First Drive: 2007 Bentley GTC   Las Vegas to Aspen  luxury cars first drives bentley
2007 Bentley GTC. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Michael La Fave

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Photo Gallery: 2007 Bentley GTC – Las Vegas to Aspen


This whole project was born of a desire to do something special with a Bentley. Over six months ago I was considering campaigning a Bentley in the gruelling Targa Newfoundland road race, but when it became obvious that I would have to carve up the sumptuous leather interior to fit a roll cage the plan was shelved – shelved just in time in fact to realize that the Bentley GTC media introduction to which I had already been invited could form the basis of an incredible odyssey. The original plan was that Bentley would entertain three waves of journalists. The multiple groups would split up the drive from Napa, California to Aspen, Colorado. I suggested my videographer and I could tag along for the whole deal and Bentley agreed. An unfortunate scheduling conflict meant that we could only make it for the Vegas to Aspen portion but, as you will read, it was epic nonetheless.

Day 1 – Las Vegas, Nevada to Sedona, Arizona – 530 km

Truth be told, I hate Las Vegas. I find it a soulless place. Once you’ve done it, well, you’ve done it. Obviously I’m in the minority on this one and I will give it its due – there are some truly world-class hotels and some of the best eating you’ll find anywhere. I’ve never understood, however, what ‘good shopping’ means as you can buy any of the luxury items you find in Vegas in any real city in the world. Soulless as Vegas may be it does have a certain je ne sais shallow and a car like the new Bentley GTC is instantly a hit in the city of sin. Just the shape of the GTC can make women do all sorts of illicit things never mind what men are prone to do. Would it be so once we were out of the shallowness capital of the world? Does the GTC influence enemies and make friends among the great unwashed? We set out on a 2000 km (we got lost a few times) odyssey to find out.

First Drive: 2007 Bentley GTC   Las Vegas to Aspen  luxury cars first drives bentley
2007 Bentley GTC. Click image to enlarge

After a night at the Wynn – a fabulous hotel despite the asinine multimedia show that interrupted our dinner every 15 minutes at the SW steak house – we (videographer and lifelong friend Mark Polic, myself and a half-dozen other Bentleys with two-man teams) set out on what would be the greatest drive of our lives. I had no idea of the magnificent scenery, daring speed, fine food and camaraderie that lay ahead.

After the mandatory drive route debrief we jammed our luggage in a grey GTC with a blue roof and dark blue interior. Once out of the valet car park the Wynn’s scale became evident. Like everything in Vegas if is all out of whack with what I’m used to. The 60-storey hotel looks more like 30 – everything here is just so damn big.

Despite being gob smacked by the scale of the surrounding structures the refinement of the GTC hit me square in the head not 30 feet from the hotel. Toeing into the throttle made its awesome power (550-hp) apparent at crawling speeds not to mention the menacing twelve-cylinder engine sound that would become as comforting as a child’s blanket over the course of our three days of driving. Top down, prowling the waking city in the early morning light the GTC is immediately at home – it’s the centre of attention at every stop along the five mile Mecca of vice.

First Drive: 2007 Bentley GTC   Las Vegas to Aspen  luxury cars first drives bentley
2007 Bentley GTC at the Hoover Dam. Click image to enlarge

Marko and I had done the casinos the day before so we were now focused on heading for the Hoover Dam, a first for us both, and then to Sedona for the night. The first bit of highway is beautifully paved but laced with cops and, potentially even more annoying, tourists.

It’s only 70 kilometres or so from Vegas to the Dam and I have to say the damned dam was less impressive than the scenery surrounding it. We didn’t stop long as you need a helicopter to get the best vantage point and we had a lot of driving ahead of us. More impressive perhaps than the damn was the highway being built over it. I assume it was the Route 93 extension – see image – and it will ultimately float across the sky to keep you from having to cross the damn and, potentially, blowing it all to hell. Oh, did I forget the security checkpoints on either side of the Hoover? Welcome to America.

After the dam the scenery opens up to reveal the desert vistas you expect from the region, In Kingman, Arizona (65 km from the dam) we turned onto Andy Devine Boulevard, AKA Historic Route 66 – a spiritual experience for any car guy. Sixty kilometres out of Kingman is Hackberry or at least Hackberry General Store as there doesn’t actually appear to be a town anymore. We spent more time at the store admiring fifty years of Route 66 kitsch than we did at the Hoover Dam. Especially impressive is the historical retrospective of pinups that wallpaper the men’s room. A couple of ‘Route Beers’, some photography and video of the novelty spot and we were eager to get to Seligman for lunch.

First Drive: 2007 Bentley GTC   Las Vegas to Aspen  luxury cars first drives bentley
2007 Bentley GTC. Click image to enlarge

The road to Seligman presented us with seemingly endless vistas, their moody clouded skies led us to stop frequently to take pictures – sometimes just to gaze. The serene beauty of the desert was perfectly matched to the GTC’s ability to cruise tirelessly at over 160 km/h with the roof down – only my Irish genetics made it necessary to put the hood (hey, all the other guys were Brits) up. As for the speeds, we were sure we’d go to jail if we were stopped but there was scarcely a State Trooper to be found and local traffic was moving at around 145-150 km/h anyway.

In Seligman, we stopped at the quirky Snowcap drive-in for chorizo and chili-cheese burgers. The owners are real characters so don’t be surprised when they squirt you with mustard bottles. Don’t order the small Coke either.

Fuelled by masticated meat, indigestible cheese, rings and fries we drove for a few miles on what’s left of the original Route 66. We’d seen the original Route’s remains running parallel to the new one since Kingman. Seligman and the old route 66 are like a time warp�and we had the opportunity to race a train.

A few hours and a winding mountain pass found us in Jerome – an old mining and, some say, ghost town. This was the first real set of twists and turns and the GTC’s composure, grip and AWD traction allowed us to navigate them at double the suggested speed. Interestingly the GTC’s structure is 50% stiffer than the coupe’s and it shows in the way it drives. ‘Granitic’ describes its rigidity which is noticeably more robust than any convertible I’ve ever driven and its turn-in is crisper and more linear than the coupe’s thanks to a rigidly mounted, instead of rubber isolated, front suspension sub-frame.

First Drive: 2007 Bentley GTC   Las Vegas to Aspen  luxury cars first drives bentley
2007 Bentley GTC. Click image to enlarge

Jerome has all the funk of a tiny Austin with art shops and bars. The old mining town was once the fourth largest city in the region and its structures are precariously perched on its cliff faces. Its time capsule feel and eclectic architecture made it a memorable if brief stop. Leaving Jerome en route to Sedona the sun was setting fast and we settled into a cruise mode allowing us to enjoy the GTC’s supple ride quality and serene roof-down cabin. Nestled in the mountains surrounding Boynton Pass was our lodging, the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona.

Day 2 – Sedona, Arizona to Moab, Utah – 723 km

Our first day of driving left us stunned with the stark yet serene beauty of the Arizona desert but we couldn’t fully appreciate the red Sedona rock the night before as it was dark. Waking up at the Enchantment Resort was incredible and our drive would match and ultimately eclipse its beauty – today we were headed to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods.

Just out of Sedona you will find yourself rapidly winding your way skyward on Hwy 89 North. I had the pleasure or ripping up and down a mountain as the Marko shot the GTC from the tourist lookout. This was a great opportunity to really explore the GTCs handing as I traveled the same corners many times. More impressive than anything, however, was the W12s thunderous bark echoing up the canyon walls.

First Drive: 2007 Bentley GTC   Las Vegas to Aspen  luxury cars first drives bentley
2007 Bentley GTC. Click image to enlarge

Another 130 km had us quickly approaching, and I mean really quickly approaching, the Grand Canyon. We just couldn’t resist stretching the GTCs legs on the beautiful pitch ribbons that danced along the canyon’s edge. Had Bentley re-paved them just for us? Would we go to prison? Who could say? We didn’t stay long at the Canyon’s edge, maybe an hour (our route book allocated 30 minutes), because what we really wanted to see was almost 100 km ahead of us and we were already past mid-day.

We had to stop for gas (which we did frequently) and I was immediately reminded of why I love Americans. If you drive a car like the GTC in Canada people look and stare and the occasional boy will compliment you on it but for the most part people are just jealous and they hate your guts. Not Americans. Most people didn’t know what kind of car it was but they loved it and when you told them it was a Bentley they loved it even more. To Americans a car like the GTC embodies everything they believe in. It is a symbol of success; it is the realization of the American dream; it is something that every one of them can aspire to.

Soon we were in Utah and the endlessly long stretches of straight asphalt gave me more opportunities to really open up the GTC with a few blasts to 265 kph – with the roof down! Incidentally, the specs show that topless it will do about 310 and the lead engineer, swears you can talk, without yelling, right up do 290 or so. We slowed town altogether and stopped a dozen times, however, once in Monument Valley. The rock formations here are beyond awe inspiring. You really do have to just stop and gaze at these skyscrapers hewn from the desert floor by millennia of rain and wind. If only Wile E. Coyote had a GTC that damn roadrunner never would have eluded him here.

First Drive: 2007 Bentley GTC   Las Vegas to Aspen  luxury cars first drives bentley
2007 Bentley GTC. Click image to enlarge

As if we hadn’t stopped enough, next up was the Valley of the Gods. Unlike the soaring formations we’d just seen, the Valley of the Gods presented us with hauntingly beautiful panoramas and the fading light cast an angelic halo across the land. I’m an atheist but if this wasn’t a divine sight I don’t know what is. I’ve never felt so small and that’s saying something.

The best thing about a convertible of course is that you don’t need to stop to soak in your environment but there’s something to be said for standing on the ground, feeling the warm air, breathing it in�

Mexican Hat was up next and it’s a place named after a rock that looks like an upside-down sombrero. It’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds. The clouds had started to gather at this point and we were racing roof up towards Moab. The best thing about desert driving is that you can see a hundred miles in every direction and the horizon was spotted with thunder and lighting storms but also clear patches making for a surreal tapestry of weather systems. Lighting was violently present as we neared Moab and then cleared completely just as we entered town. We jutted down 128 East for the last 30 km of our drive. I never thought that the darkest stretch at the end of the longest day would also prove to be the most exhilarating bit of road.

Sometimes you find a ribbon so sinuous, so balanced in its transitions, and so daringly curvaceous, its builders must have been Donatellos. This stretch was such a road and in the dead of night with only the Bentley’s quad lamps to illuminate our path it was at once an exercise in sensory deprivation and heightened stimulation.

First Drive: 2007 Bentley GTC   Las Vegas to Aspen  luxury cars first drives bentley
2007 Bentley GTC. Click image to enlarge

This road made it possible to fully exploit the GTC’s grip, poise, breathless braking and stirring acceleration. Brake HARD into the tight corners, turn the wheel, go wide open as you pass the apex, unwind the beast as it explodes forward. With each left-to-right and right-to-left the GTC squats on its suspension yet remains easy to guide through the wood and leather helm. There was a car behind us and two in front – the canyon was under assault by the rampaging sound of 48 cylinders and eight massive, roaring exhaust canons.

With the moon’s glow illuminating the ridgeline that surrounded Sorrel River ranch and our dinner served on the shoreline of the rustling Colorado, this was a magical place.

Day 3 – Moab, Utah to Aspen, Colorado – 440 km

If heading into the river valley at night was thrilling because we could barely see 100 feet ahead of us, the drive out was just as exciting for the view. A perfect road for tracking shots and video work we spent hours there knowing that today’s drive would be the shortest.

We followed the Colorado River bank for a while – again accompanied by the warbling, barking and popping of the throaty exhaust. Out of the valley we ripped along a deserted stretch of highway as we approached I-70. The peculiar and surreal white sand stretched out for miles and then just stopped – we should have stopped to take a picture.

First Drive: 2007 Bentley GTC   Las Vegas to Aspen  luxury cars first drives bentley
2007 Bentley GTC. Click image to enlarge

This was one of our fastest overall sections with the long straights and high-speed bends making it easy to cruise at two-bucks and change. The road wasn’t the smoothest, however, and on deep compressions the front air dams ahead of each front tire would scrub the ground – a signal that it was probably time to slow down: that, and Marko’s death grip on the windshield header.

A good portion of our third day’s drive was Interstate and it gave us a chance to relax and enjoy the GTC in a fashion more consistent with how owners of the $250,000 car would drive. With the exception, perhaps, of the Barry Manilow CD and the corn chips we picked up at a gas stop.

Only 50 km along and we were in Colorado and there was immediately a different feel. Colorado brought the most green we’d seen since the Caesar salads that accompanied dinner in Vegas.

We took the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway Instead of HWY 50. The Biway winds its way up through White River National forest and with the road freshly paved we took this as an opportunity to blur the changing fall leaves into a way of bright orange and red. Coming down the other side revealed more arid scenery as we continued to gain altitude.

In Orchard City we grabbed 133 North which would lead us through the McClure pass at 8,755 feet of elevation and the road that would ultimately get us most of the way to Aspen. Although I’m not normally a fan of turbocharged engines the Bentley’s massive engine eclipses any of my usual criticisms and its ability to compensate for elevation by adjusting its turbos makes it the perfect vehicle for any road.

The most interesting thing you’ll find on 133 is Redstone – a preposterously small enclave of homes buried in a hidden valley. Originally developed by industrialist John Cleveland Osgood it was a place ahead of its time with electricity and indoor plumbing. Pretty much all that remains of the original site are the beehive-shaped coke ovens by the side of the highway. That would be coke as in the by-product of burning coal, used for making steel.

First Drive: 2007 Bentley GTC   Las Vegas to Aspen  luxury cars first drives bentley
2007 Bentley GTC. Click image to enlarge

From Redstone it’s only another 70 km or so to Aspen which proved to be the perfect contrast to tacky Vegas, laid back Sedona, quirky Seligman, groovy Jerome, the awe inspiring Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Valley of the gods and rustic Moab. A cosmopolitan retreat for the affluent, Aspen, combines old world charm with shop-lined streets, beautiful flora and massive summits into an outdoor adventure wonderland.

Interestingly the only negative comment we heard on our whole drive was from a tree-hugger in Aspen who decried that the GTC was a gas guzzler.

We dropped the car off for the last time at the Little Nell and walked a few blocks to the Bentley bar. We ate the crappiest food of our trip, drank the dankest beer and revelled in the incredible experience we just had. For weeks afterward we were both still buzzing with enthusiasm from this energizing drive.

If you’ve never taken an incredible automobile on a road trip with a good friend you are missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. Our trip was equal parts amazing scenery, ridiculous yet entertaining conversation, soul searching, good food and automotive astonishment. It wouldn’t have been as good a trip if any one component were missing but it would have been impossible without the Bentley GTC.

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