Dear Sirs: I must regretfully inform you that I will be unable to buy the above two-door luxury coupe that magically appeared in my driveway recently. Don't think that my decision is solely based on its $309,900 price tag, which is somewhat higher than the value of the house to which it was delivered. (By the way, is there any wiggle room in that sticker price - maybe a factory incentive or a dealer holdback?).

But rest assured that I drove it extremely carefully on my test drives. A chauffeur couldn't have coddled it more than I did. (You must understand that I sat in the driver's seat for 40 minutes before I felt "comfortable" enough to reach up to the lefthand side of the dashboard and turn the key to start that 6.75-liter engine with 420 turbocharged horsepower and 650 lb./ft. of torque). You'll also note that my "testing" didn't result in hundreds of miles accumulating on the odometer over the weekend. It's a little disconcerting to drive a car that almost everyone seems to notice.

Once I got up the courage to start off, I found you can get from here to there pretty quickly. The 0 to 60 time is in the six-second range - pretty impressive for a vehicle that approaches three tons with a couple of good-sized people aboard. (A word to your designers: My size 11 right foot kept catching on the Bentley's oversized drilled-metal brake pedal when I was really intending to tromp, er step, on the relatively undersized drilled-metal accelerator pedal). And, when you hit that oversized drilled-metal brake pedal, you employ massive double-caliper front disks that are more than enough to stop this heavyweight contender quickly.

First stop was mom's house. She loved the car ("Now I can say I rode in a Bentley"), but was a little concerned about what the neighbors would think. You know, "If her son can afford a Bentley, why is she living here?" I must apologize for the wear on the passenger-side floor mat. You see, word spread pretty quickly that this ultra-luxury vehicle was in town and folks kind of lined up for a ride. Amy and Neil, Bud, Susan and Dan, Sheri and Gil, and Gerry and Connie all went for rides. Most of them were both impressed and disappointed when they saw me arrive to pick them up. I think they expected me to be riding in a front seat exposed to the elements while they rode in spacious splendor in the rear. You know, like the Bentleys and Rolls-Royces you might see in a museum.

Of course, the modern Bentley is much different. It looks like a bigger version of a Jaguar with some neat flare in front of the rear wheels that reminds some of us Yanks (oh, you'll hate to read this) of the Mark VIII Lincoln Continentals. The honeycombed metal grillwork up front is definitely British. And, from behind the wheel, peering through a relatively narrow windshield over the vintage Rolls/Bentley hood shape, this car's family heritage is obvious.

However, let's say that spacious is not the word to des cribe the back-seat legroom. (You must understand that Miss Daisy has nothing on my wife, Ms. Stephanie, when it comes to giving directions from the back or passenger seat.) Yes, she did give directions from the back seat, because, once she managed to squeeze back there, it was easier to remain in place once our other passengers disembarked. Bentley does provide a second door handle so rear-seat passengers can open the heavy side doors once they push the buttons to slide the seat in front of them all the way forward. Where all the interior space went is hard to figure in a car that's 210 inches long. You have the big engine up front, but the four-passenger seating isn't particularly roomy for anyone, including the driver, and the boot (er, trunk) is adequate but not overly roomy, either.

Performance, however, is something else. The big V-8 and exhaust-driven turbocharger, mated with a smooth four-speed automatic transmission - not to mention a traction control system and a dampening suspension - helps the car cover ground impressively and with inimitable style. And, surprisingly, the big Bentley corners more like a mid-sized sports sedan - a tribute to the suspension engineers and those massive 285/45R x 18 Pirelli Assemetrico tires.

A lasting memory is stopping for folks in a crosswalk and watching the doubletakes as they pause to ogle this unusual vehicle that has stopped to let them cross.

Even though you folks at VW now own Bentley, it still is English through and through. And the English show Teutonic disdain for cupholders. I couldn't find anything resembling one in this car. My friend Jim Woods said, "That's what you have butlers for. To hold your beverage." And that's what this comes down to. This car isn't for the average guy or even the average extremely wealthy guy. It's full of eccentricities not seen on the cars we drive daily. Still, this is a marvelous road car, far outside the budget of a newspaper guy.

A couple of times I broke into spontaneous laughter driving down the road at the preposterous thought of me behind the wheel of a Bentley. But, if you think that's the seat for you, I leave you today with some likes and annoyances.

Likes: The sophisticated Alpine stereo system; however, it looks out of place, much like a big-screen TV in a castle. The old-style solid outside door handles with push-button latches, not unlike American cars of the 1950s. The grips on the steering wheel at 10 and 2 o'clock put your thumbs within easy reach of the horn buttons. (You can choose between two tunes for the horn.) The retro push-pull controls for the dashboard vents. And the highly lacquered wood finish all over the interior. The pair of umbrellas in the boot. The button you can push that checks the oil and displays the result by using the fuel gauge needle. (Should you be worried about mileage, the Bentley is rated at 11 miles per gallon city and 16 highway and has a 28.5-gallon fuel tank).

Annoyances: The full-length console that extends back through the rear seat, dividing the interior into quadrants. No sunroof, no cupholder, only one power outlet, no buttons for cruise control or audio on the (unheated) steering wheel, and a tough-to-adjust right rearview mirror.