Designed by Lord Norman Foster with bridge specialist Michel Virlogeux and built by French construction company Eiffage, the imposing structure was constructed to improve the A75 autoroute, which previously followed a tortuous route through the valley of the River Tarn. Now, with the viaduct in place, traffic can zip from one side of the valley to the other.
It is the Bugatti Veyron of viaducts; the tallest bridge in the world, with one of the seven masts standing at 343 metres above ground level. More than a decade after construction began, I find it hard to imagine that the inhabitants of Millau ever get used to living in its imposing shadow. The seven masts reminded me of sentinels keeping watch over the town.
As we picked our way northwards towards Paris via Clermont-Ferrand and Orléans, Stuart and I noticed a few of the Coupé JCW's traits that don’t become evident during shorter journeys back at home. I’ll expand on these in future long-term updates in the magazine, but here are the potted highlights.
Ride quality: much maligned on UK roads, but the Coupé JCW feels much more settled on smoother European asphalt.
Cavernous boot: at 280 litres, the Coupé’s rear space swallowed all of Stuart’s camera gear as well as our luggage.
Wind noise: at motorway speeds, there is lots from around the top of the passenger’s window.
Cruise control: a boon on the long expanses of autoroute. One quirk – even though we switched the Coupé’s digital readout from miles to kilometres, you still set the cruise control speed in miles.
Satnav: it occasionally failed us, but successfully guided us through the soul-mangling insanity of the Paris Périphérique on Sunday.
Fuel gauge: as we escaped the clutches of Paris and headed north on the A16, our range dipped below 30 miles and we were dismayed to see the digital readout suddenly start falling by about three or four miles per minute.
Overall, though, the Mini makes a more accomplished two-person touring vehicle than I’d expected, and everywhere we drove in France, YK61 LPV drew glances from the locals – some admiring, some dissenting.
If you planned lots of long touring, you’d perhaps opt for the more frugal oilburning Coupé SD variant, but our JCW was nevertheless great company on our 1800-mile odyssey.