MONDAY - Feeling privileged to be one of the first members of the hackdom to sample Bentley’s £200k Bentayga, especially since I’m in Malaga feeling the sun on my back while communications from home say it’s raining and the cloud is on the floor.
It probably reveals something odd in my make-up, but when considering cars up to Range Rover level, the realm above feels like foreign territory, the domain of people I don’t know and will never join. To make fair comments, you have to project yourself quite a bit.
Still, the car is terrific. It’ll be a daily driver for many in the bracket, because it’s such a well-judged combination of old-world luxury and genuine practicality, underpinned by steering that makes it feel agile and allied to surprising off-road ability that Bentley willingly demonstrated on some aggressive surfaces and gradients.
They’re now confident of selling 50% more cars than planned, and there’s also a smaller SUV coming. Given the brain strain it took to name the full-sized Bentayga, I’m already looking forward to the controversy over its sibling’s moniker.
TUESDAY - News that Red Bull Racing has become the first Formula 1 team to spend £200 million in a year strikes me as both good (all those clever people gainfully employed) and bad (the team never looked like it was a contender). It also makes you ruminate again about the governance of this sport, given that those at the top seem to spend roughly equal time fretting about eye-watering costs and grasping fistfuls for themselves.
My boys and I have raced six cars in 18 years, and indisputably the most fun came from a well-modded Peugeot 309 GTi originally bought via eBay for £250.
There’s obviously no sensible parallel between our humble activities and F1, but I’m still convinced it’s time for radical action: give teams 30 gallons of race juice, stage 90-minute events on a variety of circuits and let issues of car layout, engine spec, rubber and aero be decided by F1’s coterie of Newey-level engineers. There’d be variety in design again, and all the nonsense about configuring cars to provide advertising surface area would die the death it deserves.
THURSDAY - Must be my week for appreciating steering feel. Found myself in a friend’s Ford Fiesta, just to reposition it across town, and before I’d driven 250 yards and turned two corners I felt that frisson of delight that comes when you realise you’re driving something really special. I find it reassuring that this car is a few years old now, but it delivers excellence regardless of price. Great engineering stands the test of time.
FRIDAY - Rolling to a Midlands assignment in our long-term Range Rover Sport, I found myself ruminating in abstract terms about acceleration. It’s the dynamic condition we car consumers pay most for, yet we’re getting less and less of it in the sense that as cruising speeds aren’t rising, it’s over more and more quickly. A delicious, powerful progression is turning into a kind of explosion under your backside that addles your brain and might even hurt your back.
Writer John Simister summed up the situation brilliantly a while ago, talking about the power of a Lamborghini. “The SV,” he wrote, “can go from a low speed to a much higher speed without seeming to pass through any speeds in between.”
How much is too much? Call me old-fashioned, but I reckon any road car that can do 0-100mph in 12-14 seconds has all the poke I’m ever likely to need. But there are people driving in around in cars that can do the thing in five…