As seen in Issue 283, Chris Nixon tests the Bentley Continental GTC V8 and reveals Google’s driverless car….

Google driverless cars

Google’s recently-revealed self-driving car looks like something from Toytown Motors – but it’s the harbinger of an era. Google has started building for testing purposes 100 electric-powered vehicles without steering wheel, accelerator, gearshift and brakes.

Users (hardly drivers any more) will summon the car with a smartphone app and be delivered to their destination without human intervention – using Google’s GPS technology, of course.

This won’t suit situations where driving for pleasure is the point, but imagine the potential for those unable to drive themselves because of age or physical disability. Pop your kids in a Google car, tap in the GPS address for school and WHOOSH!

The Cherokee is back

Jeep has brought the Cherokee back with an all-new fourth-generation model available end of June. The mid-size Cherokee range opens with a model that has only front-wheel drive and effectively no off-road capability.

But the 2WD Sport is a smart-looking wagon with a 2.4 litre, four-cylinder, 130 kW engine (RRP$33,500). It also has automatic transmission with an extraordinary nine gears, five-star crash protection rating and fold-flat seats for good cargo capacity.

Three more expensive versions come fitted with the Chrysler group’s excellent 3.2 litre Pentastar V6 and four-wheel drive incorporating five selectable traction modes. Jeep says its system for disconnecting the rear axle when 4WD is not needed is unique. Other technology includes self-parking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, rear cross-path warning and forward collision warning.

How much does your car drink?

Australia’s motoring landscape is under nothing like the pressure experienced in Europe, where fuel prices are high and governments and the European Union are applying increasingly tighter standards on consumption and exhaust emissions. Perhaps we should be, because the achievements of the latest diesel-engined European cars are amazing.

In Britain, Audi has launched an A6 luxury sedan that returns 4.4 litres per 100 kms (64.4 mpg), Peugeot has a 308 Blue HDI with 3.1 litres/100 kms (91.1 mpg) and Skoda’s Octavia Greenline (pictured) delivers 3.2 litres/100 kms (88.3 mpg).

Testing: Bentley Continental GTC V8

Despite the adage “too much power is never enough”, Bentley’s Continental feels more lively with a smaller V8 engine and its new eight-speed auto transmission.

It weighs almost 2.5 tonnes, yet all-wheel drive helps keep it tidy and balanced during spirited driving. The GTC has ultra-luxurious accommodation for four and a boot that will get you through a long weekend. The ride is supple and quiet. Just a handful of the world’s cars offer such handbuilt craftsmanship and luxury.

$407,000 ($466,719 as tested) plus on-roads, 2-door convertible
4.0 litre V8 twin-turbo petrol engine, 373kW, 660Nm

FOR: Style, quality, performance
AGAINST: Active cruise, reversing camera and keyless ignition are optional
VERDICT: Magnificent