During the weekend I had the Continental GT, I used it as a grocery getter, to haul myself and two friends to a Rufus Wainwright concert at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, to take the visiting father of one of our young Web editors for a triple-digit ride, and as my chariot to a dinner party. The hostess of the dinner expressed her belief that the Continental might be challenging to drive. "Oh, no," I replied. "It's as easy to drive as a Buick." And, indeed, it is, although I've never driven a Buick powered by a twelve-cylinder engine producing 567 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. There's simply no learning curve to driving the Conti GT; you just put your foot on the brake, slide the gear lever into Drive, and go. This is one reason, I imagine, it has been so popular. Ferraris and Lamborghinis can be off-putting to a lot of people because of their perceived complexity. The only thing that might be off-putting about driving the Continental is the knowledge that it costs as much as a modest house. I say, just think Buick, and you'll be fine.
You could drive the Continental for many miles before you might notice one particularly interesting aspect of its exterior design. Stand directly behind it, and perhaps view it from a slightly elevated position, such as a berm against which it is parked. A single piece of aluminum bodywork comprises the A-pillars, the roof, the C-pillars, AND the rear fenders of the car. This is a HUGE stamping, and it's pretty incredible to contemplate the manufacturing process that produces it. I asked Bentley for clarification, and their spokesperson responded: "The GT features superforming (same as the Mulsanne sedan), a process by which aluminum is heated to 500 degrees C, so the aluminum turns to liquid, and then the aluminum is molded via pressurized air, into the crisp form you see. There aren't invisible welds on the Conti as with the Mulsanne (which has invisibly welded C-pillars). The Conti GT has additional superformed pieces (that's what enables the floating headlights and taillamps), but the panel you describe is the biggest single piece on the GT." I'll leave it to others to describe in more detail the Continental's cabin, which is exquisite in design, craftsmanship, and materials. I appreciated the air-conditioned seats when the temperatures were in the 90s, but the fans that blow the air through the seat cushions are quite noisy on their highest setting. I guess that's what the Naim stereo is for, to muffle the whine.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Although the Mulsanne is Bentley's flagship vehicle, the Continental GT is what most people will think of when they hear the name "Bentley." As Joe DeMatio said, the Continental is so easy to drive, it's relatively easy to forget the purchase price and just enjoy the car. The relatively unassuming sheetmetal also means it doesn't draw as much unwanted attention as a Lamborghini. The big winged B logo hardly flies under the radar, but there's a feeling of understated elegance in the Continental that gives the impression the owner isn't relying on his or her car to make a statement.
My favorite part of the Continental range is the W-12 engine. No matter how fast you are going, there's plenty of power in reserve. There's no reason for a car this big to be this fast, just like there's no reason for a car to cost this much, other than because it can. Driving a Continental is a fabulous experience that all automotive enthusiasts should have at some point in their lives, even if it means owning a well-worn example during a midlife crisis.
The most amazing aspect of the interior is the fact that this isn't the nicest Bentley interior. A Mulsanne is even more luxurious than a Continental, but that's not to say the GT is Spartan. Each material used in the Continental is nicer than one would find in an average home. Not only does everything feel luxurious, it all looks interesting, too. This may be one of the cheaper Bentley models, but it's certainly one of the best cars on the road. Even if most people won't see or experience a Mulsanne, the Continental does a fine job of flying the Bentley brand flag for the masses of people who will see them in major metropolitan areas.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
Once you've taken delivery of a $200,000 press vehicle, there inevitably comes a point where paranoia seeps into the corner of your mind. In my case, it came once I glanced at the Monroney, and calculated both how many years salary this figure represents, or just how close it comes to the price of my house. As such, I used the Continental GT only to ferry myself to the office the next morning -- which as far as I can tell, is overkill akin to using a Boeing Business Jet on a flight that could be accomplished by a Cessna 172.
You might think that overkill would be the overarching theme of a vehicle like this. Just look at the numbers: 562 hp; $220,905 as tested; 5115-pound curb weight; et cetera. Yet for a car this extravagant and extraordinary, the Continental GT is surprisingly subdued. Unless you insist upon ordering a retina-searing shade of purple or lime green exterior paint, the Continental GT's exterior is easy on the eyes, especially where its roofline seamlessly flows into its chiseled haunches. The driving experience is equally as elegant. The car is no slouch (impressive, considering its heft), but the sense of speed is largely a visual perception alone. Wind and road noise are virtually nonexistent, and even the W-12's note under full throttle is a hushed baritone snort. Ride quality is impeccable, as imperfections in the road surface are muted to a faint "thump" in the background.
I find this elegant -- and almost understated -- manner refreshing for an ultra-luxury sports coupe. There are a number of expensive rivals on the market, but I'm not sure the Continental GT has a direct competitor of any sort. Few cars can blend power, panache, and prestige in a package that doesn't look completely ostentatious. Bentley can.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor