2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur

Timothy Ferris
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Martyn Goddard
Front Dashboard View

We hammered on toward the Rhineland, with 50 Cent rapping on the CD player about his "black-on-black Bentley, big ole black nine . . . big ole chrome rims gleam, you know why I shine." When the holiday traffic started to congeal, we exited into the Black Forest, switching the CD to Wagner and Mahler. ("German music!" I proclaimed. "Mahler was Austrian," Goddard protested.) It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the narrow roadway was alive with roadsters, bicyclists, and hundreds of do-or-die, steel-booted, Kevlar-armored motorcyclists: The place looked like a motorist's Noah's Ark, with two of every species of vehicle represented. With so much oncoming traffic threatening to splatter like bugs on our big grille, I soon gave up trying to pass anybody and relaxed to take in the scenery. The light greens of springtime cut across the landscape, along with smatterings of early wildflowers, but many of the trees remained so dark green as to be almost black, calling to mind Grimm fairy tales about Snow White, the Seven Dwarves . . . and little Hans, age two, who, while out enjoying the spring flowers, was kidnapped along with his mother and taken "far away into the black forest, where no one ever goes."

Eventually, we, too, got lost in the Black Forest, trying to find our hotel outside Baden-Baden. This occasioned repeated excursions resembling early-twentieth-century travel post-ers, the Bentley heroically vaulting up darkening mountain roads, its headlamps cutting through the growing gloom, while castle-like hotels glowed golden near the mountaintops in the last light of the sinking sun-and rather less heroic descents once we realized we were still lost. On one dark downhill turn, I lost the line and stubbed the Bentley's toe, overloading its outside front tire to the pirouetting point. It didn't like such abuse-what car does?-but it recovered as neatly as a child's wooden toy put back on its wooden tracks. To atone for my misdeed, once we'd finally found the hotel, I visited the spa and had my skin peeled.

In the morning, the road to Baden-Baden was crammed with yet more motorcycles and scores of Ferraris, drivers waving amiably to one another in celebration of winter's end. We settled in behind a vintage Triumph occupied by a couple in their vintage weekend-outing costumes, he in a wool tam and she in a perfect spring bonnet. I squeezed the Flying Spur in-to a tight parallel-parking space on the main street downtown, feeling rather proud of myself until Goddard pointed out that I'd left enough room to the curb to accommodate a Harley- Davidson. We strolled over to the Trinkhalle, built in 1842, to take the waters of this storied bathhouse as have so many grand tourists in the past. The palliative water cost twenty cents a cup. It came, as advertised, in a trickle from a massive stone column and had about the same temperature-if not, presumably, quite the same flavor-as the urine of a hibernating bear.

Feeling suitably refreshed, I dropped Goddard at the Frankfurt airport and programmed the Bentley's navigation system to guide me into the Rhineland countryside. As in many other modern luxury autos, this system was both a boon and an Achilles' heel. On the plus side, its display was clear, its audible instructions crisply unambiguous, and its integration with traffic bulletins expert at rerouting me around traffic jams and road closures. On the downside, entering destinations was made needlessly complicated by the system's inability to employ postal codes, often the quickest way to select among the many different German towns that all have the same names. Memo to supercar makers: When you're selling a car so expensive that buyers might expect to pass it on to their descendants as they would a fine timepiece, offer regular, low-cost updates of the onboard firmware.

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