Not that we’re trying to brag or anything, but crankandpiston has already enjoyed its fair share of international launch events this year. Most of these have predominantly included tearing across glamorous landscapes in some of the industry’s most sought after vehicles and enjoying the generous hospitality of one kind-hearted manufacturer or another.
Okay, maybe we’re bragging a little. These events though have given us plenty of opportunity to hone our critiquing skills. So much so that following a recent event with Bentley, we came up with a pretty solid checklist to show what is required for a successful automotive media jaunt:
1– Luxurious Location
A key way to whet the appetites of the assembled media masses is with a stunning location. Suffice to say that when Bentley invited a group of Middle East media representatives to Oman for a few days to test its Continental GT V8 on our home turf, it didn’t take much time thinking about coastlines and the Sultanate’s rugged terrain for us to say yes.
If that wasn’t enough, our overnight stop off in Muscat was the Shangri-la Barr Al Jissah resort, high in the Al Waha mountains where the scenery and atmosphere is astonishing. Add three hearty square meals a day and a comfortable place to rest our weary noggins, and Bentley hit that particular nail pretty squarely on the head.
2 – Car to suit the occasion
The new V8 Continental GT represents Bentley’s drive for a younger customer base, meaning the focus is less on the luxury and ease-of-use exemplified by the established W12 powerplant and more about performance and dynamism: less about driving gloves and easy-listening radio and more about apex speeds and smoking sub-5s 0-100kph runs. So it will be interesting to see how the V8 303kph Bentley performs on ground so authoritatively controlled by the BMW M5.
3 – A good view
The red Bentley emblem, redesigned front grille and hard as nails 20” Diamond Black alloys are fairly subdued changes, and yet carry just enough weight to cast a surprisingly imposing look. It’s certainly not menacing (let’s not carried away!), the angular and sometimes sweeping bodyline offsetting that nicely. The Dragon Red finish in particular has caught my eye, emphasizing the redesigned front bumper and the more aggressive air inlets excellently. The coupe is a very handsome piece of kit.
On the inside though, ‘sporty’ is very much given the elbow, leather seats, plush paneling and microscopic attention to detail on the upholstery is comfort through and through, even if the 500bhp pulsing under the bonnet makes me rethink my seating position: I may be admiring the Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus veneer, but I want my seat to hold me in the larier corners while I’m doing so.
4 – Always plan ahead
I’d love to say that the opening few kilometres of our run hurtle by in a torrent of graceful drifts and overrun burbles, passers-by cheering us on with riotous applause and gaping jaws as our four-strong convoy descends en-masse into Muscat. Not quite.
Entering Muscat we hit traffic. A lot of traffic. Our V8 road test is put on a temporary hiatus as we slowly funnel our way out of the town centre. Since apparently this isn’t already enough, a rain shower – in the Middle East of all places! – throws the already frustrated traffic into mild chaos as people begin trying in vain to find the rarely used wiper blade switch.
No such worries from our perspective, since an uncomplicated layout in the Continental GT makes the instruments both easy to find and use. Unsurprisingly, ‘ease’ is an apt term for journeys in the Continental.
Up front there’s plenty of space, ride comfort is excellent – in whichever driving mode you happen to be – and road noise barely registers at all. A small rear window and large b-pillars make rear visibility a bit of an issue though, and changing lanes in stop-start traffic becomes a bit more nerve-wracking as a result. A mere half an hour later, the traffic thins and our convoy is finally released.