Can You Escape The Endless COVID-19 Blues By Renting A Bentley On Vacation?
Even upscale U.S. travelers are mostly road or home-bound this summer, as European and world destinations like the Tokyo Olympics remain closed by the COVID-19 pandemic. But what if you could relax a bit and enjoy your vacation (or stay-cation) by driving a performance luxury car like a Bentley ?
Bentleys are an interesting combination of luxury and performance. “It’s in our DNA,” the Bentley people say, going back to its 1919 founding two months after the end of World War I.
While Bentleys may be the aspirational dream cars of celebrities and ordinary people alike, the company only sells about 11,000 a year. Obviously, the price point (starting at $166,000 for the Bentley Bentayga SUV) is one barrier, but availability is another, especially after a 10-week coronavirus-caused shutdown of the British factory. Indeed, the popularity of the cars an the length of the waiting list for new vehicles has apparently driven Rolls Royce and Bentley customers to the used market.
Bentley has a lot to teach the travel industry about what a designer called its “magical fusion of craftsmanship, innovation and sustainability.” Travel to the Bentley Motors Factory in Crewe, Cheshire, had become something of a pilgrimage for Bentley aficionados and motoring enthusiasts. Unfortunately, like so many things, “general interest tours are currently suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.”
Nonetheless, there are ways Bentley lovers around the world can find ways to enjoy the brand’s aura of luxury and class. Interestingly, one way is by flying business class on an Emirates Airlines 777, whose interior was reportedly inspired by the classic seats and interior of Bentley Motors.
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“Emirates say the interior of their Boeing 777 fleet has been inspired by the modern sports car which is very apparent,” Luc Wiesman, a writer for men’s style website D’Marge, said “The leather upholstery is reminiscent of a Bentley Bentayga with its plush feel, diamond stitching and soft beige color. It’s actually one of the best-looking business class seats both in terms of design and comfort and makes A380 seats seem second class in comparison.”
Once you’ve gotten off the plane, Bentleys are available for rent in a number of places, assuming your credit card limit is high enough.
“Drive out of Heathrow Airport in a Bentley” says Europe Luxury Cars, which has the Bentayga SUV, the Continental GT, Flying Spur and the Mulsanne available. Or if you’ve picked the right time considering Britain’s notoriously unpredictable weather, you can try a Bentley Continental GTC convertible.
In the U.S., owners rent out their Bentleys on the Turo.com peer-to-peer car sharing platform. Bentleys are available in places like Lomita, CA, Las Vegas, NV and Tempe, Arizona where a 2013 Continental GT Speed rental lists for as little as $269 a day.
Many cities around the U.S. offer Bentley rentals. Orlando, Florida, for example, has at least three vendors offering the cars,(American Luxury, Instant Luxury Rentals and MPH Club. Whether your intention is a photoshoot or visiting Disneyworld in style, instant luxury is possible.
If you want to combine a Bentley test drive with a week touring Southern California, Beverly Hills Car Rental can hook you up. (Beverly Hills is one of the largest Bentley markets in the world.)
The Beverly Hills Hotel and Beverly Hills Car Rental also partner on pairing exotic motorcars like the Bentley GTC Mulliner Edition convertible with iconic Hollywood themed lodging. The hotel’s recently renovated Bungalow 1 takes its cues from Marilyn Monroe’s playful sophistication, offering touches like curvy furnishing and bright, abstract floor coverings. Bungalow 1 guests receive CHANEL N°5 bath amenities, a library of Marilyn Monroe books and films and an exclusive in-room dining menu. Bungalows start at $4,000 a night.
And even if circumstances force you to drive an ordinary car for now, you can still travel with Bentley luggage. Miller Motorcars Boutique, a Bentley dealer, is offering a stylish Italian leather Bentley Heritage Weekender bag, available in Dark Sapphire or a black Le Mans version, for $579.
Is it worth the cost and effort to create one’s own Bentley experience? Recently invited to a test-drive by Bentley Motors, I found driving the Bentley Continental GT an eye-opening experience.
A beautiful silver-gray outside, inside the Continental was a marvel of craftsmanship, with polished wood and leather seats impeccably dyed in white and black. While the interior includes many nods to Bentley’s heritage, including the iconic “B” and an analog clock, it is also loaded with technology. The 12.3” video display rotates when you start up, and its many sensors and camera provide five different views around the vehicle, including, amazingly from overhead. (No, a drone is not included.)
Drivers can instantly select between four driving modes – Comfort, Sport, Bentley and Custom- by turning a rotary dial. The car’s technology, like its drivability and luxury, is unobtrusive.
Nonetheless, I found pulling out of the driveway a little nerve-wracking. Although the Continental GT starts at around $208,000, the MSRP sticker in the glove box indicated a price with options and fees of $294,000.
Once on the road, the anxiety quickly melted away and sheer enjoyment took over. The Continental has an incredible cushioning ride. Although the speed bumps on my street are clearly marked “15mph” I cruised over them at 28 mph with not a jar or bump (although I didn’t re-enact the Saturday Night Live mobile circumcision scene.)
The Continent GT is a big, heavy car but amazingly powerful and responsive. The one I drove had a 542 horsepower eight-cylinder engine (with 568 pounds of torque) that can push the 4700-pound car to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds.
Not a low to the ground sportscar that sacrifices comfort for performance, the Continental GT can still keep up with Porsches and Teslas. Its power and handling begs for the autobahn, if not “ludicrous speed”.
On the highway, I would find myself smoothly cruising at 97mph without noticeably pressing the gas pedal. It felt quite safe, although I immediately braked to a closer-to-legal speed.
The Continental GT does drink high-test 91-octane gasoline as if it’s going out of style. Driving the San Fernando Valley’s streets, freeways and Mulholland Highway, its, instant fuel economy was 12.47 miles per gallon. Mileage picked up on a late-night drive, getting 24 mpg while averaging close to 80 miles per hour. The 24-gallon tank makes hundred-dollar fill-ups all too possible, especially in California where gas prices lead the nation at $4.17 a gallon.
But like visiting a high-end resort, renting a luxury car can take you away from such depressing day-to-day realities. For those who can afford it, enjoying a true luxury car for a few days can provide a relaxing respite from the endless COVID-19 blues.