Where to go? A logical first step was to drive the 129 miles from my Cotswolds base to Bentley’s HQ in Crewe to take a technical refresher course. That way I’d be able to ask questions that had arisen in the first three hours of driving. Over the phone, Bentley’s technical comms chief, Jon Smedley, signified that he was ready and willing, and would bring a clever colleague. Crewe would also be a good place to link up with our photographer, Max Edleston, who has family connections in the area.
As we searched for a second destination, the idea of a trip to the welcoming but thoroughly extraordinary emporium of P&A Wood, near Dunmow in Essex, popped obligingly into my head. Started in 1967 by brothers Paul and Andy Wood on the proceeds of an Austin Seven they had been given, this company is the embodiment of its founders’ love of Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars, especially the old ones. They’ll sell you a new Rolls too, but the soul of the business will always be ‘heritage’ models.
From previous visits, I knew that the automotive scenery at P&A is always changing, and was confident we would be able to make a strong link between our second-generation 2021 Bentayga Hybrid and some great cars on the premises that belonged much further back along the Bentley timeline.
It also happens that P&A is exactly 190 miles from Crewe if you take main roads across the beltline of England. Adding my 129 miles from the Cotswolds to a return trip from Crewe to Essex made just over 500 miles, a journey my intuition reckoned the big Bentley could handle with one electric charge en route and a full tank of fuel. That was at least 100 miles beyond the capability of even the most frugally driven standard V8 and would point to one PHEV advantage. I rang P&A managing director Georgina Wood, daughter of Andy. Though in the middle of preparing for the Goodwood Revival, she was as welcoming as P&A people always are. It’s the culture they’ve created over 54 years. Come and have a cup of tea, said Georgina, and see our cars.
I love dawn driving so left home at 5.30am, which meant that even after a longish stop for coffee on the M6 (even motorway services are welcoming at that time of the morning), I arrived at Bentley’s CW1 House – the showroom outside the factory gates on the western end of Pyms Lane – about 20 minutes before the appointed 9am. Even so, Smedley was waiting, ready to brief me on the subtleties of the hybrid system.