forms stipulating that the new model must be, without question, the most hideous looking car to have ever made it into production.

It’s not just me is it? I appreciate that Maybach’s most obvious competition – the Rolls-Royce range are ostentatious, perhaps even vulgar but they are at least distinctive, you at least want to look at them even if you ultimately decide you wouldn’t want to own one. This new Maybach pulls off the wondrous feat of being ludicrously expensive and yet appearing to have been designed on a shoe string.

I find this car strangely reminiscent of the pictures we regularly receive from China. You know the ones – where you sort of recognise the car in point but then realise that it’s actually just a rip off of a premium European brand e.g. the stunningly awful Geely GE seen below.

Geely's blatant copy of the Rolls Royce Phantom

Look familiar?

Sources close to Aston Martin are reporting that they could be involved in the manufacture of this new Maybach. Just a shame that Aston weren’t given the reins when the designs for the exterior were being drawn up!

By Ben Harrington

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