Chris Knap­man tries mul­ti­task­ing from the rear seat of a Bent­ley

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Life Lifestyle -

Like it or not, driver­less cars are head­ing our way, with Volvo and even Google among those pour­ing cash into projects that will hand con­trol of our ve­hi­cles over to tech­nol­ogy. Of course, much of it is about safety, be­cause de­spite the fam­ily PC’s best ef­forts to prove other­wise, com­put­ers are less prone to crash­ing than are hu­mans. But there’s also the ques­tion of ef­fi­ciency – if we aren’t driv­ing, we can be more pro­duc­tive, send­ing emails, so­cial­is­ing our me­dia and so on. Sounds great, but won’t we all get travel sick? For­get iPads, the only tablet driv­ers will crave is one that cures mo­tion sick­ness. To demon­strate, I’m sat in the back of Bent­ley’s new Fly­ing Spur V8, head buried in my lap­top as my chauf­feur for the af­ter­noon takes care of the driv­ing. Posh, yes, but if you think about it, driver­less cars are just chauf­feurs for the masses. And smooth as his driv­ing is, the queasi­ness has be­gun. To go with my nau­sea I have Wi-Fi, acres of leg room and lots of lovely leather. What’s more, my seat is of the fully elec­tric, mas­sag­ing va­ri­ety, so that when re­quired I can sim­ply lie back, close my eyes and imag­ine I am in con­trol. That shouldn’t be too hard, given that just a few hours ago I was, in fact, in con­trol, steer­ing the oh-so wide Bent­ley through some of the finest coun­try­side the south­east of Eng­land has to of­fer. The North Downs, the South Downs, the New For­est… glo­ri­ous, es­pe­cially bathed in spring sun­shine. To recap, the Fly­ing Spur is a four-door in­car­na­tion of the foot­baller’s favourite that is the Con­ti­nen­tal GT coupé. The flag­ship 12-cylin­der ver­sion went on sale last year, but Bent­ley is on a mis­sion to crack the Chi­nese mar­ket, hence this model with its smaller V8 en­gine, which will make it much cheaper to tax. Start­ing at £136,000, it also costs £10,000 less than its big brother, but shares the same ex­or­bi­tant op­tions list (home of the £100 first-aid kit). The good news is that this is still a very fast car. I sim­ply can­not imag­ine you would ever miss the ex­tra four cylin­ders or 116bhp. But the ride isn’t as smooth as it should be. A big Bent­ley sa­loon should glide over man­hole cov­ers like they weren’t there; your bot­tom should waft, so to speak. The fact is, it doesn’t. With per­ma­nent four-wheel drive, trac­tion and grip are im­mense, and good­ness it’s quiet. A 70mph mo­tor­way cruise is achieved with just 1,500rpm on the dial, which per­haps ex­plains why Bent­ley driv­ers so rarely in­di­cate to change lanes, such is the way the “tick tick tick” shat­ters the peace. Also clever is that at low speeds four of the en­gine’s eight cylin­ders shut down, which makes it even qui­eter, not to men­tion more eco­nom­i­cal. Com­bined with the car’s 90-litre fuel tank, it means you can do 500 miles be­tween enor­mously ex­pen­sive fill-ups. Two other lux­u­ri­ous limos Mercedes-Benz S-class Price: From £72,260 For: Su­perb in ev­ery way Against: Lacks Bent­ley’s im­age Rat­ing: Rolls-Royce Phan­tom Price: £305,350 For: A cut above the rest Against: Costs as much as a house, and is about as big Rat­ing: Most im­por­tant, with its supreme build qual­ity and lovely ma­te­ri­als, the Fly­ing Spur still car­ries a sense of oc­ca­sion, which is good, be­cause that’s what you’re spend­ing your money on. Just be sure to save some loose change with which to tip the poor chauf­feur. His days, af­ter all, are num­bered.

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