If speed, luxury and refinement define a true GT, then Bentley’s impressive Continental GT V8 surpasses all expectations. Exclusive motoring writer Stephen Rome was suitably impressed after a week behind the wheel…
Wood, leather and lashings of chrome allied with speed, style and sophistication – discerning buyers know what they like in their luxury cars which goes in part to explaining the popularity of this sporting Bentley.
There was a time when ‘Gently Bentley’ was the essence of old school models driven by men of a certain age; that was then and this is now and there is nothing ‘gentle’ about this sporting thoroughbred which took a bow in the expanding Bentley range in 2014.
It was so different back in the sixties and seventies, Bentley’s T” playing second fiddle to their Rolls Royce counterparts. For a name with such a glorious sporting heritage, many thought the company was being short-changed and there was genuine sadness about the pastiche of some of its models and fear that the marquee might be gently allowed to expire, its illustrious past all but forgotten…
Bentley’s renaissance started back in the early 80’s, the new Mulsanne and Turbo R recalling those raffish owners from the 20’s and 30’s whose insatiable quest for speed with style personified the brand – remember the Bentley Boys and their Le Mans glory days?
And that revolution gathered pace in 2003 as the ’new’ Bentley – now owned by the VW Audi group – made its marquee with the brutish 195 mph V12 Continental GT, the archetypal iron fist in a velvet glove which gave a new meaning to disciplined muscularity. Here was an authentic grand tourer which in one fell swoop revived the brand and all it stood for, opening ownership to a whole new class of discerning buyers; despite the sniffy response of some of the ‘old school’, there no denying that this one model massively changed perceptions of the Crewe company.
Spool forward to the GT V8’s debut with the brute force of the V12 replaced by a twin turbo Audi power plant specially tuned for installation under the Bentley bonnet. At around £127,000 I soon discovered the car combines the best of both worlds, its British swagger not in the least overwhelmed by a German engine that actually adds to the sense of drama melding towering performance with the Conti’s enviable sporting luxury.
Did some neighbours think I had done way with the mother in law as the press car arrived on a low loader from the factory? No matter, I was about to enjoy a week which I will devour for a long time to come and as the car – magnificently finished in bespoke Burnt Oak – left the low loader at just five miles an hour, I had a busy week planned…
Do you remember meeting VIP for the first time? You’ll appreciate my sense of trepidation before I took the Continental out for its first journey in and around Ormskirk. Those feelings were heightened as I slipped behind the wheel and completed the usual checks to (electrically ) adjust the seats, mirrors and steering wheel to perfection. The car’s bespoke cabin smells, feels and exudes a solidity that’s simply a world away from the mass produced machines of even so called ‘premier’ brands – does that sound a touch snobbish? It’s not meant to, but there is no other way in which I can convey the sense of well being and superiority when you take to the open road.
Ah yes, the open road – the car’s raison d’être.
It’s here the car is in its element – not too unwieldy despite its size and a gentle squeeze on the throttle producing an exhilarating response which is quite addictive. Its forte? No doubt about it, Continental GT is a perfect name for a four wheel drive machine car that’ll hit 60 in five seconds or so and can easily travel at two and a half times the UK legal limit – but then again it’s called a ‘Grand Tourer’ for a reason and for those who want to indulge its performance credentials this car will be a natural for the continental tour.
Comforting to know then that at the end of any journey long or small, any close encounters of second or third kind when too near other vehicles when parking is helped by park distance control.
So, you’ll be interested in my humble verdict on such an imposing machine. Well, comic Eric Sykes once described Ken Dodd as ‘a Chippendale in world of MFI’ and in a way that’s an apt description for such a magnificent machine that’s endeared itself to driving connoisseurs the world over…
Price: with options £161,205. Test car supplied by Bentley PR department, Pyms Lane, Crewe.