The nicest things don’t always come in small packages. As a for instance, we offer up my driveway last month, a location that became temporary home to a pair of vehicles that had a combined MSRP of $359,115.
First to arrive was a 2014 Range Rover ($83,745). Then, out of the blue, we received a 2014 Bentley all-wheel-drive Continental GT Speed Convertible ($272,220).
Said driveway was snow-covered and the roads were sloppy so it seemed a desecration to take these vehicles out and give them New England’s winter badge of honor: a coat of salt and slush.
However, someone had to do it because the two were here for judging in the New England Motor Press Association’s Winter Car of the Year evaluations. So I christened them with a solid layer of salt and snow.
The end of the year was a family reunion of sorts with folks flying into Logan and needing to be driven to Connecticut, along with lots of presents, luggage, and pre-baked goodies.
When the Range Rover arrived, I was ecstatic, knowing it would be a great car not only to accomplish all that roadwork but also to do it in style with plenty of space.
The Rover is in the second year of its current generation and the fourth design in its 40-plus year history. The marque actually traces its lineage to the 1948 Land Rover and has continued its superior off-road capabilities through a series of ownership changes, the latest of which saw Land Rover and Jaguar acquired by Tata Motors of India in 2008.
This latest version remains instantly recognizable as a Range Rover. On the outside, it features the traditional headlamp, grille, clamshell hood, and floating roof styling, though those elements have a sleeker, more aerodynamic look these days.
Inside, the Range Rover look is retained with an elevated (command position) driver’s position, wood veneers (from sustainable sources), fine leathers, and a wide console with the traditional all-terrain selector knob.
New for 2014 is a 3.0-liter supercharged base V-6 engine that produces 340 horsepower that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and a full-time, all-wheel-drive system that distributes the 332 lb.-ft. of torque equally between front and rear axles.
Fuel economy was a better than expected 19 miles per gallon in combined driving (17 city/23 highway).
The Range Rover’s all-aluminum unibody has shaved more than 700 pounds from previous versions but it still tips the scales at a hefty 4,918 pounds. Interestingly, it came in lighter than the Bentley.
Standard is Range Rover’s latest version of its traditional all-terrain system that, unless overridden by the driver, automatically will select from among five drive settings: general, grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand, or rock crawl.
Our Rover also had an array of stability, cornering, hill descent, roll stability, and gradient electronic systems.
Because we’ve had some astronomic high tides and localized road flooding in recent years, it is reassuring to know that the Range Rover’s wading depth has been increased 7.8 inches to 35.4 inches for 2014. Fortunately, the season’s storms at nearby Plum Island didn’t cause us to have to test that feature.
For 2014, Range Rover has eight models topped by the long-wheel-base Autobiography Black with a price tag of $199,500.
The obvious question, “Why would someone pay so much for a Range Rover?” is answered by a day of driving while surrounded by such competent luxury. It was a pleasure.
But then the Grinch came, in a manner of speaking.
“We’re taking the Range Rover away,” was the phone message, “but you’ll like its replacement.”
And so we did. The Bentley arrived with a couple of cautions: 1. Don’t put the top down unless the car is totally clean and the temperature is in the mid-40s. 2. Please return it in good shape.
Sadly, we only had the Bentley for a few days during which it was way too cold and sloppy to put that top down. In its closed position, the four-layer insulated roof seemed just about as tight as the convertible’s coupe sibling.
Similarly, the body was tight and solid. And it was heavy, too, weighing in at a hefty 5,500 pounds, almost 600 more than the big Range Rover SUV.
Fortunately, its all-wheel-drive system made it a worthy—if unconventional—winter vehicle. After all, the last thing you want to do is track dirty boot prints into a linen (white), quilted, leather interior.
And, though the Continental GT Speed Convertible is rated as a four-person vehicle, we had to move the passenger seat way forward to accommodate my six-year-old grandson and his booster seat in back.
On the road, the Bentley’s W12 12-cylinder, twin turbo, six-liter engine cruised effortlessly with 616 horsepower and 590 lb.-ft. of torque a foot-twitch away.
Other people’s reactions to spotting the Sequin Blue Bentley ran the gamut. Many of those who recognized a Bentley on the road did a double-take and gave us a thumbs-up. Several drivers did disconcerting speed-up-and-pass, then slow-down-and-let-us-pass maneuvers to get a good all-around look at the Bentley.
However, there also was the neighbor who asked how we liked driving the Chrysler 200 convertible in this weather—a definite diss of what Bentley calls the world’s fastest four-seat convertible and a definite case of mistaking the Winged-B Bentley logo for the Chrysler logo.
As the company says, the Bentley goes from “nought-to-100 mph” in 9.7 seconds, 0-to-60 in 4.1 seconds in hand-crafted luxury.
All-in-all, driving it was a great experience; we only missed having the chance to take a short spin with the top down to test the advertised neck warming feature. Bill Griffith’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MrAutoWriter.