ROVING THE LAND

ROVING THE LAND

The Luxury Of Utility Is Found In The New Land Rover Defender

By Michael Satterfield

Photography by Lucas Kepner

HOME ON THE RANGE

Few vehicles are as beloved as the original Land Rover Defender. The iconic off-roader gained a reputation globally for its rugged capability and broad appeal. You could spot almost anyone behind the wheel of a Defender…from the local farmer to the Prince of Wales, that’s how ubiquitous they are. It was considered to be the British equivalent of the Willys Jeep (the original Land Rover prototype was built on a Jeep chassis). In fact, the utilitarian design was part tractor and part passenger car. What started as a simple farm implement became an international icon and the legacy behind one of the most well-known luxury brands in the world.

 

In 2016, the original Defender’s over thirty-year production run came to an end, so replacing a vehicle beloved by so many would be a monumental task. The new Defender would need to harness the rugged image and styling of the classic Defender, yet in a modern package. Somehow the two-door 2021 Defender 90 ticks all the boxes, with its timeless retro style, rugged utilitarian interior, and the right amount of luxury without being pretentious. This isn’t an ultra-luxurious Range Rover; this is a proper go-anywhere off-road vehicle built for the country but still civilized enough to drive to the city. Plus, it looks even better once you get it dirty.

 

I decided to take the Defender out to its natural habitat, a country estate here in Texas, to put it through its paces. This model is the limited-production First Edition, which gets several upgrades over the base model, including a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 395hp, a front jump seat, white contrast painted roof, 20-inch wheels, Electronic Air Suspension, and several other technology features. But by far, the best option is the folding fabric roof that spans almost the entire length of the passenger compartment for when you want to feel the wind in your hair, and the sun on your face while driving down a narrow country byway.

DETAILED DATA

Inside is sparse. The rubber floors, rugged door panels with exposed body-color sheet metal, simple controls, and weather-resistant materials cover the seats and dash. The First Edition has a unique leather and woven textile seating combination that looks like it will hold up to almost anything, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob. Looking graceful while getting in and out of the back seat is quite the task, yet with the front jump seat, the Defender 90 offers seating for six in a pinch. It is perfectly comfortable for four adults. Cargo space is limited, so plan on adding a roof rack if you want to haul people and luggage.

 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Defender’s air suspension can be set in the Off-Road mode, which gives the little Rover 11.5 inches of ground clearance, while the base model with its standard coil suspension still offers 8.9 inches of clearance. Across the fields, streams, and through the woods, the Defender was confident, inspiring, and felt planted. When the trail gets tight, or there are obstacles to overcome, the standard surround-view camera system shows both front wheels, so no one has to get out to spot where the big rock is on the trail. The Terrain Response system also takes the guesswork out of off-roading.  Simply select the mode: Auto, Grass, Gravel, Snow, Mud Ruts, Sand, or Rock Crawl. Combined with the Hill Descent Control and All-Terrain Progress Control systems, the 90 can make almost anyone feel like an off-road hero.

While I don’t think you can go wrong buying any Defender, I would put my money down on the Defender 90 base model. With its simple mechanical suspension, 296 hp turbocharged four-cylinder, and an extensive ala carte options menu, you can be driving a Defender 90 for under $50,000. That is a deal considering a fully loaded Defender 90 X can come in at just over $90,000.

PATRICIAN EDITION 

No matter which Defender model you choose, Land Rover has made it simple to add on four choices of accessories to fit any lifestyle. The $1,902 Country Pack includes mudflaps, additional scuff plates, fender flares, and even a portable rinse system. The $2,817 Adventure Pack includes gear racks, an integrated air compressor, and several other off-road-focused accessories. At $4,259, the Explorer Pack is designed for the hardcore off-road enthusiast and includes the Expedition Roof Rack, a raised air intake, and other overland-focused accessories. Finally, for the more urban explorer, Land Rover offers the Urban Pack at $1,317 that includes metal pedals, rear scuff plate, front under shield, and a spare wheel cover.

 

For those seeking the ultimate adventure, Land Rover has released the limited production Trophy Edition. Starting at $90,000, just 220 of this unique Defender model will be sold in the United States. Owners who opt to purchase the Trophy Edition will be invited to compete in an off-road adventure competition hosted at the world-famous Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina. The competition will consist of a series of challenges ranging from off-roading to teamwork and physical skills. The winning team from the U.S. will earn the chance to compete in the 2022 Eastnor Trophy Experience in the United Kingdom against teams from around the world.

The Defender is currently available at dealerships and is priced in the ballpark of the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon or a well-optioned Ford Bronco, but with the Defender, you become part of the legend. Even if you never take an adventure to a distant land, even driving the Defender to the grocery store feels more adventurous. Besides, who doesn’t need a little more adventure in their life these days?  

HITTING THE TRACK

HITTING THE TRACK

Have the need for speed? Look no further than the BMW M4 GT4 experience, according to our man-about-track, Michael Satterfield of TheGentlemanRacer.com.

Photography courtesy of TheGentlemanRacer.com

THE REAL DEAL

At the Circuit of the Americas, I was standing outside one of the V.I.P. suites on the front straightaway, watching a practice session for the GT4 America, as the rain rolled in. The BMW M4 GT4 of Stephen Cameron Racing set the fastest lap of the session, lapping the 3.4-mile track in just 2:19.360 on a damp track. The next session, the BimmerWorld Racing team would put down a 2:17.383 when it was dry. The speed, sound, and excitement are why we love motorsports, but like most automotive enthusiasts, I have always wondered what it would be like to drive these cars on the track, haven’t you?

 

As I watched the professional drivers make their laps in Austin, I had no idea that just a few weeks later, I would be invited to participate in the BMW M and M4 GT4 Experience at the BMW Performance Center in The Thermal Club (near Palm Springs.). While I have driven many, many cars on many tracks, this experience would put me behind the wheels of the same cars driven in professional racing series around the world. This wasn’t a track day or a streetcar driving school. This was the real deal, without an instructor in the right seat. Flying into Palm Springs, the BMW Performance Center West is in the heart of the Coachella Valley. For flying privately, the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport is next door. The Palm Springs area is the perfect home for the BMW Center, offering guests access to world-class hotels, dining, golf courses, and an average of 350 sunny days a year.

 

LET THE CLASS BEGIN
The BMW M4 and M4 GT4 Experience starts in the classroom. After introducing the instructors and a basic program outline, we began by learning the basics of seat and steering wheel positioning, tire dynamics, and all the basics we need to know on the track. The experience is limited to only 15 people per class, and each class is broken into smaller groups to maximize track time and personal interaction with the instructors. Our class was divided into two groups, Blue and Green, and each member was given a number that would correspond with their car on the track.

 

We would first go outside to learn more about the BMW M4 GT4 race car, with instructors answering questions and showing us how the racing steering wheel, pedal box, and shifter systems work. They also highlighted many of the special race-only features on the GT4 and how similar the GT4 race car is to the factory street BMW M4. The BMW M4 GT4 uses the same engine and transmission, including control electronics as the BMW M4 street car with only slight gearing changes. The M4 GT4 also uses an innovative tuning software, power sticks (USB drives), that give race teams the ability to make pre-approved software changes to meet the balance of performance for different racing series.

 

Next, we were shown to another room in the BMW building, where we picked out our race suits, gloves, Nomex socks, and racing shoes. All in red, white, and blue matching the famous BMW M livery on the GT4 cars. Once fitted for our safety, each group is directed to one of two tracks. The Blue Group to the two-mile-long South Palm track to drive the BMW M4 street car in a series of lead-follow laps. My Green group went to the handling course on the BMW campus to get some laps done in the BMW M2. Eventually, we went against the clock and our fellow classmates to see who could set the fastest time on the course in the M2.

 

YES, THAT TRACKS

The handling course starts with a few slow lead-follow laps where the instructor guides the group around the course to learn the optimal line. Then we are let loose behind the wheel of a BMW M2 to try and set our best time. While we did our laps, instructors coached us by radio, with tips on braking points and lines. Thanks to their instructions, I shaved seconds off my laps times and started consistently putting in some of the faster times for our group. We had to wait until the afternoon session to learn who set the official fastest time.

 

After some practice in the M2, we swapped courses with the other group to drive the BMW M4 on the South Palm track. These M4s are standard cars, just like you would buy from the dealer, on performance street tires. The point of this exercise is to familiarize yourself with the track layout and rotation procedure when on the track. The instructor has everyone set the car in M1 mode and had us follow behind his lead car about two-to-three car lengths apart. After a few slower warm-up laps, we start picking up speed and are quickly hitting triple digits on the straightaways. The M4 is good, so the M4 GT4 should be even better. After wrapping up on the track, we headed back to the BMW Center building for a lunch break.

 

Time on the track flies before lunch is served in the BMW café that overlooks the track and provides a great vantage point to watch the private jets land at the airport next door. It was the perfect time to meet your fellow classmates, from a father and son duo who took part in a two-day course to improve their racing skills to a young woman who had never been behind the wheel of a race car. This course is designed to accommodate any skill level.

 

Once lunch was over, our group headed back to the M2 course to set our official lap times while the Blue Group took on the M4 GT4. Unlike the first round on the handling course, our official time was now required, and we also must bring the car to a complete stop in the stop box. Stopping before or after the box netted a two-second penalty. My first lap time was just over 49 seconds, yet as the laps went on, I decreased it to around 46 seconds. The other group would also run through the same course, and our times would be compared at day’s end. Wrapping up at the M2 handling course, we suited up in our BMW racing suits, climbed aboard a few BMW X7s and headed back to South Palm, this time to pilot the M4 GT4 car.

 

ZERO TO HERO

After getting fitted with a HANS device and helmet, our instructors helped us into the car, ensuring our belts were perfectly tight and our pedals and steering wheel were in the correct position. Unlike the M4 street car, the seat is fixed in the M4 GT4. As the pedals and steering wheel move, I immediately noticed the seating position was several inches further back than a standard street car, which shifted my line of sight out the side windows dramatically. After a quick radio check, we fired up the cars and fell into line on the pit road behind the instructor.

 

We roll onto the track, and just like with the M4, we roll through a few slow laps to familiarize ourselves with this very different car. BMW designed the M4 GT4 for customer racing, so it’s one of the most user-friendly race cars to drive. It has simple controls, so by the second lap, it feels like I have been driving it for years. The electronic instrument cluster shows far more information than you would have time to look at on the technical South Palm track. The only thing you need to see is the shift light. So, as you make your way through the gears and hit triple digits on the straights, it is hard not to feel like a hero. The sound, sensation of speed, and the thrill of chasing down your classmates on the straightaway is hard to describe until you experience it yourself.

 

The M4 GT4 has an incredible amount of grip, thanks to the sticky tires and aero package. Having driven a number of race cars over the years, the M4 GT4 is by far one of the most composed and easy to navigate, plus the fact that it can do this while still having A/C keeping me cool and comfortable while racing in the California desert is amazing.

 

After our final lap, we pulled back into the pits, leaving the cars running to help cool them down. As we pulled off our helmets, everyone was smiling ear to ear and talking about how awesome the drive was. We piled back into the X7s toward the BMW Performance Center to change and to hear our final results from the M2 handling course. Back in the classroom, our instructors handed out our completion certificates, USB drives that contained our on-track video, and the top three times from the handling course. I brought in third place, beat out only by a few milliseconds by my friend, Manual. However, we were almost two seconds behind Dave, who obviously spent more time on the track than we did.

 

The BMW M4 GT4 Experience is by far one of the best one-day courses in which I have ever taken part. The fact they can take almost anyone and, by the end of the day, have them lapping a GT4 race car on a track is incredible. It comes down to their talented team of instructors that include men and women who are champion race car drivers, stunt drivers, professional drifters, and most importantly, automotive enthusiasts. For those who want more than just the single-day experience, the BMW Performance Center also offers two additional M4 GT4 packages with private coaching, ideal for those who want to make the jump into amateur racing. 

 

For more information or to book your own experience visit BMWPerformanceCenter.com and visit Principle Automotive at PrincipleAuto.com for more information on any BMW.

TOP DOWN FUN

TOP DOWN FUN

When it comes to the open road, summer is the best time to pop the top, aim for your future destination, and enjoy the sunny skies from above, according to our man-about-globe, Michael Satterfield of TheGentlemanRacer.com, who shares the exhilaration of the new Mazda MX-5. 

Photography by TheGentelmanRacer.com Michael Satterfield and Joshua Martin

THE SUMMER WIND

There is nothing like exploring a winding coast road in an open-top sports car, the smell of the sea air, wind in your hair, and the joy of a purely visceral driving experience. You may have noticed that the sports car has been slowly disappearing since the 1970s and each year there are fewer and fewer of the impractical two-seat, smile-generators, from which buyers can choose. Forty years ago, buyers had a wide range of affordable choices when it came to sports cars, MG, Triumph, Alfa Romeo, and many more. Nearly every manufacturer had at least a small sporty drop-top for two. But today the affordable two-seat sports car is all but dead…except for the Mazda MX-5.

 

To really experience the MX-5, Mazda invited me out to San Francisco to take the MX-5 on some of the greatest driving roads in the world along California’s coast. The MX-5 is offered in two styles: the soft-top roadster and the RF with a power targa hardtop. Both come with the same 181 hp four-cylinder engine and are offered with a six-speed manual or automatic with paddle shift. There were several other automotive writers who were invited on this trip, but surprisingly, some writers can still only drive a manual transmission. So, I was given a White Pearl Mica MX-5 RF with a 6-speed manual gearbox and Brembo/BBS/Recaro package. If I was going to order an RF, this is exactly how I would spec it.

The $4,670 Brembo/BBS/Recaro option is a deal–with it–the RF is elevated to the level of sports cars that cost far more, featuring Brembo brakes, lightweight BBS wheels, Bridgestone Potenza S001 performance tires, and beautifully trimmed leather Recaro sports bucket seats. It is the most expensive option on the list, yet well worth it. To put it in perspective, a base model Porsche Boxster starts at over $23,000 more than the fully optioned MX-5 RF.

Driving the RF through the twisty roads in the mountains, I really felt the Mazda philosophy of “a horse and rider as one,” connecting to the road through the car. From the way the Recaro seats kept me firmly in place, to the throw of the shifter as I downshifted into a corner, I could feel that the car was designed around creating an incredible diving experience.

THE OPEN ROAD

Pulling out of downtown San Francisco and heading across the Golden Gate Bridge is always magical, but it is even more special with the top open since the sun burns its way through the fog. My plan was to stay on the Pacific Coast Highway through Point Reyes, stopping along the way to take in the sights and snap some pictures before stopping for lunch in Mendocino.

 

At this point, I was able to switch over to the MX-5 Roadster, still with a manual transmission, to explore more of Northern California. The Roadster is one of the purist sports cars on the market today, simple, fun, with a manual soft top, and starting MSRP of just $26,830. With that price point many pick up an MX-5 for a weekend car, or a second or third vehicle.

Ripping along the coast with the top down the Roadster is more akin to the classic sports car experience, more wind, more noise, but all in a good way. At under 2400 lbs., and with near-perfect weight distribution, the roadster was built for canyon carving and is a joy to drive. Unlike the RF, the Roadster is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Club, and Grand Touring. The Grand Touring version is the most well-appointed and there are a few more options from which to choose.

After spending the rest of the day in the Roadster, I must admit I am torn over which one I like more. I find the RF is more pleasant to drive with the roof up and is more quiet and refined. The soft top, when down, is more exciting and brings back fond memories of my classic sports cars. In both cars, the trunk space is adequate for a road trip for two, so long as you have soft luggage, all’s well. I think that the RF looks sportier with the top closed than the roadster. The creature comforts are nice as well: including heated seats, a Bose premium sound system, and Mazda’s excellent infotainment system all make the cockpit a nice place to be. It comes down to deciding if the RF is worth over $6,000 more than the soft top.

While the MX-5 might not be the fastest sports car on the market, in the real world with speed limits and traffic, the MX-5 has plenty of power. After a spirited drive in the canyons, the MX-5 settles down and becomes a comfortable cruiser. Pulling back out on Pacific Coast Highway, top open, music playing, it is hard to think of a better place to be than the open road enjoying the sunshine.   

REINVENTING A CLASSIC

REINVENTING A CLASSIC

Some would say the Chevrolet Corvette, when it was introduced in 1953, was the most revolutionary luxury sports car of the era. Fast forward with our on-the-go Mike Satterfield of The Gentleman Racer.com, who unleashes the 2021 Chevrolet Corvette C8, the ultimate weekend warrior.

 

 

Photography courtesy of TheGentlemanRacer.com

OLD, MEET VERY NEW

I must admit I didn’t know what to expect from the new Corvette C8. The first production mid-engine Corvette has the potential to be a blue-collar exotic, punching well above its weight. It has the look, but only driving it would determine if this new generation of American sportscar was a worthy competitor to the Italian and British supercars that have dominated the category for decades.

On paper, the C8 has much to offer: outstanding performance, stunning good looks, and a massive trunk (by exotic-car standards) that has the ability to carry a full-size golf bag. My first impression is it looks even better in person. Remove the Corvette badges, and most people would never guess they were looking at a car that costs about the same as a nicely equipped Volkswagen Touareg.

Blasting down the back roads of Texas, the C8 is everything you want in a sportscar: open-top, a great soundtrack, razor-sharp handling, and looks that draw attention anywhere you go. Park a C8, and there will be a crowd ranging from high school kids to much older car enthusiasts, all excited to see the new Corvette. While this will fade over time, as more C8s are delivered, this was the first American car I have tested that has ever drawn as much attention and interest as a McLaren or a Lamborghini.

The new C8 isn’t just cool to look at; it has the performance and handling to go head-to-head with other mid-engine sports cars on the market today. With a base price of just $58,900, the new Corvette is thousands less than the four-cylinder Alfa Romeo 4C and has a faster 0-60 time than the Audi R8, a car that starts at over $140,000 more. Add on the $5,000 Z51 performance package and the 0-60 time drops to match that of the Ferrari F8 and Ford GT, for hundreds of thousands of dollars less.

STEP RIGHT UP

Also, it is fair to mention that unlike Ford or Ferrari, Chevrolet will simply sell you a car, without an application process requiring you to tell the manufacturer why you deserve to buy their car or contract to restrict your ability to sell the vehicle in the future. You can simply walk into the local Chevrolet dealer and place an order.

The C8 I tested did not have the Z51 performance package, yet did have some excellent options, bumping the price to just over $71,000, far less than any comparable exotic, but also within the range of most modern sports sedans and muscle cars. A Shelby GT500 starts at $74,095, a new Porsche 911 at just over $99,000, and the entry-level Aston Martin Vantage will set you back $139,000, making the C8 look like even more of a bargain. The real comparison to the supercars will be the Z06 version of the new Corvette, which is slated to be released in the 2022 model year. With its C8.R derived 600hp V8, active aero, and likely starting price at under $100K, it will be hard to justify buying any supercar for twice the price.

But it isn’t going to be enough for the new Corvette just to be a good deal. It has to be on par with the competition in performance, technology, and especially build quality. I drove a 2018 C7 Grand Sport last year, which had some quality issues I would not expect on a car with an MSRP of over $85K. The new C8 addressed my concerns from the previous generations. Not only does the Corvette handle, stop, and drive as you would expect from a modern supercar, it has the fit, finishes, and details of cars that are far more expensive. Unlike past Corvettes, the C8 doesn’t feel like a parts bin special, made of borrowed parts from other GM pickup trucks and passenger cars. Everything you touch in the car feels high quality and bespoke to the Corvette.

The other advantage the new Corvette has over the boutique sportscar manufacturers is it is supported by General Motors’ resources, which gives the Corvette the network and technology of one of the largest carmakers on earth. There is no oddball operating systems for the infotainment and HVAC, no $2,000 oil changes or phantom dealer network, and no wildly overpriced tuning required if you want to modify it. With a small block Chevy between the rear quarters, the automotive aftermarket has endless options for Corvette owners seeking more performance.

TAKE A FRESH LOOK

Before the C8, I never considered myself a Corvette guy. I liked them, mostly the classic models. But modern Corvettes never really appealed to me. I never found myself wanting to buy one, but one weekend in the new C8 made me a believer. In Sport mode, it is lively, loud, and fun, especially with the top off. Swap over to Tour Mode, pop the top on, it settles down and delivers an average of 22 mpg with a quiet cabin, perfect for enjoying the excellent sound system. Chevrolet managed to build a Corvette that can do everything: it’s a real working-class hero on a track day or canyon run, while still comfortable enough for a lazy Sunday drive or down to the local country club.  

With two decent-sized trunks, a reliable American V8 in the middle, and a Targa top or full convertible, it is hard not to like the new C8. I drove the Corvette back-to-back against the McLaren 570S, a car that is over $130,000 more than the Corvette. While the McLaren was better, I don’t know if it was $130,000 better. The Corvette is not as raw as the McLaren, which has more of a sense of occasion since even at lower speeds, the 570S feels like a race car. Perhaps a better comparison would be the new McLaren GT, a vehicle designed to offer a better ride, more storage space–or even hold a set of golf clubs. But for the price of a McLaren GT, you could have three new C8s and still have money left over.

The Corvette is sporty, and with a few minor tweaks to the suspension, exhaust, and perhaps adding an aftermarket supercharger, it could be a lot more car for a lot less than its British and Italian counterparts. While we have had some American supercars before, like the Ford GT, the Saleen S7, and the SSC Aero, none have ever been so obtainable and realistic, making the C8 the perfect weekend (and weekday) toy.

AUTHENTICATED LUXURY

AUTHENTICATED LUXURY

When an automobile has a world-class reputation, the stakes of never-ending improvement are high. Join our roving editor, Michael Satterfield of TheGentlemanRacer.com, as he explores the open road with the new Bentley Bentayga Speed.

 

 

Photography courtesy of TheGentlemanRacer.com

CROWN & GLORY

I have spent the last week in the Bentley Bentayga Speed, and while it might seem hyperbolic, I am prepared to declare that it is the greatest SUV you can currently buy. Now, I understand that is a bold statement. There are SUVs with more space, more towing capacity, and many that are more adept off-roaders. The percentage of four-wheel-drive SUVs that end up taking on the King of Hammers is relatively low. For what the modern SUV is designed and used for by the majority of drivers these days, the Bentley Bentayga Speed is far and above, unlike any sports utility you can purchase from the factory today.

It would be easy to dismiss my crowning the Bentley as the King of SUVs if you assumed I hadn’t driven anything else comparable. However, having driven just about every new SUV from the Kia Telluride to the Rolls-Royce Cullinan over the last year, Bentley indeed has the better SUV. The Bentayga Speed has a base price of $235,700, and the one I have been driving comes in at $273,760, about $50,000 more than the median home price in the United States right now.

Yes, I know. That is a lot of money for an SUV, but even priced at over a quarter of a million dollars, the Bentayga Speed is in the middle of the ultra-luxury SUV pack. In comparison, costing more than the new Aston Martin DBX, which starts at just under $200,000, yet still significantly less than the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, which has a base price of $330,000. To be fair, you can get into a Bentley Bentayga Hybrid or V8 from the mid $160,000s, but you would need to make do with the 443hp in the Hybrid or 542hp in the V8, as opposed to the 626hp you get in the Speed.

As I do with all test vehicles, the Bentley served as my daily driver for the entire week. That meant taking it everywhere you might usually go. Like driving to the post office, picking up a hibiscus from the local garden center, or on a weekend trip to a local historic site and museum. What stood out most was how instantly comfortable I was behind the wheel of the Bentayga. It certainly felt extraordinary but not pretentious.

Outside, the Speed stands out from the standard Bentayga thanks to blacked-out headlights, a tailgate spoiler, blacked-out grills, 22-inch wheels, and Speed badging. Finished in Orange Flame paint, I’ll admit the Bentayga is striking. However, if you are a non-native Texan, beware that driving an orange vehicle in Aggieland can draw some unwanted attention. Several people made sure to let me know that it was UT Austin orange and, therefore, a terrible color. However, it is a Bentley, so they still wanted to take a picture with it.

Inside, the Alcantara textile seating, with contrast stitching, makes a bold statement. This Bentayga is also equipped with the $4,035 carbon fiber interior package, which adds to its sportiness. Every modern convenience is included, with the exception of a power-folding second-row seat, which is nearly standard in most luxury SUVs. For the few times you fold down the seats, the rest of the interior more than makes up for it. Be sure to add the optional massaging seats when you place your order.

SPEED SECRETS

But while the pretty interior and rear spoiler are great, they are all just the wrapper for the 6-liter twin-turbo W12 engine that can propel the Bentayga Speed to 190 mph, making it the fastest production SUV you can currently buy. The sporting pedigree doesn’t end with the top speed, the Speed will reach 0-60 in just 3.8 seconds, which is faster than a BMW M2 Competition, a Porsche Cayman S, or a Lexus RC F Track Edition, and the Bentayga manages this while weighing over two and a half tons.

The team at Bentley assured me that the Bentayga Speed was as capable off-road as it was on, with its adjustable height suspension and off-road settings for nearly every terrain. I am confident it could go most places a Jeep could. However, I decided it would be better to take their word for it since I didn’t know if I could handle listening to the sound of sagebrush potentially scraping down the side as I drove down a trail. Sticking to the pavement provided more than enough thrills.

Keeping all the weight under control is Bentley’s Dynamic Ride System and full-time all-wheel drive, which are confidence-inspiring, to say the least. Rotate the dial to Sport, and you will be shocked at how well this vehicle can take a corner. It does feel unexpectedly sporty and is exceptionally fun to drive. Sport mode isn’t just a slightly lower suspension stance and a piped-in exhaust note, the throttle is more responsive, the steering provides more feedback, the suspension is firmer, and the exhaust bypass value opens up for a much better soundtrack. Then, open the panoramic glass roof, roll down the windows, and enjoy the twisty backcountry roads with four of your closest friends.

Pulling back on to the highway, closing the roof, and switching back to comfort mode, the Bentayga immediately becomes a quiet retreat: smooth, lacking any road or wind noise. It is the perfect highway cruiser. In town, the Bentayga is surprisingly easy to drive, and thanks to its array of sensors, cameras, and bird’s eye view display, parking in even tight spots are possible. In a less ostentatious color, the Bentayga could fly under the radar, providing unmatched luxury without drawing unwanted attention. The Speed is the perfect luxury SUV for Texas, a vehicle that makes a statement pulling up to the Houston Grand Opera, and is capable of taking the dirt road out to the ranch for the weekend. It will even tow a two-horse trailer; that’s how versatile this SUV is for all your life’s passions.

To experience your own Bentley Bentayga, visit Avondale Dealerships at Avondale.com.

EXPERIENCIALLY PURE

EXPERIENCIALLY PURE

What’s it like to drive a luxury McLaren? The car was meant for both road and track, according to our automotive expert Michael Satterfield of TheGentlemanRacer.com, who takes it for a spin in the Pure McLaren experience.

 

 

Photography courtesy of TheGentlemanRacer.com

British supercar maker McLaren hosts driving events for McLaren owners at some of the most exclusive racetracks in the world, from the Belgium countryside of Spa-Francorchamps to the legendary Mount Panorama of Bathurst to the Circuit of the Americas. Home of the U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Circuit of the Americas is one of the most exciting and challenging tracks in the world. Pure McLaren, the official track driving program of McLaren Automotive, allows owners to not only drive their car around a race track, but also gives them focused, in-car instruction with professional racing drivers so they can better understand how to maximize the performance of their McLaren.

Recently, I was invited by Pirelli to take part in a one day Pure McLaren experience, where I would be handed the controls of the track-focused 600LT. Not only would I learn more about the car but also  receive some much-needed seat time on one of my favorite tracks I have ever driven. Pirelli is the official tire supplier for McLaren, producing unique tires that are co-developed between Pirelli and McLaren to make sure they are the perfect fit for each car.

Upon arrival, I can tell this isn’t the typical track day, as a McLaren Senna is parked out front across from a 570S GT4 along with several other supercars. The VW Jetta press car I was driving was nice, but it did look slightly out of place next to the new Aston Martin Vantage and Ferrari 458 Pista. Walking into what is usually a garage at the track (I just recently toured these garages for the Formula 1 Grand Prix), was now a very well-appointed lounge and check-in desk. I registered and received a quick briefing on the schedule of events, and noted my next activity was lunch. Lunch was served in a suite overlooking the track. At the same time, the morning session was still out running, and the over one-million-dollar Senna, which belongs to local Austinite Josh Snowhorn, was being prepped to go out on the track that afternoon. Seeing a Senna in the wild is rare, but seeing one being tracked hard by its owner is truly amazing.

After our meal, we were directed to the driver’s meeting, where we were told that due to an accident earlier that week, there would be two chicanes added on the long back straight. That meant I wouldn’t be getting near the 201 mph top speed of the 600LT Coupe I would be driving. Back downstairs, the cars were lined up on pit row, 570S, 600LT, and 720S, as well as a few customer-owned cars like the Senna. I met my driving instructor, found a helmet, and off I went. The 600LT Coupe, 592 hp, paddle-shifted, rear-wheel-drive, is a beast. The first 600LT I drove was at the Arizona Motorsports Park (the Spider), but I had recently driven the 600LT Coupe in Dallas and loved the raw race car feel that it had, even on the street.

The first few laps I drove were to get used to the car and track, I could put it in manual mode, but had to keep on the traction control and driver aids. After warming up, I got up to speed, hitting 145-150 mph in the straights, although the chicanes cut down on the top speed we could achieve. Unlike some track days at Pure McLaren, you can pass (with permission), and soon I was getting the signal to pass some of the other cars in the group. Even though it was just an owner’s track day, there is something exciting about overtaking another vehicle, especially on a Formula 1 track. I would have several stints behind the wheel, alternating with another driver.

With each lap, I was getting faster, learning the track, and being coached on the perfect line. While we weren’t allowed to keep lap times since we weren’t technically racing, I don’t have any official times, but we definitely shaved several seconds off my first few laps. After my last round of driving, I swapped seats with the pro to see how I should have been driving the car, harder and in anger. The 600LT had so much more to give, but it’s a challenge to get comfortable when you are racing around a track in someone else’s $240,000 car. After wrapping up my session, a P1 GTR in James Hunt livery was pulled around for some special rides, and the GT4 cars were also coming out of the garages. McLaren, a maker of some of the most exclusive and expensive cars in the world, manages to have events that don’t feel pretentious and stuffy. It has staffed their company with genuine car enthusiasts who are passionate about their brand, and it shows.

If you are a McLaren owner and would like to see when the next Pure McLaren experience is happening near you, visit Cars.McLaren.com.