This fall, I experienced something that would make motorheads superbly jealous: I spent an entire weekend test-driving Bentley’s 2017 Mulsanne, Mulsanne Speed, and Flying Spur V8 S models in California’s exquisite Napa Valley. While I relished cruising up and down Napa’s famed hills and coasting past vineyard after vineyard in such a sweet ride, the weekend wasn’t just about cars. Everything was done in true Bentley fashion, from our cushy digs at Solage Calistoga to gourmet meals and excellent local wines (after our driving was done for the day, of course).
While Bentley ensures that every one of its events includes luxury hotels and top-notch experiences, there’s one element that’s a must in choosing its locations: excellent driving roads. Product and Motorsport PR manager Mike Sayer is one of the people responsible for testing out the routes around a prospective destination, so he and his team have driven on roads everywhere from coastal Spain to the Middle East. Grab your license or your international driving permit; here are his five favorite places to take an exceptional car for a spin.
1. “There’s a road that starts in Palm Springs, California, called Highway 74 (the Palms to Pines highway), that’s full of switchbacks and goes from sea level up into the mountains. It was awesome a few years ago when we first found it, and since then it has been resurfaced. It’s this beautiful, smooth road that has a view down into the valley of Palm Springs. You get into a rhythm on this road and it’s great for showing off what a car can do, driving in a dynamic way without breaking the speed limit. There’s another bit of that road that goes farther south to a little town called Julian. It’s this beautiful windy road that passes through the forest and has perfect asphalt. And of course, in that entire area, the weather is always amazing.”
2. “Another great California route we took went from San Francisco to Phoenix. We drove from San Francisco over the mountains to Mammoth, then down through Death Valley to Vegas, and then out along Route 66. The road on that route constantly changes—it has sections where you sit back and cruise, and then amazing little dynamic sections. The views around Mammoth’s lakes and around Yosemite are just stunning. It’s a combination of awesome roads that test the car and a great view.”
3. “There’s a beautiful road in Scotland—well, there a lot of beautiful roads in Scotland—but we took one particular road down the southwest coastline, traveling from Oban, a little coastal town with a whiskey distillery and a fishing industry, to a place called Campbeltown. The route is along the coast so you’ve got Scottish highlands on one side, Atlantic ocean on the other, and this beautiful open road you can see for two miles ahead of you at all times. It’s stunning. If you’re there on a sunny day, it’s even better; Scotland is one of the most beautiful parts of the world when the weather is good.”
4. “We’ve also had some experiences in the Middle East. This road is actually a more famous one, called the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, which is in the UAE. It defies logic in some ways—it’s almost like the person who designed it was really into cars. It goes up the side of a mountain, but it’s just this sequence of corners. It’s not long—maybe 6 or 7 miles. You drive through this rocky scenery, and it’s completely deserted because all there is at the top is a hotel. The road doesn’t actually go anywhere! When you get to the top, you can have some lunch, and then just drive back down.”
5. “Southern Spain is full of very quiet, very interesting roads. There’s a road that’s very well known in the automotive industry that goes from sea level in the town of Marbella, a luxury coastal resort on the coast of southern Spain, up to the higher-altitude town of Ronda. As you climb and move farther inland, the vegetation changes and you’ve got great visibility with really smooth, good-quality road surfaces. Every single corner is different: You’ve got these long, lovely sweeping corners and tighter ones. It’s a road that allows you to enjoy the balance of a car. It’s pretty unbeatable.”
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