Edited from MotorTrend magazine, Sep 14, 2004
I was well clear of the cockpit, but the valet at the Beverly Hills Hotel just stood there, smiling. I cleared my throat. “I’m supposed to get a stub?” The smile broadened. “You don’t need one, sir. We’ll keep the car right up front here for you. “Ah, the exalted primo parking spot at the famed “Pink Palace.” In this rarified oasis, where Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Astons, and assorted celebrity wheels regularly roll up to battle for maximum groveling, my Neptune Blue Bentley Continental GT had just been crowned Automobile of the Moment by L.A. ‘s most qualified jurors.
The attentiveness wasn’t surprising, though: Few cars have recently fueled as much pretest anticipation around MT headquarters as this big and beautiful coupe. Ever since we first saw the Continental GT at the 2002 Paris Motor Show, our collective mouths have watered at the prospect of a drive. Friends have called, begging, “Whenever you get that Bentley, just let me come over and sit near it.” At lunch one day, our waiter was so thrilled to see the car he even gave us a free box of McDonaldland cookies.
Now we’ve had a drive on home turf. We’ve given rides to friends and friends of friends’ neighbors. And we have test numbers.
By now most of you are keenly aware of the Continental GT’s particulars. Briefly, underneath its fetching flanks (amazingly, Belgian chief designer Dirk van Braeckel created the styling concept in just four months) it owes a lot to the VW Phaeton. The engine is a twin-turbo version of the German sedan’s 48-valve W-12; in the Continental GT, it produces a mighty 551 horsepower at 6100 rpm and 479 pound-feet of torque at just 1600. Transmission is a six-speed automatic with semi-manual mode and paddle shifters behind the wheel. All-wheel drive is standard. And, as in the VW, the chassis consists of air springs with multiple links and vented disc brakes with ABS at each corner.
To the much-anticipated question, “Is it fast?” the unqualified answer is, “Please stow your tray tables.” Zero to 60 mph takes a mere 4.5 seconds, and the quarter mile flashes by in just 12.9 seconds at 109.7 mph. For reference, the GT can even outgun a Porsche 911. Top speed, which we were unable to verify (not having a handy autobahn), is said to be close to 200 mph–and we have no reason to doubt that claim. The Continental GT doesn’t feel anywhere near as quick as it is. Acceleration is completely undramatic, even unexciting. Engine noises are muted by the two turbos, and those W-12 sounds that do permeate the cockpit are more “whooshy” than “screamy.” You barely feel the transmission upshifting, and wind roar is minimal. The Bentley is refined.
Hedonists will be ga-ga once they slip into the sensuously styled cabin. Fit and finish are spectacular, with gleaming brightwork, veneers so lustrous they seem to have come from liquid trees, and leather rich enough to make the people at Prada pout.
The Continental GT is elegant, majestic, fast, quiet, luxurious. Its subtlety, refinement, and punch make it the perfect L.A.-to-Vegas sprinter.
The 2005 Bentley Continental GT on offer here has been in the present ownership of the wife of a classic car collector in Northern California for about a year. Prior ownership was with another discerning collector with 150+ cars. Between them, the car was used for local jaunts around the Monterey Peninsula to dinner and events, totaling around 2,000 miles in the last two years.
Immaculate in every way for a car of its age, the Dark Sapphire paint is in truly excellent condition. Brightwork is as new and glasswork us unblemished. The Saddle leather interior shows negligible wear to seat, dash, panel and carpet surfaces, and features perfect wood veneer throughout.
The car drives perfectly. Showing less than 24,000 miles from new, there are no mechanical issues that we are aware of. It starts as it should, idles smoothly from cold and has that great Bentley power. Brakes, suspension, and all electrical work perfectly. The suspension raises and lowers smoothly, and all lights are operable.
This is an exceptional example of the early Bentley GT and certainly a credit to any collection.