Review: 2012 Bentley Continental GT

Sean Evans (Evans is a writer living in New York City who covers the automotive world for BoldRide.) Before Bentley dropped off a silver 2012 Continental GT to test drive for this story, I was handed a book by the manufacturer’s publicist. Entitled Bentley: A Motoring Miscellany, its pages contained informational and quirky notes about the English automobile company’s heritage. Thumbing through, I learned that the color of my future loaner ride wasn’t actually silver; it’s officially called “Moonbeam.” Additionally, the leather for the interior came from a hide so meticulously inspected for imperfections, even something as slight as an insect bite would be cause for rejection. And should I ever set foot inside the factory where the winged B is assembled, mentions from workers about the “Rat-Trap” refer to a part of the braking system, and a “Squirming Irma” is a device used to test the seat cushions. When the gorgeous vehicle finally arrived, there was only a bit more reading that had to be completed before firing up the W-12 engine: the spec sheet. Most interesting of all the numbers on there was the GT’s weight. Despite shaving some poundage off, the two-door coupe is still closer to an aircraft carrier than an automobile at 5,115 pounds. However, the neckbrace-worthy torque (516 pounds at 1,700 rpm) means you really won’t feel like you’re driving a Naval warship when you mash the accelerator into the beautifully carpeted floor. As the 567 horses under the bonnet are unleashed, the two-and-a-half ton beast leaps forward with surprising quickness and agility. (Case in point: after missing a turn into a restaurant in upstate New York, a U-turn about a quarter mile down the road was executed and I floored it. It was zero-to-dinner in less than thirteen seconds.) Also among the pleasant surprises is the stability the GT possesses. This car can execute a 90-degree turn at 40+ miles per hour, without losing any grip or any body roll.  While other supercars may be able to handle similar turns, they do so with eardrum-splitting tire squeals, plumes of smoke and backends that sway more than Kim Kardashian’s. The Bentley does it calmly, responding to sharp corners as though it possesses the soul of a refined British butler: “Ah, a turn, sir? Happy to oblige. Shall I freshen your tea as well?” Inside the GT, the dials, gauges and knobs make you feel as though you’re sitting in an upscale fighter jet’s cockpit. Flourishes like the Brietling clock set into the brushed metal dash hammer home the fact that Bentley is all about comfort and style. A nice bonus are the powered seats, which are air conditioned in addition to being heated, meaning the back of your shirt will be dry and cool after a long trip, particularly if you’re pushing the car – and subsequently your nerves – to the maximum. After ten minutes behind the wheel, there’s a smile that only widens as your ears are filled with the deep bass notes purring from the twin exhausts. Plus, you’ll actually laugh with delight when you soar past 80mph and the rear spoiler automatically deploys itself.  Simply put, the GT is a driver’s heaven from nearly top to bottom. The car’s few flaws range from trifling to glaring. Among the easier to forgive is that the front grill is plastic-y and bends and wobbles cheaply when touched with any light pressure. Given the sticker price (base price is $189,900) and the high level of detailing on the inside, it just seems silly to overlook making something such as the grill of the car a bit better. On the more serious side, it’s billed as a four-seater but human beings can’t physically fit in the backseat. Especially with a 6’0”-plus driver or front seat passenger. Next, it drinks fuel faster than a local drunk perched on his favorite barstool, which leaves your wallet saying “Ouch” more often as you pull up to the premium grade pumps. Lastly, the low profile tires let you feel the road, which can be a good thing on smooth asphalt. However, any stretch of thoroughfare with a bump, seam or even an errant pebble and you’ll instantly feel it. But the Continental GT’s pluses far outweigh the minuses. The best positive of all is the heritage and bold design lines of the car are instantly recognizable and revered. I was waiting on a NYC sidewalk behind the car when a boy of no more than seven years old walked by holding his mom’s hand. He’d been talkative until he’d just about reached the car, then he grew very silent. When his mother inquired what was wrong, he waited a beat before simply responding, “Wow, mom. That’s a Bentley. It’s beautiful.” Indeed. See more of the 2012 Bentley Continental GT here THE BASICS Make: Bentley Model: Continental GT Year: 2012 Price, base: $189,900 Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 12 city / 19 highway Engine: 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W-12, 6-speed automatic Car Type: Sports Car THE DEETS Horsepower: 567 @ 6,000 rpm. Torque: 516 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 rpm. Overall length: 189.2 in. Wheelbase: 108.1 in. Height: 55.3 in. Width: 87.7 in. (with mirrors) Curb weight: 5,115 lbs.