Autos

Southern comfort: Bentley Continental on the English Riviera

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Where it excels, however, has nothing to do with it being a convertible and everything to do with it being a Bentley. Of course it has lots of shiny switches and dials, all of which help to create that glossy veneer of luxury; but they also serve almost as distractions, as if they were covering up a lack of deeper, designed-in quality. But they’re not. On the contrary, the real charm of this car has little to do with the way that it looks, performs or sounds, impressive though it is in all such regards. It’s the way that it feels. It has that profound sense of heft, of solidity, the sense of an engineering team who reached the point where they needed to go no further, barely even noticed it and just kept going. 

If I were creating a tagline for Bentley, it would be something like ‘the art of over-engineering’, because that to me is what a Bentley should be about. Luxury to me isn’t best expressed by the amount of trinketry that a car can carry but that sense of strength, of deep and structural integrity that can’t be synthesised. 

And I think that’s the reason for the warm reception the car enjoyed on the English Riviera. Because they appeared not to be looking at a superannuated dork in a flash car but something British of obvious and profound quality. Something to aspire to, to covet more than envy. In short, something to be proud of. As we should be of our Riviera. It may be a bit faded, somewhat scruffy and aimed at a rather different position in the market from its French namesake, but it’s not stuffy, you don’t need to be a millionaire to buy lunch and the coastline between the towns is genuinely beautiful. 

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After all these years, I think I understand what Granny saw in the place.

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