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Bentley Continental GT

Paul A. Eisenstein
From the Print Edition:
Andy Garcia, Mar/April 2004

History may repeat itself, but in the case of Bentley, not very often. The venerable marque built its reputation upon a succession of striking victories at the 24 Heures du Mans in the 1920s, but when the legendary Bentley Boys retired, so did the automaker’s on-track aspirations.

Last June, Bentley once again dominated the grand and grueling circuit, a fitting comeback for a company that spent decades as little more than “the other brand” sitting in the shadows of its illustrious sibling, Rolls-Royce, and offering little more than thinly disguised Royces, badged with the flying B hood ornament. But that ended when Bentley was subsumed by Volkswagen AG’s expansive luxury lineup (see story on page 98).

The first measure of this odd alliance, the Continental GT, belongs to a new class of automobile: the affordable supercar.  At $150,000, that’s a relative term. Bentley’s entry is a sleek and elegant sports coupe that pays homage to the brand’s distinguished heritage, from 1928’s revolutionary Speed Six to the broad-shouldered 1952 R Type Continental.

The GT delivers a satisfying blend of top-line luxury and incredible performance. With its twin-turbo, 6.0-liter W-12 engine pumping out a neck-snapping 552 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, the Continental GT is among the most powerful vehicles on the road. Tip the pedal to the proverbial metal and you’ll feel as if you were launching off an aircraft carrier catapult.

True to form, this Bentley is synonymous with bespoke. Each car, on average, requires 20 hours of labor—just for the interior woodwork. That’s more time than it takes mass manufacturers to build an entire car. All told, each GT involves 200 hours of labor.

The GT’s graceful lines belie the size of this vehicle. You can actually fit two people in the back seat, unlike most traditional 2+2s, and there’s more than enough room for luggage. Despite weighing in at more than 5,300 pounds, the GT is spry, nimble and responsive.

With the Continental GT, Bentley takes aim at the sort of affluent motorist who thinks there are simply too many Bimmers and Benzes on the road. And the GT’s price tag isn’t much of a reach from the likes of a loaded SL600.

Visit www.bentleymotors.com.

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