Now there's a modern 6.0-liter, double-vee 12-cylinder engine (it's not a true W12 as in old aero engines) with twin turbos crammed under the bonnet. It produces 551 bhp at 6100 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque at 1600 rpm, and it's connected to a six-speed auto 'box with lock-up on each ratio so each change is as satisfyingly crisp as a manual's. There's none of the usual "slush" effect. There are three options for gear changing: fully automatic or Tiptronic style via either the steering-wheel-mounted paddles or the stick shift. I preferred the latter, finding that the left-hand paddle could at times be confused with the headlight flasher on the indicator stalk.

With maximum torque available at a diesel-like 1600 rpm, you're never found wanting, irrespective of the car's speed/revs combination. Until now I had been bedding myself into the car, making tiny changes to the seating position to perfect its grip on my torso. And the road was just a bit too "switchback" for any heroics. Eventually it opened out into a mirror-smooth, three-lane blacktop disappearing across the countryside.

As I heaved down on the throttle, the engine's note deepened into a more urgent rumble, billowing and echoing round the hills like thunder. At the same time its edge hardened, something I didn't appreciate until doing nighttime shots through Monte Carlo's famous F1 tunnel with the windows open.

The roads unfurled beneath the front wheels, plunging, sweeping, darting, dancing across the hills ,and all the time the speed just piled on. When the redline is eventually reached in second or third, there's a momentary drop in revs, a hesitation in the engine note like an athlete taking another breath, but no let-up in the acceleration, which is swift and merciless. Bentley quotes a 198-mph top speed and 4.7 sec. to 60 mph, but it is the mid-range performance that is so inspiring: 30 to 50 mph in 1.8 sec. and 50 to 70 mph in 3.2 sec. are impressive.

As speed and confidence grew on that first afternoon, so did appreciation of the car's dynamics. It would be easy to get lulled into a false sense of speed with this car, so swift is the way it catapults you between apexes, but if you lift off or feather the throttle lightly as you turn in, the line tightens accordingly, just a nudge of understeer reminding you that you're the pilot and this is a awd car you're in.

Keep the throttle balanced through the corners, accelerating as the exit is sighted, and the big Continental stays remarkably neutral. Soon you find yourself in a rhythm, bends flowing seamlessly into an automotive waltz across the landscape.

Change of plans. Granada is off the shopping list, replaced by a photo shoot at the Dali museum in Figueras, organized by Bentley for Sunday morning. That's not far off 600 miles in one day.

A tough drive at the best of times, but as I looked out the bedroom window the next morning, autumn's thunderous clouds were billowing on the horizon; 1,000km and rain is not what I wanted....

Some 10 hours after leaving Malaga, the fly-spattered GT pulled up outside the hotel close to Figueras. The speed computer told the day's story: average speed 104 mph; average fuel consumption 12.7 mpg.

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