Full Test: 2004 Bentley Continental GT

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jan 13, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Working the "Wow" Factor

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    Some people feel the car's proportions borrow from the best of Aston Martin; others believe the front end design and body lines take the worst from Chrysler and Volkswagen.

    By Karl Brauer
    Date Posted 01-08-2004

    There's plenty of excitement at Bentley Motors these days, and not all of it comes from the marque's recent victory at Le Mans — a victory that ended a 73-year drought since the Bentley Boys last stood atop that podium.

    But the new Continental GT, much like that win at Le Mans, is largely the result of Bentley's parent company, Volkswagen. For longtime fans of the brand, such an arrangement could be viewed as blasphemous. Having the storied British marque owned and controlled by Germany's largest automaker may not represent what W.O. Bentley originally planned when he started his company over 80 years ago. However, the 2004 Continental GT coupe is the most exciting vehicle to wear that famous "B" emblem in 70 years. Not only is it the best Bentley ever made; it's arguably the best ultraluxury coupe currently available.

    The $150,000 Continental GT won't go on sale in the U.S. until March, yet demand is already outstripping supply for the next two years (Bentley plans on selling 1,500 a year to U.S. customers). Even the press vehicles are difficult to come by, but we were recently given the unique opportunity to drive a Moonbeam Silver model from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Over the course of one day, we experienced the vehicle in a variety of conditions and came away with one clear impression — at $150,000, this car might be considered a bargain!

    We didn't arrive at such a conclusion lightly. When you consider the tremendous vehicles available for anywhere from one-half to one-fifth that price, it's hard to justify a $150,000 car in today's world. But consider the competition from Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes. The Aston Martin Vanquish costs $225,000, yet it makes "only" 460 horsepower, offers only rear-wheel drive and has various interior materials that don't live up to its nameplate — or price. The same description holds true for the Ferrari 575M, except it makes 515 horsepower (and carries only two people). The Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG ups the horsepower figure to 612 while costing a mere $200,000, but it's still only a rear-wheel-drive car, and many might argue that a Mercedes nameplate simply doesn't compete in the same realm as Bentley, Aston Martin and Ferrari.

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    Despite having 12 cylinders and two turbos, the Continental's engine fits under the relatively short and low hood. Thank the "W" cylinder configuration and some creative packaging. You'll want to leave the spark plug changes to your mechanic (as opposed to all those current Bentley owners who change their own…).

    Now consider the Continental GT with its 552-horsepower W12 engine, four-passenger seating, all-wheel drive and nearly faultless interior. As one Bentley representative told us, "When I was first told the selling price, I reexamined the car to see what they left out to sell it so cheap. Damned if I can't find anything missing."

    After spending some 400 miles in the Continental GT, we found one or two minor sticking points, but, overall, we feel the same way.

    The first item we should point out is that this vehicle is being badged as "the fastest four-passenger coupe" in the world. With an official rear seat and a top speed of 198 mph, that claim at first seems accurate. But like so many past and present coupes, the rear seat's functionality is open for debate.
    We stuffed a six-foot staffer back there for a 20-minute drive and confirmed that the seat is comfortable and headroom isn't an issue, but unless the front passengers are relatively short, rear-seat legroom is radically reduced. When the front seats are adjusted all the way back (which is close to where our six-foot driver placed the seat for maximum comfort/control) rear-seat legroom is suitable only for a baby seat-mounted infant.

    The next item that some might consider "left out" on such a car is the availability of a true Formula One-style manual transmission. The Continental GT offers only a six-speed automatic transmission, though it includes paddle shifters just ahead of the steering wheel that are as easy to utilize as those in the Vanquish and 575M. The transmission can be set in a sport mode for more aggressive automatic shifting, or a Tiptronic mode for manual shifting via the paddles. The latter mode proved highly entertaining, with responsive upshifts and downshifts that felt almost as pleasing as what we have experienced in the SMG-equipped BMW M3. We've always felt the AMG-badged Mercedes products offered the world's best automatics, but this one is at least as good, and the user-friendly paddles give it an edge over Mercedes' steering wheel-mounted buttons.

    Finally, there's the question of styling, which has been getting mixed reviews from both the public and the automotive press. Because of its subjective nature, we don't really focus on this area. However, we can report that more than one person commented on how they thought the Continual GT was an Aston Martin when they first spotted it. It caused quite a stir at every stop during our trip, with our favorite response coming from a guy in his late teens during a fill-up in Templeton, Calif., "Dude, that car is like…wow." (We thought about making that phrase the sum total of our report on the Continental GT, but figured you deserve more.)

    The wow factor continues inside the Bentley coupe where the interior materials and control layout conspire to create one of the best cabins we've ever sat in. This is not surprising when you consider the parent company's penchant for great interiors. If $34,000 buys an Audi TT's interior, and $65,000 gets you an A8's interior, you can imagine what Volkswagen-Audi is capable of producing for $150,000. Real metal accents and supple leather throughout the cabin highlight the old-world design elements, such as the push-pull vent controls and deep-set gauges. Even the door-mounted window switches and the levers for pushing the front seats forward are made of real metal.

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    Possibly the best interior we've had the pleasure of enjoying. The materials are first rate, the controls make perfect sense and the audio system is unsurpassed by anything on four wheels.

    As impressive as the interior materials are, it's the successful melding of technology and functionality that makes driving the Continental such a pleasure. Without ever cracking the owner's manual, we quickly mastered the climate control system, audio system, suspension settings and even the TV functions (the TV feature won't be available on U.S.-market models). Bentley uses an iDrive-like wheel to scroll through the car's many functions, but it combines the wheel with multiple buttons that allow fast access to each of the car's major systems. Each control function also features a graphical element that clearly displays what you are doing in the center stack area. The "instant access" buttons mean that, unlike iDrive, it takes only a few seconds to adjust any of the hundreds of climate, audio and performance settings (are you listening, BMW?).

    The audio system was particularly impressive, with multiple surround sound modes that feature digital signal processing and sound quality as clean and sharp as the best Mark Levinson systems from Lexus. Like all German products, the Continental GT doesn't have an in-dash CD changer, but at least the changer is in the glovebox and not the cargo area. And, as we mentioned, our test model had a TV function that worked surprisingly well for a non-satellite system (but only when we were in large cities). The video portion of the TV system wouldn't display when the car was in motion but like the car's other systems it was extremely easy to figure out and use.

    There remains the most important aspect of a high-end luxury coupe: how does it drive? To put it simply (and to drive our high-school English teachers crazy), we can confidently say, "It drives good!" Once again, think Audi in terms of sublime steering feel and effective suspension tuning. The Continental GT weighs in at a hefty 5,300 pounds, but you'd never guess it after flinging the car through the twisties or hammering it to quickly merge with freeway traffic. The car's air suspension has multiple settings for comfort or performance. The coupe's ride height is also adjustable to aid high-speed stability, and a rear spoiler deploys from just below the rear window to create down force. Wind noise is minimal at 80 mph, and the Bentley feels buttoned down at nearly twice that speed.

    Maximum torque from the W12 engine is 479 pound-feet, and it's available at what many cars use for a warm-up idle setting — 1,600 rpm. The coupe feels as quick as that output would suggest, and Bentley claims it will hit 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. Yet the car's all-wheel-drive system means traction is never an issue. Goose the throttle from a standstill and you'll forget about the twin turbos squeezed under the car's short hood as it leaps forward with minimal effort.

    Braking is similarly effortless as the floating calipers squeeze 15.9-inch front rotors and 13.2-inch rear rotors. A short acclimation period is necessary to appreciate how powerful the system is, but feedback through the pedal is superb and confidence in the car's stopping ability builds quickly.

    In many areas, the Continental GT has set new benchmarks. Its interior quality and control layout are as well executed as anything we've driven. Its combination of comfort, performance and luxury is unprecedented. And then there's the price, which as we said before could rightly be called a bargain at $150,000.

    Maybe that teenager in Templeton had it right all along: "Wow."

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    That long, sloping rear end is helpful in terms of aerodynamics, and the large rear window provides better rear visibility than you might think. The exhaust note from the twin tailpipes strikes us as sporty yet subdued.

    Ups: Excellent interior materials, high-tech controls and features that make sense, all-wheel-drive confidence, bargain price for a luxury car.

    Downs: No manual transmission available, four-seat capacity is questionable, styling doesn't work for everyone.

    The Bottom Line: Raising the bar — and lowering the price — of what we expect in the ultrapremium GT segment.

    Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $149,990 (including destination charge)

    Options on Test Vehicle: None

    MSRP of Test Vehicle: $149,990 (including destination charge)

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    The nine-spoke, two-piece alloy wheels on our test car wore 285/45/19 Pirelli tires that were surprisingly quiet at highway speeds. Chrome wheels with a five-spoke design are also available.

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    Last edited: Jan 13, 2004
  2. mucky

    mucky .

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  3. Eulogy

    Eulogy The Great Below

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    im sure the rappers will ruin them with the bling shit
     
  4. Sideways

    Sideways Do I look like I give a damn?

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    Looks at those rotors :eek3:
     
  5. dmora

    dmora Guest

    more than i can afford pal.
     
  6. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    I'll take a Ford GT with 50 fewer horses and 100% less practicality :o
     
  7. the most luxurious cars in the world will always be automatics. the sooner people start to realize this, the better. :)
     
  8. Nemesis_152

    Nemesis_152 I'm a delicate desert flower from Arizona.

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  9. B17A

    B17A Now with more ///M

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    Still don't like the looks. :sad2:
     
  10. WS6Formula350

    WS6Formula350 molestache amririte?

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    Reminds me of a G35C... with power
     
  11. Priest Tango

    Priest Tango Custom User Tits

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    i see more VW than bentley :ugh:
     
  12. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I don't care for the Bentley's exterior. It's lacking something... Bentleyness perhaps.

    I'd rather have this as my ultrapremium luxury coupe,

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    CL65 AMG. :drool:

    It does cost a bit more though. :o
     
  13. mucky

    mucky .

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    Fuck that Mercedes. This is the uber-ultra luxury GT:

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    :wackit:
     
  14. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    It'd be Aston or Mercedes for me over the GT just for overall styling alone. :boink:
     
  15. Sideways

    Sideways Do I look like I give a damn?

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    :bowdown: DB9

    Can’t believe I forgot about that absolutely beautiful car .
     
  16. mucky

    mucky .

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    Just by brand and logos only, Aston Martin > Bentley.
     
  17. Vegas_Runnin_Rebel

    Vegas_Runnin_Rebel Cum again?

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  18. Bernout

    Bernout OT Supporter

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    Bentley GT vs. Ford GT

    Bentley has MORE horsepower-per-dollar?!?! :eek:
     
  19. anomaly

    anomaly If you weren't around for the original HA.net spli

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    :bowdown: to bentley
     
  20. HoVa

    HoVa New Member

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    lets put it this way,

    i'd love to own ANY of these cars.
     
  21. nice but i like the lines of the sl55 better :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 13, 2004
  22. mucky

    mucky .

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    WRONG!!!!!!!!!!! :slap:
     
  23. Bernout

    Bernout OT Supporter

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    What the...?! :slap: yourself!

    Ford GT: $150K, 500 hp

    Bentley GT: $150K, 552 hp.

    Am I missing something? Maybe you misunderstood...:dunno:
     
  24. Omega6_Virus

    Omega6_Virus New Member

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    Wow.
    Bentley GT
    CLK65
    Aston Martin


    All cars I will kill my family for.
     
  25. nucl3ar

    nucl3ar Guest

    I was about to say the CL65 is faster, then I scrolled down. :bigok:
     

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