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2005 Bentley Continental GT Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Andrew Frankl

The policeman in his regulation Ford Crown Victoria could not have been more pleasant. Before I could say anything beyond “excuse me officer’ he very gently interrupted by saying “you are looking for the Ritz Carlton which is half a mile back. Turn left at the first set of traffic lights and you’ll be there in no time.”

He was right of course. Tea at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay sounded like a very nice way to start a road test, especially if the car happened to be a 160 thousand dollar 195 miles per hour Bentley Continental. If I had any doubts about its presence these were soon dispelled by John, the man in charge of all the valets. There was a long line of cars waiting to unload their passengers and luggage but a bit like the Red Sea, the road majestically opened as I was waved very firmly into pole position. “Welcome to the Ritz Carlton Sir , just leave the keys with us, we’ll take care of the car.” And they did just that. There is a huge car park about 100 yards down the road full of BMWs, Jaguars and other “lesser” makes but when we returned after a very nice cup of Earl Grey tea the Bentley was right there, by the door waiting to whisk us to Monterey a mere 95 miles down the road. When I say waiting it wasn’t a matter of telling someone to get the car, the Bentley was parked just yards from where we left it and in a way this sums it all up. “We know our cars” added one of the valets as he handed over the keys, “believe me, we’ve seen everything from Maybachs to Mazdas, but this one is special”.

After 300 miles in the-very comfortable driving seat- I realized what he was talking about. The Bentley is not just about money, it is also about taste. While it has presence it cannot, by any stretch of the imagination be called ostentatious. Imposing yes, I am rich, get out of my way aggressive it most certainly is not.

This is what W.O. Bentley had to say 83 years ago: “while it would offer great comfort and unquestioned luxury as it went about its daily business, so also it would possess a thinly veiled ability to turn into something special at any moment”. Precisely. The 552-bhp 6.0 liter W-12 engine does just that. Highway 1 along the Pacific Ocean is mostly double yellow lines with just the odd passing lane here and there. In the Bentley’s case that was all I needed. Without revving the living daylight out of the engine I simply pressed gently on the loud pedal and in contrast to the message often typed into wing mirrors about other cars maybe be nearer than they appear the opposite was true. Within seconds these were just little specs on the horizon. The car may weigh 5353 pounds but with a 0-60 figure in under 5 seconds passing was no more than a mere formality. Did I get anywhere near its top speed of just under 200 miles per hour? Certainly not. I did, however, get up to 120 miles per hour on a disused airfield. Even at that speed the Bentley was solid as a rock.

The engine, a rather special one is a W12 made up of two 15 degree V6s joined by a common crankshaft. So far it is similar to VW-Audi’s Phaeton and A8 but Bentley adds its own cylinder heads with a specific combustion-chamber shape, adds twin turbos and intercoolers plus lots of ECU software. How they manage to squeeze all this into the Bentley’s relatively short nose I’ll never know and to be fair I would not volunteer to fix anything should it go wrong.

For many, many years Rolls-Royce and Bentley were made on the same production lines in Crewe, England. At times the cars were almost identical with slightly sportier suspensions on the Bentley. A few years ago (1988 to be precise) Volkswagen bought the group or so it thought. Apparently the name Rolls-Royce was owned by BMW of all people and as the two could not agree on a joint venture Bentley stayed in Crewe while BMW built an absolutely beautiful, state of the art plant for the new Rolls in Goodwood, near the famous race track where Stirling Moss nearly lost his life back in the 60s. I’ve driven the new Rolls and while it is very nice it just isn’t me whereas the Bentley most definitely would be I had 160 or so thousand dollars to spare. On the road the car just glides thanks to its immense power and while Rolls used to advertise their cars with the slogan “at 60 miles per hour the loudest noise is the ticking of the clock” in the Bentley the Breitling clock is silent so at 60 the loudest sound is Beethoven’s violin concerto. The clarity was uncanny, probably the best I’ve ever come across in a car.

Silly as it may sound the Bentley is remarkably good value among supercars. This may seem like an outrageous things to say, after all most people are lucky to earn a third of what the Bentley costs but the truth is that there are an awful lot of rich folks out there. Many got get there by shady deals as all the court cases will testify or by playing basketball for totally ludicrous amounts but as far as car dealers are concerned they are only interested in one thing- the deal. And as deals go the Bentley is a good deal. Ferrari’s 612 costs a cool one hundred thousand dollars more and is not readily available whereas the Bentley is. Ferrari’s total production is just about 5000 cars a year while Bentley make that number of GTs. I see Aston Martin as a potential rival but Astons are more of a pure sports car rather than a grand tourer. You must be wondering by now if there was anything wrong with the Bentley or was I so carried away by its majestic progress that I lost my judgement.

Of course there were. First of all it is most definitely not a four seater . Two plus two children –yes, four grown-ups definitely not. The other, rather curious problem is the lack of space in the trunk. If ever a car was made with well to do golfers in mind this Bentley has to beit. Yet, while we did managed to squeeze the two sets in, the drivers had to be taken out of the bags and put in separately. Hardly the end of the World but surprising nevertheless. Having to put the golf bags in at an angle also made it impossible to put in suitcases which ended up on the back seat.

All in all, an exceptional automobile, which, driven sensibly certainly be good for 300 plus miles without stopping. At legal speeds we got a perfectly acceptable 18 miles per gallon, more than several SUVs.

In a word…unforgettable.