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ITH – The Interview - Ben Heath {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

13 Sep 2017

You pull up at the lights in your 2017 Golf GTi, looking fantastic with its twin exhausts, tartan seats and bright red paint. Alongside pulls up a massive blue SUV and the driver looks at you and smirks. The light goes green and you think you’ll show him what a proper car is, but he rockets off the line and keeps going, faster and faster, leaving you in his wake of dirty hydrocarbons. That’s what this week is all about – cars that are faster than you’d think they are – and we have a chap called Ben Heath to thank for them. He’s the founder and editor of a lifestyle blog called Twenty First Century Gent and its mission is to give voice to the modern gentleman and explore all that that means in the modern era.

To start with here’s a little on why Ben chose each car:

Audi SQ7

Audi are renowned for their ability to create well-engineered and well-tuned cars with their usual focus being on low-slung 4WD cars that fall under the £70,000 price tag. The Audi SQ7 takes all of that knowledge and manufacturing finesse and hoists it onto a larger, sportier SUV platform that retains the usual Audi charm. Inside and outside, it is typically Audi; the usual strong lines and rounded styling wrapped around a virtual cockpit that has plenty of technology to play with.

Although I am, admittedly, a big fan of the Audi package, it is actually what you can’t see that really differentiates the SQ7 from it’s competitors.  Under the bonnet, a fairly hefty 4.0-litre V8 engine gets a decent kick from an electrically power compressor. Not quite a supercharger, it certainly gives the SQ7 that all-important USP.

Alpina D3 BiTurbo

With the self-appointed title of “The World’s Fastest Diesel Production Car”, there is little need for an introduction to this BMW 3 Series on steroids. The Alpina package adds a serious punch under the bonnet and the interior oozes that sports-quality. Outside, the typical 3 Series styling sits on suspension taken straight from the clouds; a quilted ride quality like no other as you scream around the corners.

While the performance and good looks certainly give it the wow factor, there is one killer USP that makes this care very, very desirable in my eyes; the 50mpg real-world fuel economy. Throw in a price tag that is the right side of £50,000 and there are very few reasons not to want to join the BMW Owners Club.

Lexus GS F

Packing a 471 horsepower 5.0 litre V8 engine with upgraded brakes and suspension, the GS F from Lexus certainly ticks all of the numbers and then some.  This sports sedan certainly matches the performance of the major German players such as Mercedes and BMW, albeit in a slightly more gentile manner.

While the torque on this car is almost akin to an electric engine, it won’t put you headfirst through a brick wall; rather give you that extra oomph when you really need it. The carbon fibre interior with bucket seats all point to a sports car, as do the 19-inch Michelin Super Sport-wrapped wheels, but this is very much one you can live on a day-to-day basis with. A great, affordable effort from Lexus.

Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Package

Less of a “package” and more of an entirely new offering from Porsche, the Macan just got bigger and better. Extra power and extra torque add to an already impressive SUV that sits below the Cayenne. It’s now the faster (faster) version of the Macan so it’s certainly worth the upgrade.

Any trickery purely comes from a remap of the engine so you won’t be sacrificing any of the characteristics of the original Macan. This baby SUV will still grip the road should ever be able to get near its top speed of 169mph. Not on any public roads, of course.

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Biography

It would be fair to say that Ben’s life is the envy of many. Part of a growing blogger culture, a sneak at his Instagram page reveals a catalogue of glamorous locations, products and cars - thousands upon thousands of pixels designed to encourage more than the odd appearance of the green-eyed monster.

His Twenty First Century Gent brand not only has an army of loyal followers who want to watch his every move but it attracts the sort of attention that makes him hot property for the likes of BMW, Accurist and Virgin.

Workout in a swanky gym followed by lunch in a top London restaurant followed by a product launch and then a premiere in the evening is generally how he rolls.

Naturally it’s the cars we’re keen on and we talk to Ben not long after he was thrown the keys to Aston Martin’s DB11.

“The chief designer was at the launch and it was clear just how much attention to detail has gone into the car,” says Ben.

“It’s an extraordinary feat of engineering and it feels like each one is bespoke. True, it’s not cheap, but this isn’t mass manufacturing by any stretch. The run is limited and it stands out from the rest.”

Aston wanted Ben at the launch to connect with his lifestyle audience. They don’t want him discussing what’s under the bonnet, or going into detail about the torque, which suits Ben down to the ground.

“I love cars but I’m not a car geek. That’s not my job. My job is to tell my audience the things they’re interested in - what I think about the style, the ride comfort, the nuggets I get from chatting to the designers. My blog is very much about lifestyle. It encompasses every part of our lives but I’ve got to take my audience with me on that journey.”

Ben’s driving gigs have seen him career through the Sierra Nevada in the BMW 5 Series, rampage through the Scottish Highlands in the Infiniti Q70 and take the reins of the BMW i8.

“God, the i8 was incredible,” he smiles. “It has that DeLorean factor - something truly space-age and unique about its design which makes you think you’re on another planet.

“BMW loaned me the only orange one in the UK. It’s a special edition colour which costs another £5,000 on top and everyone - and I mean everyone - couldn’t stop staring at it.

“I guess that’s the thing about cars like the i8 and the DB11 - your driving style comes under so much scrutiny because no-one’s going to care if you drive badly in a Corsa, but if you behind the wheel of a £100,000-plus car then you’re going to stand out.”

Talking of Corsas….

“Yes, I’ve got one at the moment,” Ben laughs. “There’s no point having anything else in London. You just need something small, nippy and costs nothing to run. I often get amazing cars to drive around so it’s pointless paying for it myself.”

As we go back through his own car history, the theme is repeated.

“I’ve had some dreadful cars in my time. I started with a Renault Clio 1.2, then moved onto a Vauxhall Nova which cost me about £400. Then I got the Corsa, so all in all it’s pretty appalling.”

But should BOTB turn up one day outside his house, what car would he like Christian to hand over?

“I’ve always lusted after an R8,” Ben explains, “but since I had the DB11 I don’t think there’s anything else on the market that can match it. That would have to be my dream car.”

Of course, a recent purchase means that flash cars are a little further down his pecking order than they once were.

“My wife and I have just taken delivery of a Pomeranian puppy so all our time is spent looking after her. She’d no doubt make a mess of the seats anyway!”

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