Most of my pals would have bought a Jaguar if they were going for a big saloon. Despite my big Volvos not cutting it as being hip and trendy, a Jag just seemed a step too far at 26!

Of course, back in the day, a Jaguar was a very nice car. I admired those graceful lines and those big fat wheels. Any car lover would appreciate hand-crafted interiors, plush carpets and doeskin leather. It was all finished off with accents of burr walnut and chrome bezels. Climbing into a leather-clad cocoon to be wafted home in a silent but deceptively quick executive express was a definite temptation.

Unfortunately, nowadays, Jaguar has left the arena when it comes to the old 'executive' market. Today, Jags are a bit noisy and harsh. A modern Jag is of no use nor ornament to anyone above the age of puberty. With Volvo going all-in for hybrids and EVs, it leaves me in a bit of a headspin. Like I said, I've done the Volvo thing and Jaguar doesn't seem to want customers like me anymore.

OK BMW has plenty of models and there's no doubt that one of them would meet my retirement needs. But a BMW? I often despair at the people who drive them and find myself wondering - do I really want to find myself pigeonholed as another aggressive BMW driver?

At this juncture, I could bleat about Mercedes or Audis. But they tend to be driven by men in white baseball caps and tracksuits these days.

Dream Car

The truth is, I'm about to turn 60 and I really fancy a Bentley. My grandparents had Bentleys and Rolls Royce cars and my Dad had a Bentley T2 and a Bentley Eight. He used to collect me from school in his big old Bentley and I wasn't sure whether I enjoyed that experience or not. In Porthmadog, the local lads used to watch my younger self getting into the Bentley and being chauffeured off into the sunset. They used to love it nearly as much as a boil on the butt. But once the door of that great automotive leviathan was shut, I no longer heard their foul-mouthed taunts. I merely settled into the sumptuous rear seat and chilled out. Hiding behind the C-Pillar I could no longer see the world at large. And therein folks lies the beauty of a Bentley.

As Jags were all about pipes and slippers, Bentleys were often all about twits in blazers, W.O. and Le Mans. But in my mind, a Bentley is a tranquil oasis of peace and quiet in this increasingly troubled world. My father's Bentleys were a whole lot better than his daily knock-about Granadas or my own hateful cooking cars!

Continental Flying Spur

Today, I'm not interested in Bentley's latter-day cache. After all, I'm not a rapper or a drug dealer. I'm interested in the Continental Flying Spur for different reasons which is kind of odd. Because this is a car I actually used to dislike. For me, it was just too plain to be a Bentley. It had a rather ugly rear end too. Quentin Wilson got it right when he described the Continental as looking like an overblown Toyota Avensis. That's exactly what the earlier versions did look like and the handling was hardly inspiring either.

Perversely, these cars only really looked the part if you happened to live in Wilmslow. It felt a bit like a fake Bentley. A Bentley that would only cut the mustard if parked outside a mock Tudor house on an estate.

Behind all that wood veneer lurked a Volkswagen Phaeton which was really an oversized Passat. When I saw someone arriving in a Continental, I wouldn't look twice at the car. It simply lacked the presence of the big old Bentleys of old. Whilst immensely powerful, the driving experience didn't evoke quite the same sense of occasion as did the older cars. It's difficult to explain. I guess that the Continental was a great car but not really one of the truly 'great' Bentleys.

I suppose it's a bit like a tweed jacket. I have seen these expensive garments in shop windows and on old fellows in the street. I vowed that I would never resort to wearing such a thing. Yet, I've now bought myself one. I actually love it and I'm looking to buy some more. Perhaps the Bentley Continental is the automotive equivalent of a tweed jacket? But that can't be entirely true because there must be a hint of youthfulness still beating in my breast because the Bentley Continental HAS changed.

How does it look?

The W12 isn't the only engine option in the Continental these days. There's now a V8 that started life out in an Audi. But in Bentley's guise, it's gone snarly and feral! Newly styled wheels and lights have done a great job at taking the old Avesis blandness away. Whilst it may still not be the prettiest car on earth, at least it's no longer dull. The radiator grille now provides an air of sporty menace.

All these changes are not all skin deep either. Let's be in no doubt, the V8 brings refined control into the mix. Not only is it sublimely smooth but it's also sublimely manageable. This is a big, robust power plant that helps any driver place the car perfectly.

How does it drive?

I've had the privilege of driving the new Continental V8 along the Algarve and into Andalusia and it really is a dream. It's fast, it's fun and more than a little growly. You have to watch it because it still weighs in at well over two tons so it's feisty on the bends. However, all is forgiven because it comes with sublimely comfortable seats and waftomatic suspension.

Compared to other prestige cars, the Spur isn't even all that expensive. It might be pricey for a mere car in some people's eyes but it's not out of the way for a car with such a prestigious badge.

So a retirement Bentley would be perfect. I would buy one in memory of my Dad and my grandparents which would be great.

However, care needs to be taken because Volkswagen decided that the current generation of Bentley Continental would share its platform with the Porsche Panamera. That means that the newer cars will be an altogether sportier affair. Even some of the older models were kitted out with fixed rear spoilers and a suspension made of prime English oak. Even the seats are lined with barbed wire and nettles. Bentley have gone back to their roots and built another fast lorry (like the legendary Speed Six). For me, that doesn't cut the mustard. Sporting lorries aren't comfortable.

You might be wondering why Bentley has done this. I'm sure you'll not be alone in asking this question. Therefore, I won't be the only middle-aged fellow who wants a decent brace of horses but doesn't want to have my fragile bones mangled each time I drive over a speed hump.


Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring. 

Douglas Hughes