Los Angeles is a huge city with a traffic jam around each corner. Getting around can only really be achieved by car, and if you aimlessly drive around, you’ll end up nowhere fast.
So if you have a spare day to spend exploring, we’ve tested the perfect daytrip that will give you a look at this sprawling city from a great height, take you through some corners with brilliant scenery, and conclude on the coast soaking up an incredible sunset.
To help us out on our daytrip, we enlisted the help of Aussie expat Jonathon Buckley, who currently hosts Auto Blog’s Translogic series and who has lived in Los Angeles for the past 11 years.
The car we chose for this daytrip is one that offers just as much fun for the driver as it does the rear seat passenger. The Bentley Flying Spur V8 S measures in at just under 5.3m long and is almost 2m wide.
Under its bonnet is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine producing 388kW of power and 680Nm of torque. It sends that torque through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and an all-wheel-drive drivetrain.
In Australia, the Flying Spur V8 S kicks off from $416,800 (plus on-road costs), which places it in line with cars like the Mercedes-Maybach S650, BMW M760Li and Porsche Panamera Turbo. While we were lucky enough to snag a luxury limousine for our drive, it can be done in any car – a convertible would be a great option if you want to also soak in the rays.
Our drive kicks off in Griffith Park for a coffee and light breakfast. Trails Cafe sits at the entrance to Griffith Park, and you can park your car here to hike through the hills surrounding Griffith Park – you can literally spend hours here walking around and exploring – or you can use this spot to grab a bite before driving onwards.
Continuing up the snaking road to the top of Griffith Park brings you to the incredible Griffith Observatory. It’s worth parking along the roadway and walking to the top to see the amazing views over the greater Los Angeles area, including the famous Hollywood sign.
Griffith Observatory is open weekdays from 12PM to 10PM (except on Mondays when it’s closed) and 10AM to 10PM on weekends. Entry is free and there’s an endless amount of activities to keep you busy during your visit.
The view from here is quite impressive, and gives you an idea of just how busy Los Angeles is. You’ll see planes flying in to and out of LAX and surrounding airports, and if you squint you can make out the coast through the ‘fog’.
As you drive down from Griffith Observatory, you’ll drive past the Greek Theatre at the base of Griffith Park. Today it’s used for concerts, but it has a history dating back to the late 1800s, making it a spot certainly worth stopping by for a look.
Once you’re done checking out the sights of Griffith Park, you’ll want to try Pink Taco, a delicious Mexican restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. It’s around 10-15 minutes’ drive from Griffith Park, and it’ll set you up for a good run through our next two stops.
Named after civil engineer William Mulholland, Mulholland Drive runs from the Hollywood Hills (around 10-15 minutes’ drive from Griffith Park) through to near Encino.
This awesome road snakes through a set of high net worth neighbourhoods like Sherman Oaks and Bel Air. While there are a heap of tight corners, you’ll spend most of your time checking out the views.
Several parking areas along the way give you a chance to pull in and explore. Depending on which side of the road you stop, you’ll catch views across to Van Nuys Airport, Bob Hope Airport and the landscape in between.
While it was busy during the day, we found that traffic flowed nicely and there were plenty of spots to stop if you wanted to look around and soak up the views.
If the views don’t impress you, some of the houses and architecture on the road certainly will.
While you can follow Mulholland Drive all the way through to the I-405 South, we turned left at North Beverly Glen Boulevard, which takes you south and connects to Sunset Boulevard.
Once on Sunset, you’ll drive past the huge University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus. Definitely an impressive sight worth seeing!
Sunset then snakes its way down to the coast and pops out at Inceville.
This is where you’ll connect on to the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) for your run into Santa Monica. There are a number of huge car parks that sit adjacent to the water here. On a weekday they are virtually empty. If you have time up your sleeve and want to head out for a swim, this is the perfect place to stop and essentially have an entire beach to yourself.
Driving along the PCH, you’ll pass some incredible cars. Think cars that you’re likely to never see in Australia – we spotted a Porsche 918 Spyder and a Ferrari Enzo driving past.
Santa Monica is a gorgeous coastal city. There are views looking out to the ocean, plus views of tanned runners that may also take your fancy…
Parking in Santa Monica is pretty straightforward, but if you want to snag an easy park to watch the amazing sunset, head to Bicknell Avenue, which runs perpendicular to the coast and drops you at a parking lot that’s easy to access.
If you try to snag a park at the pier, it can be quite busy and take a while to get in and out. Parking just south of the pier will get you an easy park within walking distance of Santa Monica proper and the coast.
And with one of the most amazing sunsets you’re likely to lay eyes on, our day is brought to an end. It’s an easy drive that will give you the chance to tick off a number of bucket list sights in one fell swoop.
Sure, we picked a lavish set of wheels for the drive, but this is a route you can do in any car. It’s an easy drive that includes sights, sounds and scenery that starts up high and ends up down low on the coast.
If we were doing this drive again, we’d pick a spacious convertible – a dime a dozen in the US – and hit the road.
And if you do end up conquering this route, we’d love to hear from you and what you thought. And, more importantly, what you drove.
While this story is more about the drive than the car, it’s worth noting just how good the Flying Spur is. Despite getting on in age, the twin-turbocharged V8 engine under the bonnet of the Flying Spur is meaty and packs an awesome punch.
Hit the throttle and the sonorous exhaust sings beautifully and propels the Bentley forward with great speed.
Then there’s the interior. It’s the definition of luxury and offers a mix of premium materials and stacks of space. It’s a big car on the road, but you can confidently throw it around if you decide to take advantage of the corners.
With the new Continental released late last year, we expect Bentley to drop the next-generation Flying Spur on us shortly, which means it’s likely to be lighter, feature new technology and take luxury to the next level.
Trainspotters may have noticed the cracked rear passenger window in pictures and the video. It’s a testament to Bentley’s attention to detail and material selection.
While the car was parked in the Beverly Centre (a shopping centre in Beverly Hills) on our first day, somebody tried to break into the car using a point load tool designed to shatter the window.
They attempted to break it in two spots and didn’t succeed. The Flying Spur uses double-glazed glass to prevent noise intrusion, and in this case prevent broken glass all over the seat.
Check out our review of the Bentley Flying Spur here.
Click on the Photos tab to see more pictures of the Bentley Flying Spur by Paul Maric and Sam Rawlings.
|Length||53km one way|
|Open||All year round. Be careful of cyclists, hikers and other traffic in the mornings and on weekends at Griffith Park.|
|Duration||3 hours, but can be longer depending on how long you stop|
|Food||There are plenty of food options all along the route|
|Fuel||Fuel can be readily purchased along the entire route|
|Traffic||Light (mornings) to heavy (summer, weekends and during the day)|
|Best time||It’s a great road year round. This part of California remains fairly dry, so you’re bound to find a good driving day regardless of the time of year.|
Stay tuned for more in CarAdvice’s Great Driving Roads of the World series.