Review: Continental GT is one bold Bentley
Mention a Bentley and what likely comes to mind is an ultra-elegant sedan as massive as it is stately. A car whose accoutrements are fit for the noblest of nobles, transporting them in blissfully silent comfort.
This is not that Bentley.
While the fabled British automaker makes ultra-luxurious sedans that are regal beauties, it also makes some rather svelte beasts with a sporting nature. They are still Bentleys, mind you, so they are strewn to the hilt with features such as hand-selected premium leather interiors, but these particular motorcars are meant for those who truly love motoring behind the wheel, vs. being chauffeured behind the front seat.
This is certainly the case with the new Continental GT, a hand-crafted hunk of automotive passion that drips with power and prestige. Bentley simply calls it "a refined GT with the soul of a supercar."
That's still an understatement. As if we would expect anything less of an automaker with almost a century of history that was started by an engineering guru "obsessed by speed," as Bentley puts it.
I received a taste of Bentley's past and future recently while test-driving the Continental GT, a car that makes those of us in the lower tax brackets afraid to even breathe on when glimpsing its price tag. How much, you inquire? Well you know that old saying about how, "If you have to ask..."
But I'll relent. As equipped, this GT came in at $205,890, or the approximate price of my house in today's market.
So what does one get when dropping for a car the kind of coin that, in many parts of the nation would buy a nice place to live? For now we'll move beyond the nonphysical, the very prestige that comes with saying you drive a Bentley, and point to the tangibles, starting with the motor in this four-seat coupe.
Two choices are available. For millionaires on a budget, there is the GT with the "base" engine, a 4.0-liter V-8 that makes a pithy 500 horsepower.
That was not the power plant in my manufacturer-lent car. No, they wanted to treat me properly. My GT was endowed with the 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W-12. This twelve-cylinder beast makes 567-horsepower and churns out 516 lb.-ft. of torque. That's obviously a great amount of power that goes to the wheels, and here's another way in which this car might surprise you: It's all-wheel-drive, as are other Bentleys such as the large Flying Spur sedan.
This isn't for off-roading, of course. When you have such a great amount of power going to only two wheels, things can get hairy quickly for even well-trained drivers. By having power distributed to all four, there's at least less chance that you'll find yourself christening a tree with a $200,000 ornament.
These are mere figures on a paper, though. How's this monstrous coupe feel, you ask? It's quite graceful, actually.
Coming from a Bentley, that shouldn't surprise. Yes, this car is enormously powerful, yet it doesn't feel wild. The way the power is transmitted via the car's six-speed ZF automatic transmission is way more elegant than the Aston Martin Vantage S I tested a few months ago, and reminded me of the Maserati GranTurismo I tested prior to that.
Bentley has emphasized sound isolation in this vehicle, and indeed it's a quiet, plush ride for a vehicle that has a top speed of 198 mph.
Not that this will be an issue to those buying this car, but I must also mention that it isn't exactly fuel-efficient. It's rated at, best, at 19 mpg in highway driving and, gulp, 12 mpg for the city. You'll also get hit with a $3,000 gas guzzler tax when buying it. (Perhaps that at least eases the pain for those of us driving more plebian cars like Honda Civics? No? Oh well, I tried.)
Inside, this car is immaculate. The craftsmanship, as should be expected, is impeccable. There is fine leather and lots of it, along with hefty metal knobs and dials that let you tailor everything from where air flows in the cabin to the car's suspension height. And the optional $7,000 NAIM sound system my test version was outfitted with was bliss. A Breitling analog clock graces the center dash. Aromatically, somehow even the interior even smells of wealth.
So it's the best touring car for those with limitless income, no? A most perfect vehicle without a flaw? Not so fast.
The Continental GT suffers from major rear blind spots due to its elegant design. And for the life of me I can't figure out why Bentley excluded putting a rear-view camera in this thing, especially since it's already outfitted with a large, 8-inch display for navigation and other functions. The car does have an audible park-distance system to alert you to impending objects, but with the blind spots this vehicle has, I see a camera as a must.
And while it has four seats, the car is still best for just driver and passenger, as the sculpted rear seats are tight. You'll also have to contend with a rather awkward trunk opening when loading your Louis Vuitton luggage.
Yet it's a Bentley. And a fast, luxurious one at that. If you have 200 G's to spend on a coupe, this could be the ultimate expression of power, refinement and prestige. Just remember to look over your shoulder when backing up.
Your turn: Share your own opinion on the Bentley in the comments area below.
This week’s ride: Bentley Continental GT
Type: Four-passenger, all-wheel-drive coupe
Engine: 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12
Total power: 567 horsepower, 516 lb.-ft torque
Fuel economy rating: 12 mpg city/19 highway
Base price, with destination, gas tax: $195,495
Price as equipped: $205,890
The good: Power, immaculate interior, prestige
The bad: Blind spots, no rear-view camera, costs as much as a house (literally)
Guess where: Another gimme on our photo location this week. We shot this at the Register’s back lot during a special photo shoot of the Bentley. The correct answer to last week’s photo location for the Subaru Legacy was the Regency Theaters in Santa Ana, directly across from South Coast Plaza.