Switching Gears: A Day Behind the Wheel
I have never been much of a driver. I don’t have the best track record in cars and haven’t seen much use for driving myself when I know that my friends and family would rather drive me around than be driven by me.
That all changed last week, when I decided it was time to get behind the wheel. Not just any wheel, mind you. I wanted to drive some of the best and most sought after cars to see what I was really missing.
Bentley of Providence, a Penske Automotive group, was nice enough to let me come test out some of the world’s most expensive and fastest cars. A buckled up for my day as a car enthusiast. My dad informed me that I couldn’t be a true enthusiast without knowing how to drive a standard, but I insisted that I wouldn’t let that slow me down. So I put on my best driving outfit (leather shorts, of course) and made my way to Rhode Island to indulge in what I knew would be an exciting, albeit somewhat frightening, ride.
The first car I drove was an electric yellow Porsche 911 carrera S. I started with the smallest of the three cars I was going to drive, a good suggestion on the part of the motor expert, Dylan, at Bentley of Providence. The Porsche, properly pronounced porsch-a, is named after the Austrian engineer, Ferdinand Porsche, who founded the company in 1931.
The 911 was first developed in 1963 and it one of two of the oldest car models still in production today. It has been used for various automotive competitions since it was first developed and still wins awards today. Just last year Motor Trend named it the “World Performance Car Of The Year.”
I was at first afraid to drive it as I pulled out of the parking lot, as timidly took a left onto the busy road. But I soon felt the car steady underneath me and the wheel was aligned perfectly, something for which Porsches are known. As I pulled onto the on ramp of the highway I hesitated and then accelerated, finally understanding why people like to drive. It was electrifying and the reactive acceleration and brakes made it fun to speed up and slow down at the sign of congestion ahead.
For twenty minutes I took on the highway until I had to take the off-ramp and loop around on the service road, which was not nearly as fun. My nerves had subsided and given way to jittery exhilaration. I pulled back into the parking lot ready to take on the next car.
Next was the bigger and louder Maserati Granturismo coupé. Maserati, an Italian company started by four brothers in the early 1900s, is owned by automobile conglomerate, Fiat (which also owns Ferrari).
While Maserati focuses on the luxury car rather than the racing car market, its trident is recognizable around the world for its motor precision and sporting qualities. There is even a button, that Dylan pressed as I headed onto the highway on ramp, so that the acceleration became more reactive and the noise of the engine grew louder.
Maserati prides itself on the noise made by its engines. It takes such pride in it that for the Granturismo, it teamed up with the sound engineers at Bose so that the car emitted the perfect pitch and roar of its engine. So perfect, in fact, that the variations of the motor hit every note in the Do-Re-Me-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do scale.
The Maserati has a power that the Porsche didn’t have and it combined sport with true luxury. I drove down the highway with confidence with the ‘vroom’ of the exhaust to accompany my new found automotive hubris. The ride was over too soon but I was ready for the last and final of my rides when I arrived back in the lot, feeling ever more competent behind the wheel.
The last and certainly not least, was the Bentley Continental GT S W12. Before I slid into the buttery leather seat of the famed British auto maker, Dylan opened the hood to show me the w12 engine, which is two v6 engines put together. It was the fastest of the three cars I drove; its massive engine could take it up to almost 600 MPH.
However, when I got behind the wheel, it didn’t seem like the sport power-house that the previous two cars had been. It was the most relaxing ride I have ever been on. The seats all had a massage capability, so I enjoyed a light back massage during the ride. On the highway, I topped a little over 80 MPH, as fast as the crowded highway would allow. But the entire time it seemed as if we were merely coasting along, barely over 15 MPH. The Bentley is a feat of design and luxurious comfort; it was almost like driving a cloud.
And finally, I got to ride in the back of the Mulsanne, the crowing jewel of the Bentley class; a true work of art that is designed with the passenger in mind. No detail is overlooked in the Mulsanne and it is crafted to perfection. In fact, to make each Mulsanne, Bentley uses the leather from 17 specially raised cattle. Complete with a champagne fridge in the back, I felt at home here as I am usually the perennial passenger.
At the end of the day, I felt like I could take on the roads whenever I wanted. I did realize though, that I would most likely enjoy driving in the future in no ordinary car. It would take one of these to get me to permanently switch from the passenger’s seat to the driver’s. I would definitely be a part time car enthusiast going forward – I even found out that they don’t even manufacture two of the three cars I drove in standard transmission anymore – one of the most gratifying things I had heard in a while. So part time enthusiast rejoice – we can all take on the road whenever we please.