PHOTOS COURTESY BENTLEY

Living in the fast lane? Let the Bentley Continental GT V-8 take you on an A-list ride.

IF YOU WANT TO BE TREATED AS A PSEUDO MOVIE STAR, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS BUY THE BEAUTIFUL AND DISTINCTIVE BENTLEY CONTINENTAL COUPE. PARK IT ANYWHERE AND YOUR NEWEST ADORNING FANS WILL ARRIVE WITH FAVORABLE COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS. BUT BEFORE YOUR HEAD BECOMES TOO BIG, KEEP IN MIND~IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU, IT IS ABOUT THE CAR YOU JUST STEPPED OUT OF.

BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GT V-8

ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 4.0-liter twin turbo V-8 with 500 horsepower, 8-speed, automatic transmission
PERFORMANCE: 188 mph, 0-60 in 4.6 seconds
BRAKES: Vented front and rear disc brakes with Bentley-branded brake calipers
PRICE: Base price: $174,000, as tested $185,080

In a word, there is no vehicle like it, with its mix of a classic grill, but with a thoroughly modern exterior and sweeping body style. Starting with the classic dual high-intensity highlights, to the totally integrated roof/trunk, the muscular bugles over the rear wheel wells, and the uplifted trunk, this coupe certainly is like no other. Its 20-inch wheels and tires as well as its huge exhaust pipes give the viewer a clue that this is more than just a luxury cruiser.

And rightly so. The brand new V-8 twin turbo powerplant produces 500 horsepower, and has a tree-stump pulling 660 pounds of torque. With its 8-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels, traction is foolproof resulting in a zero-to-60 time of 4.6 seconds. Interestingly, when started, the engine is electric-in the sense of being totally silent and vibration free. Put the hammer down, and a deep, throaty sound can be heard, but for the most part felt by pressing the driver and passengers against their seats. Shifts-which can be controlled with big paddles behind the steering wheel or the gearshift lever-are largely unfelt. With a smaller V-8 in this model, fuel mileage has been up to 18 mpg overall.

Perhaps more surprising, the suspension makes the ride very luxurious. That is, the bumps and undulations of the surfaces are simply absorbed and not felt. If, however, more direct control needs to be obtained, a press of a button on the console will bring up on the large video screen, settings from comfort to sport for the shocks. In other words, you are in control of your ride destiny.

Following in the steps of the exterior, the interior is both modern, yet classic. Large amounts of wood are found on the dash and console, and an analog clock is in the center of the dash. You’ll also come across double-stitched leather trim, and simple pull/push vent stalks which open or close for airflow.

On the 21st-century front, having the key fob in your possession lets you open the door and press the start button to engage the engine. A large, 8-inch screen helps with operations, provide infotainment, displays the 3D-navigation system, and the ride and comfort settings. Fortunately, the touch screen is simple and easy to understand and manipulate. Various buttons on the console and the steering wheel can do such things as raise or lower a small spoiler or the vehicle itself or operate the Bluetooth phone system.

Two can be accommodated in the back seat, although the front passengers will need to move their seats forward a little bit for the best fit. Trunk space is on the medium side of the equation.

Carrying passengers and luggage are nice, but this Bentley, in case you have forgotten, puts you in Hollywood-mode wherever you go-and you can go with speed and comfort. So when you pick up the keys and head out, be sure to take your sunglasses to hide from your newly acquired fans and possibly a slew of paparazzi.

THERMAL Power

The term “Country Club” conjures an image of a golf course with a clubhouse or restaurant with patrons having a few drinks and bragging (or complaining) about that last round. But put a racetrack and country club together, and the picture becomes more interesting.

But in many places, the concept of an exclusive racetrack with features aplenty has been springing up. One of the newest ones is The Thermal Club, which has recently sprouted up in La Quinta, Calif. For those not familiar with this town, it’s just a short distance from Palm Springs.

The lead amenity is, of course, the track, which is slated to be a 4.5-mile road course that can accommodate every vehicle from a Formula One car to a go-cart with 19 different configurations.

All skill levels are permitted. Additionally, members and their guests will have access to luxurious locker facilities, a fitness center and secure storage for their vehicles. A timing and control tower features a lounge, video studio and dining facility. Parts shops, racecar instructors, safety workers, repair areas and mechanics round out the features. Even if you do not have car, one can be provided. Pricing depends on the location chosen and the amenities you desire. Annual dues start at $7,200. Interested? Visit www.thethermalclub.com for more details.