Motoring review: Bentley – a grand glimpse of glamour

2015-03-19 17:15

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‘No valet parking?” I ask the attendant before I ease my brand-new 3.0-litre supercharged Jaguar XF R-Sport (from R772?300) on to the grass.

Of course, the delicious red “Shaguar” is not my own.

Jaguar SA kindly loaned it to me so I could make a grand entrance. But sadly, I have to park in the designated area like the rest of the general visitors to the tournament.

As I make my way on foot to the front, a lovely lady from Vivid Luxury – the events company that co-owns this illustrious affair – greets me.

“You’re in the Bentley Lounge,” she says cheerfully as she fastens my lounge-access bracelet to my wrist. Heaven forbid I sit in the cheap seats by mistake.

So, this is how the upper half-percent live, I think to myself as I traverse the marble steps to the clubhouse of the sumptuous Val de Vie Polo Estate near Franschhoek for the fifth Annual Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo tournament.

Beautiful ladies dressed to the nines in designer dresses and sky-high stilettos strut their stuff, arm candy to members of the glamorous equestrian and celebrity set.

I’m in a pair of high wedges, because teetering about in a pair of 7-inch heels won’t mix well with all the Veuve Clicquot I plan on drinking.

And if the grass on the outskirts of the polo field is wet, I may sink into the soil like the hind legs of a wire garden chair.

But let’s remember why I’m here: work, which usually involves wheels and an engine in some or other form. As I walk in, there is an eye-catching piece of machinery parked at the front entrance, immaculately dressed in signature Veuve Clicquot yellow: a brand-spanking-new Bentley Continental GT V8 S.

The perfectly chilled Champagne is flowing freely and, between having my photo taken with local celebs in the designated Veuve Clicquot-themed “posing” area and deciding which canapés are banting-friendly, I finally get to ask Paolo Fra, Bentley SA’s brand manager, a few questions.

The first is about whether the gorgeous yet gas-guzzling Bentleys have any plans to go over to the more environmentally friendly hybrid side.

As Paolo says, Bentleys are all about raw, unadulterated power (the Bentley Continental GT V8 S has a 4.0-litre engine with a whopping 389 kilowatts and 680 Newton metres of output), and even though they wouldn’t want to, they may have no choice in the matter.

Later, Paolo hands me the keys to the yellow Bentley.

“I better stop drinking Champagne,” I note, and smile gleefully.

“No need,” he says nonchalantly, “you won’t be taking it out on the open road.”

I think my face fell. But a Bentley’s a Bentley, and I’ve never been at the helm of the newly launched Continental GT V8 S.

Paolo waves me closer. “Time to go,” he says. I walk through the clubhouse and down the steps to the Bentley as if I park it in my garage every night.

As elegantly as humanly possible, I take off my dangerous wedges. As the soles of my bare feet make contact with the cool, drilled-alloy foot pedals and the V8 springs to life with a throaty, leopard-like purr, I feel I could own one.

After all, it’s never too late for a second marriage. And if I were in the market for a loaded sugar daddy, this event is precisely where I’d find one.

So, did I see any of the polo, and do I know who won? Not really.

But I did drink Champagne all day, socialise with some of South Africa’s coolest cats and got to drive that yellow Bentley, even though it was only to move it across the manicured field and closer to the partygoers so they could inspect and fondle it during half-time.

Because nothing says “You’ve arrived”, or rather, “Look how bloody fortunate I am”, quite like a new R3.9?million Bentley Continental.

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