Beyond a certain point, you're not buying a car. You're buying a rolling testament to extravagance — clearing a path before you like a victorious Roman general enjoying his triumph. It is tempting to think of yourself as a god.
This is how you feel when piloting the 2001 Bentley Continental R, a sort of "sporty" (if two tons of anything can be called "sporty") Rolls-Royce two-door model that weighs more than most SUVs, at nearly 6000 pounds, but which has the brute power to steam to 60 mph in fewer than six seconds. The price you pay for this show is $300,000 or so out of pocket (depending on how you trim out the car), plus the distinction of topping the EPA's list of least fuel-efficient passenger vehicles. On a very good day, with the wind at your back, a light foot and lots of downhill, you might tickle 10 mpg. The gas guzzler tax alone is $4500.
As Austin Powers might say: "Oh, behave!"
In theme, feel, looks and raw, big-engined power, the Bentley R reminds any driver over a certain age of what American cars used to be like back in the 1950s and 1960s. Acres of metal, thud-heavy doors and a titanic V-8 (6.75 liters and 420 hp in the Mulliner version). The 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix SSJ 428, for example, comes to mind. Or perhaps the '68 Cadillac Eldorado, with its 472 cubic-inch monster underhood and a chain-driven turbo Hydramatic pulling two tons of lead sled by the front wheels. It was something to see.
Of course, no General Motors product ever came with such finery as hand-stitched Connolly leather (in your choice of color-matched hides, baby) and Wilton lambs wool carpets. There’s a massive, real chrome grille, a pair of fitted umbrellas for the trunk, a bottle cooler in the center armrest, and a flat-screen, integrated audio and GPS system that pops out of the dash and requires three — 'count 'em — separate remote controls and mastery of a good-sized instruction book.