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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Sep 25, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff



"License and registration? Yes, officer. No, it's not registered to me because it's not my car." I made it through the whole day living the Walter Mitty dream. Now the law wants to burst my bubble. After suffering the indignity of having to explain why my name isn't on the registration for this Bentley and the life of a press car, I'm thinking the officer is understanding of the situation. Wrong! At the ungodly hour of 1:15 AM, the California Highway Patrol officer decides now is a good time to investigate the out-of-state plates on the Bentley. The general public, for some reason, is all to eager to make the assumption that if you drive a Bentley, you must own a Bentley. Who am I to argue and destroy their fantasy? In their mind, Bentley owner makes good, converses with the common man by day, and rockets deserted stretches of highway by night, liberating all of their mundane lives. The Bentley does just that. Every moment is pure magic.

Celebrity has its price. The flip side to being on everyone's A list is becoming a coveted target for inquisitive law enforcement. I know, tell it to the judge. I see a court date in my future. The Continental GT is a supercar that everyone can rally behind. If this car were a film star, it would no doubt be John Wayne. The GT has that aura. Women want to be with it. And guys, what red blooded American wouldn't want to possess this kind of power and allure? Civilized and refined for when it matters, the GT is tough as nails - a grunting, snorting wild animal when nothing matters. While most only see the beautiful exterior skin, those in the know find what lies beneath the bonnet to be the real soul of the GT. As we cruise behind a tricked-out Lamborghini along Sunset Boulevard, we ask ourselves which we would rather have. Both are stylish, and extremely fast. The Lambo is triumphant in this department, but just try and stuff four people into the latest Italian sports car. On a daily basis, the Bentley is the one to have. Of course, both are now products of Volkswagen.

Anyone who tries to take a crack at the Bentley as being less than a classic by virtue of its current parent company needs to get his or her head examined. All the parts look and work as one. While some elements of the GT do have their origins in some Volkswagen and Audi products, they seem very much at home in this car. The air suspension with manual driver adjustment for ride height and damper settings can be found in the Phaeton and A8, as well as the continuous all-wheel drive system with Torsen center differential. Both are all but invisible, yet both are essential in order to deliver the performance that the Continental is capable of. And the audio system that is among the best in the Phaeton also finds a home in the Bentley. While the digital sound processing is just a hair bit less distinct in this two-door, it seems to be more powerful. It's as if the 12-speaker audio system is vying for the attention as much as any other element in the car. Personally, I don't care who makes it if the end result is as superior as these components are. While on the subject, the CD changer is less conveniently housed in the glove box, but the unblemished beauty of the center console is worth the extra effort in loading the discs. The integrated infotainment system is, again, going to be very familiar if you are upgrading from a Phaeton. In both products, this system handles everything from HVAC controls to audio and various other duties, and it does so with simple elegance that is both easy to understand and operate.

Framing all of the electronics, familiar chrome organ pull knobs and brushed metal vents is mirrored unbleached burr walnut woodwork that lets all occupants know that this is not an off the rack motor car. The additional optional veneered door panels, a $589.02 option, are worth every penny. The wood is neither too plentiful nor inadequate. The design strikes the right balance with shapes and material usage. The saddle interior color of the leather is not the first choice most would go with. However, the hides and craftsmanship are beyond approach. One of the most prominent names in Mercedes aftermarket upgrades admits this leather is a grade above both factory and aftermarket skins for the German manufacturer. While the back seating is not as plentiful as the front, the rear occupants do have adequate room to reside in the aft section for sometime before feeling claustrophobic. In fact, the GT feels much more like the four-seater that it is than a two-plus-two. The oversized rear fold down center console armrest, power windows and a cocoon of the finest of leather creates a more sporting yet comfortable environment unlike that of say the Arnage. Equal, but different.

Every seat in the house is a good one, but the driver seat is where the real action takes place. Think of the driver seat as the captain's chair on a nuclear sub. I have at my disposal all manner of options, information and (best of all) power. The 6.0-liter, twin turbo, 12-cylinder Bentley engine is shy of what a submarine might require, but plenty for civilian uses. How much power you might ask? Try 551 horsepower on for size. Torque is a crushing 479 pounds. What does one do with all of this power? Basically anything one wants to. We never encounter a circumstance that required more thrust than what is available. Sadly, there just isn't enough opportunity to push the car beyond half of its capabilities. We can make that claim to just a handful of vehicles. The top speed is 198 mph, which means that 99 mph is to the GT what 60 or 70 mph is to the vast majority of other cars. The ability to blast off at any moment at any speed is an irresistible trait of the Continental GT. The numbers prove that all day long. Not obvious in the numbers is how smooth and refined the engine is. The precision operation of this motor only further justifies the price tag. As importantly, the focus was on control of the motorcar. The feedback to the driver from the steering and suspension are in step with the motor.

This is not a disproportionate muscle car with all the effort spent on the powerplant. The GT is as well-rounded as it gets. The blend of around town performance and high-speed behavior is bad news for the competition. Of course, this is a Bentley, and thereby has all the details that come with this lofty label. Breitling-branded timepiece, full premium hide interior including headlining and top roll, stainless steel surfaced pedals and driver's foot rest, satellite navigation, front driver and passenger front and side-impact airbags as well as front and rear compartment side curtain airbags, concealed rear aerofoil with automatic deployment, six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift ability. A set of wonderfully styled 19-inch alloy wheels clad with 275/40 R19 high performance tires are standard fare in the GT. For those cold California nights (it can happen), the option list includes the $392.68 heated steering wheel and the $2,617.88 park heater.

The total price of $161,586.20 does, as one might imagine, include a hefty $3,700 for gas-guzzler tax and $2,595.00 for destination above the base price of $149,990. In terms of supercars, this is a bargain price. The tough gig in Southern California isn't what one might expect. Locating a Bentley Continental GT is the easy part. Finding one that hasn't been marked up twenty percent over list isn't so easy. Who says the best things in life are free?

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SPECIFICATIONS Price: Base $149,990, as tested $161,586.20 Engine type: Twin Turbo 6-litre W12, DOHC, 4 valves/cylinder Horsepower: 551 @ 6,100 rpm Torque: 479lb.-ft @ 1,600 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive Transmission type: ZF (6HP-26) fully automatic with "Tiptronic" feature Suspension: Front: Progressive air springs, Continuous Damping Control 4 settings, adjustable Ride Height Control, Lowers automatically at sustained high speeds. High manually selectable at lower speeds Rear: Progressive air springs, Continuous Damping Control 4 settings, adjustable Ride Height Control, Lowers automatically at sustained high speeds. High manually selectable at lower speeds Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 19 x 9J alloy, 275.40 x 19 Pirelli or Michelin Rear: 19 x 9J alloy, 275.40 x 19 Pirelli or Michelin Brakes: Front: Vented discs 405 mm diameter Rear: Vented discs 335 mm diameter Electronic Stability Program (ESP) Overall length: 4,804mm Overall width: 1,918mm Overall height: 1,390mm Curb weight (kg.): 2,385 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 11/18 Top Speed, mph: 198 0-60 mph: 4.7 0-100 mph: 11.25

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