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Bentley Continental GT review. Image by Bentley.

Bentley Continental GT review
Once upon a time, a car's identity was buried deep in its DNA. In these days of multi-national parts and platform sharing, brands are born in a marketing memo, and then programmed onto a computer chip. Even the most discerning car hack struggles to tell where a Mercedes SLK ends and a Chrysler Crossfire begins.

   



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Once upon a time, a car's identity was buried deep in its DNA. In these days of multi-national parts and platform sharing, brands are born in a marketing memo, and then programmed onto a computer chip. Even the most discerning car hack struggles to tell where a Mercedes SLK ends and a Chrysler Crossfire begins. All of which begs the question: is the Bentley Continental GT, the company's first all-new model since Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated - sorry, since Volkswagen bought the firm, a "real" Bentley?

Hell if I know. The GT was my first close encounter with the Bentley brand. But I'll tell you this: you can be ambling down the highway in a Continental GT, doing nothing more strenuous than listening to right wing radio, look down at the speedo and see 120mph on the clock, no problem. If "GT" stands for "Grand Tourer" then no car does it better.

Except maybe a VW Phaeton. I can report that the shared powerplant accounts for much of the Bentley's charm. Tread lightly on the go pedal and both cars will saunter through town as happily as a recently elected mayor. Mash the gas, and both machines will accelerate deep into triple digits like a (very heavy) thing possessed.

Of course, the twin-turbo, 552-horse Bentley is significantly faster than its sister. The blown Bentley will scoot to sixty in 4.7 seconds, and on to a V-max of, I kid you not, 198mph. But the GT's basic nature, the way it piles on the speed in a single, seamless lunge, is the same; and there's nothing wrong with that.

Actually, there is. The world's most compact 12-cylinder engine produces aural Prozac. Despite Bentley's attempts to tune the exhaust note to suit the brand's sporting aspirations, the GT's engine has all the sonic sex appeal of a pixilated racecar from a '70s arcade game. It's loud at idle, loud under load and... that's it. Considering the company's long tradition of stuffing big-block baritone V8s into the engine bay, the variable decibel drone is a major disappointment.

In the corners, the GT is fast and... that's it. Thanks to Audi's four-wheel-drive system, the baby Bentley dispatches long sweeping bends with mindless ease. But, as you'd expect, throwing the 2400kg two-door into a sharp corner is a less than relaxing pursuit. The GT's fingertip light steering makes initial turn-in and mid-corner adjustment a very tricky business. Anyway, why bother? The Bentley is about as suited to thrashing as a Lotus Elise is to long road trips.

Oh, and it may seem churlish to mention it, but the Continental GT guzzles petrol like an alcoholic aristocrat quaffing Dom Perignon. In semi-hooligan mode, I burned a UK gallon of dead dinosaur every 8.9 miles. An extended session of interstate cruising managed to double the figure, just.

Again, who cares? The flying "B" above the radiator gives owners a free pass from any social and/or environmental obligation. And that's why the GT's sheet metal and interior, rather than its on-road dynamics, ultimately define the car's character.

Bentley's new owners worked hard to imbue their muscle coupe with brand-specific styling cues (e.g. twin headlights of varying size). To my eyes, the overall design looks like a squashed, angular version of an Aston Martin Vanquish. The GT's shape, though vaguely British, lacks cohesion. In particular, the sharp creases on either side of the bonnet make the prow look as if a Play Dough shape cutter formed it. I reckon the Chrysler 300C is a better looking Bentley. But hey, that's me. Most people consider the GT a suitably British "gentleman's express".

Once inside, the olfactory sense overwhelms aesthetic sensibility. Every inch of the GT's cabin that isn't covered with piano-grade wood or satin finish aluminium or what was once Wilton carpet is slathered in perfectly stitched, glove soft, dizzyingly fragrant leather. I reckon the GT's immaculate upholstery is the car's finest hour, in perfect keeping with Britain's bespoke tailoring tradition.

From there, it's straight back to the Fatherland. The GT's main display screen and attendant buttons are lifted straight from the Phaeton. All the switches, even the signature "organ stop" vent controls, work with Germanic precision. And in case you missed the point, the words "Made in Germany" are written in large type at the base of the cigarette lighter.

Is that a bad thing? Is it fair to dismiss the GT simply because it didn't evolve from the brand's original DNA? That depends. If you believe an automobile should reflect the engineering and design gestalt of its native land, then no, we shouldn't impugn this mighty machine. The Bentley Continental GT is a truly superb German automobile.
Read more of Robert Farago's reviews at www.thetruthaboutcars.com.

Robert Farago - 16 Nov 2004



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2004 Bentley Continental GT specifications:
Price: 110,000 on-the-road.
0-60mph: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 198mph
Combined economy: 16.5mpg
Kerb weight: 2385kg

2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.

2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.



2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.
 

2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.
 

2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.
 

2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.
 

2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.
 

2004 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.
 






 

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