Dubai driving lessons in a Dh1 million Bentley Bentayga prove a hit

Emirates Driving Institute reports soaring demand for its Dh23,000 to Dh30,000 platinum course

The first day behind the wheel of a car when learning to drive can be a nerve-racking experience.

And when the vehicle costs close to Dh1 million ($272,000), stress levels can accelerate further.

But Emirates Driving Institute (EDI) has seen demand soar for its platinum driving course that offers lessons in a fleet of luxury cars.

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If the driver is comfortable behind the wheel then they will be more confident on the road

Its collection includes a Dh1m Bentley Bentayga, Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Sport, Mercedes G500 and C200, and an electric-powered Tesla Model X.

Those looking for a smaller upgrade from the Nissan Sunny people usually learn in, can opt for a Nissan Patrol or Mini Cooper.

When the service launched in 2017, the EDI was registering 10 lessons a month, now it is taking bookings for 50.

“It started when we asked people about the kind of cars they were driving once they passed their test,” said Fatima Raees, the institute’s director of marketing and customer service.

“Quite a few said they had already purchased an SUV or were going to drive their parent’s vehicle, which was often a large, high-powered car.

“The feedback we had was that people were learning to drive in a Nissan Sunny, but wanted to have lessons in their own vehicle.

Learning to drive in luxury

“Some had luxury, high-end vehicles waiting for them at home.”

The institute worked with the Roads and Transport Authority to develop a course to teach people how to drive luxury cars safely.

This developed into a business class-style service, with collection and drop-off by an instructor in a choice of luxury vehicles.

The Bentley Bentayga is the most expensive in the fleet, with a V8 engine and top speed of about 290km per hour.

Despite its capability to reach 100km in just 4.5 seconds, instructors said they felt no nerves when collecting a learner driver for the first time.

“The training begins the moment the client is picked up by the instructor,” said Taleb Mahmoud Mohammed, head of training and operations at EDI.

“Our instructors have been trained to know when to intervene, if necessary, as these cars are very powerful.

“The braking, distance control and cruise control options in these vehicles are completely different to the usual cars we have for learning.”

The lessons begin on a quiet road and each car has dual controls.

Busy highways, school roads and areas with lots of traffic are avoided.

Vehicles have more cameras and sensors than normal, plus a glut of baffling technology that instructors demonstrate how to use correctly.

The course is primarily aimed at business people or wealthy families who want their children to learn how to safely drive high-performance cars.

Superstar DJ David Guetta goes for a spin

One of those to take advantage of the platinum course was French DJ David Guetta, who recently learnt to drive in a Range Rover.

Prices range from Dh23,000 to Dh30,000 for the platinum course, with fees covering lessons until the learner gets their licence, irrespective of the number of classes and test attempts.

A regular set of driving lessons costs, on average, Dh8,000 to Dh9,000.

Students must pass the theory test, parking and initial driver assessment test, and road competence before they are allowed on the road.

"The course is not just about Dubai wanting to be the best of the best, it is about road safety and ensuring new drivers learn the right skills," Ms Raees said.

“Safety features in a luxury car are completely different and they can be confusing to use.

“If the driver is comfortable behind the wheel then they will be more confident on the road.”

Lessons in a Mini Cooper, aimed specifically at women, are also available.

Nick Webster tries out a lesson in a Bentley

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Driving instructor Zubeida with a Bentley car instructing Nick Webster at the Emirates Driving Institute, Dubai.  Leslie Pableo for The National

As soon as the doors open and you take a seat on the luxurious hand-stitched leather and grasp the ergonomically crafted steering wheel emblazoned with the famous Bentley motif, you know the driving lesson in store is extra special.

My friendly, female instructor talks me through the safety features and shows me how to use the different driving modes operated from a central console.

After buckling up and starting the engine, the Bentley Bentayga offers a throaty roar, so I know it is ready for action.

With my instructor's foot hovering above the dual-brake control, I gently pull away from the car park on to the Emirates Driving Institute’s learning paddock.

A speed limit of 26kph meant I was not exactly putting this thoroughbred of a vehicle through its paces, but it gave me an insight into how to control a car of this size.

The five-seater vehicle weighs more than three tonnes and at five metres in length and more than two metres wide, it is substantially larger than a Nissan Sunny that most people learn to drive in.

It would take substantially longer than my half-hour trial to get to grips with the vehicle's multitude of safety features and driving technology, but instructors said that is exactly why the course is in such demand.

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