Awoken the other night by cold and concern for global warming, I searched my conscience for ways to reduce my carbon footprint. The trouble is, a large part of it is simply my existence. During the now-forgotten demographic panic of the 1970s, I knew a man who killed himself in the interests of population reduction, though it would have made greater demographic sense to kill lots of us. Deciding against either option — for the present — I got up and gazed at the silent snowscape outside. My own tyre tracks were already obliterated and that set me thinking: are there any particular tyre-track sins that might damn me for ever to eternal roasting?
Something recent came uneasily to mind. I might plead that it was in another country and besides the car wasn’t mine, that the planes to Spain would have been flying anyway, that the hotel would have had air-conditioning and kitchens working without me, that the launch would have taken place in my absence, that I didn’t drive many miles in the beast or attempt its official 204mph top speed (let alone the 10mph extra I suspect it would actually do). I might plead that since it runs happily on a mixture of 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent petrol (or any mix between), all derived from biomass grown on unproductive land, I was demonstrating environmental responsibility. I might also point out that, because only a few thousand are made and their owners tend to do low annual mileages, their total contribution to the atmosphere (even at 17.3mpg and 388g/km) is far less than that of millions of the Holy Prius. And it’s quantity that matters, we’re told, not relative output.
So far so true, but sin is in the mind as well as the deed. Lapping the Monteblanco race circuit outside Seville in the fastest and most powerful road-going Bentley ever, I confess I neglected to worry about global warming. My worries were closer to hand and closing by the nanosecond. You start on a half-kilometre straight culminating in a right-hand hairpin, followed by an S-bend, then a rising right-hander that crests just before a nasty left-hand jink. Second time round, you and your 2.25 tonnes of metal approach the hairpin at getting on for 140mph before — if you’re me — you lose your nerve and stamp on the carbon ceramics. They work — and how — but the car feels uncannily stable, with no nosedive or wobble, and you’re happy to do the S-bend on the throttle. But then you hit that rising right-hander, unable to see your way out until you’re practically airborne and hurtling into — or away from — the left-hand jink. That’s where I chickened out and thanked God for carbon ceramic and Bentley suspension.
The handling limits of this car are so far beyond most of us that you need tuition to exploit it and practice to stay sharp. They call it the Continental Supersports and it’s superficially like the Continental GT except for bonnet slits, flared arches and wider track and air intakes. With power up by 13 per cent and weight down by 110kg, £163,000 buys you 0–62mph in 3.7 seconds and rattlesnake handling (better than the GT). My only dislike was the 20-inch, thin-spoke black alloy wheels that look like clip-on plastic.
You buy this car to enjoy it, not to save the planet. Anyway, at that price the entire production run wouldn’t heat my house, let alone the globe. In fact, I’d save more central heating CO2 if double glazing were permitted on listed properties. But that would be too sensible. Conscience cleared, I returned to bed.