Not many of us end up spending more on a car than on the typical mortgage, but still, there is no shortage of high performance super luxury cars to indulge every qualified buyer’s tastes. Yet this gives some cars, like the Bentley Continental GT, an air of snootiness—or nouveau riche dipshittery. Trust me, friend. This is the wrong way to think.
I gather that a Bentley isn’t for everyone, and your usual partner at a powerful law firm or average Rich Kid of Instagram may be the common stereotype you imagine for this car, but it’s better than that. It’s so good at going 200 mph while giving you a deep tissue massage and jamming out Deadmau5 at a ridiculous volume.
A Bentley isn’t boring. It may be the ultimate party car.
(Full Disclosure: Bentley wanted me to drive the 2017 Continental GT V8 S so badly that it made me fly out to Los Angeles while covering the massive Long Beach Grand Prix race weekend, and forced me to drive around this big bad grand tourer for a week.)
I haven’t spent a ton of time in Bentley’s cars, but each time I do, I’m surprised at how good it is about gently comforting you along as you’re going over 100 mph, but I’ve always curious to learn more by driving one more extensively.
I imagine not a lot of us get to sit in one of these, much less drive one. Of course I wanted to pick the brains of our Jalopnik readers, to make sure no stone was left unturned.
As you may know, there’s a new Continental on the way this year, but that’s not to say that the current one in the U.S. isn’t still quite the player in the segment. To be sure, it not only met my standards for cool, but also satisfied my usual need for spirited driving.
I knew I’d be putting a few miles on this car in a small amount of time to find out enough to give it a proper verdict. I also had to do so in southern California on some damn fun scenic routes in the middle of Spring. Woe is me.
The Bentley Continental GT is a full-size performance-focused luxury coupe, and is somehow considered the entry level model in the company’s lineup. This current iteration is the second generation of the car that was first launched in 2003. You could categorize it in competition with the likes of the Aston Martin DB11 and the Ferrari California, and yes, I know the Portofino is replacing the California.
This Kingfisher Blue V8 S I tested rang in at just over $245,000, which tallied up nearly $30,000 in options. It’s powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 that kicks out a claimed 521 horsepower and 520 lb-ft of torque.
I’m a sucker for details, and Bentley crushes this game. Every touch point is placed perfectly. Not a corner was cut, and the materials are top class, from the optional contrast stitching over some of the softest car leather I’ve ever touched throughout the cabin to the exceptionally designed metal finished dash panel.
Then we get to the seats. They’re super supportive when taking corners quickly, good when you’re cruising along, and the diamond stitching details are exceptionally cool. The massage feature rocks, but I wish it stayed on for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
The engine’s power delivery is obscenely good. Smooth and endless. It didn’t matter what speed I fed in the throttle, the Continental’s V8 would pull so smoothly, I was shocked when I’d look down at the speedometer to see just how fast I was going so rapidly. It may appear to be some big super luxury car, but underneath there is a beast ready to pounce.
You definitely feel the weight from all the comfort features that spoil you in a manner few cars can. The Continental may weigh two tons, but there’s extensive use of aluminum throughout the body and chassis to make up for much of the weight added by keeping you comfortable.
The four-mode adjustable and adaptive suspension seemed perfect for my blended driving in the Sport 1 selection, and still didn’t feel too stiff in the Sport 2 mode. Full-on comfort mode was epic on the freeway, but definitely didn’t have the grip and feel I was looking for when the road got twisty. I kept the car in Sport 1 most of the time because of this.
The Continental’s twin-turbo V8 is similar to the one you’ll find in the Audi S8, but with a slightly different tune. Torque comes in the smoothest of waves, and the car will easily surge from ordinary American highway speeds to Autobahn unrestricted zone ones.
A throaty exhaust note welcomes any application of the go pedal, and I’m pleasantly surprised just how much bark a car this distinguished is allowed to offer. Thank you, Bentley.
When the time comes to scrub off some of that speed, monstrous red calipers bite down on huge discs, and do so with the smoothest of pedal feedback.
Overwhelmingly. I had to make the trek from Venice to Long Beach for a few days, while shooting the Long Beach Grand Prix action, and that involved several miles on the 405 in moderate traffic. The frustration of idiot LA commuters was quickly diminished by the super thick glass, tons of NVH insulation, heated (and cooled) front seats that also have a massage feature, and an 1,100 watt Naim audio system pumping through 14 speakers.
I won’t say exactly how fast I was going, but suffice it to say that I haven’t felt such exceptional comfort and control in a car traveling at speeds that are generally frowned upon in a lot of countries. Most countries, probably.
I could definitely see the value in taking lengthy road trips in the Continental. The cabin comfort is amazing, and the trunk can fit two carry-on roller bags, two backpacks, and a Pelican roller case, or three Fancy Kristens.
Since I wasn’t allowed to keep this tester for more than a week, I did test out how well it holds up on the valet line, and it was never moved to the usual lot filled with the poor people’s cars. I spent time in Downtown LA, Venice, Hollywood, and Long Beach. In any of those places, it got second looks (mostly positive), and definitely fit in anywhere in LA. Plenty of compliments came my way from passersby, and everyone loved the interior.
To complain about anything in this car is the highest form of First World Problems. That being said, the navigation system is average at best, and if I’m dropping over 200 grand on a car, that thing needs to read my mind, determine where I want to go, sort out the best way to get there, and do so with a user interface and experience that blows me away.
Screen taps take a couple seconds to register, the keyboard is in alphabetical order and can’t switch to QWERTY, and has this strange way of searching for addresses and destinations that doesn’t seem intuitive at all.
There isn’t enough legroom for an adult, in the things in the back Bentley calls seats, especially if any occupant in the front two positions is taller than 5'5". Though this car came loaded, Bentley doesn’t have rear seat climate control like the Mercedes S Class Coupe does, nor does it have decent cupholders. Fortunately there is a cool storage compartment (which Bentley says is for hiding and charging bigger personal devices like your iPad or Nintendo Switch) which I used to secure a couple bags of pastries I picked up.
EPA estimates are 15/25, and even though I did the vast majority of my use on the highway at reasonable speeds, I was getting 16 MPG over the week I drove the Bentley. Then again, in this tax bracket, owners aren’t going to worry about fuel economy.
It’s worth it. I look at this car, and see classic exterior lines, a well-appointed interior, and know its rich history. There’s also the monster that lurks beneath. The Bentley Continental GT is a distinguished British gentleman who dresses the part and makes the proper appearances, but can also throw a swift punch when the moment commands such action.
And he’s fun, too. I hope the new one can pull off the same M.O.