Bentley’s thrilling super coupe still attracts attention, but of a different sort
Call it the Ocasio-Cortez Effect.
We are witnessing a pendulum swing of sorts—a backlash against the trappings of excessive wealth and conspicuous consumption—as signified by the election of the New York Congresswoman and her democratic socialist cohort.
So it isn’t a surprise that being seen in a gleaming Extreme Silver Bentley Continental GT W12, with its $276,730 USD sticker price, ain’t as cool as it used to be. Whereas such exotica used to invite a curious double take, now the driver can expect a direct, confrontational stare, with more than a wisp of resentment, bordering on contempt.
And let’s be clear, the only person who purposely buys a Bentley Continental GT W12 is wealthy, not merely rich. As Chris Rock once said, “Shaq is rich. The white guy who signs Shaq’s check is wealthy.” Rich guys buy Lambos. Bentleys are for those who blithely state that they are “comfortable” when asked about their standard of living. And for all the brand’s claims of restrained, stately luxury, a Bentley is still one of this planet’s most brazen displays of vehicular affluence.
Americans generally aren’t against someone making their fortune. It’s called the American Dream for a reason. But today, we live in an era of bro-noxious Trustifarians, rapacious landlords, reality-show brats, hedge fund manipulators, external consultants who make seven-figure bonuses for “right-sizing” 30 percent of your staff, and CEOs who make 361 times as much as the average worker salary.
Never has the disparity between The Rich and The Rest been so acute. Might the next steampunk trend be artisanal guillotines?
So it was with a certain hesitancy that I piloted this gleaming, bespoke product of Crewe, England, through the streets of Los Angeles—the glitziest, most glamour-consumed megalopolis on the planet. Some luxury automakers have regional offices to cater solely to the customers who occupy the stretch of coastline between Santa Barbara and San Diego. If you are seeking a concentration of wealth spread over a 200-mile-long-by-1-mile-wide space (322-km-long-by-1.6-km-wide space), this is it.
Yes, there are enclaves where the Continental GT is more than welcome. Pulling up to the Riviera Country Club in tony Pacific Palisades, the club valet waves me through the porte cochère without asking for the key: “You can park wherever you want.”
As for the great concrete plain of the L.A. Basin, the reaction from the general population was … less gracious. All of which is unfortunate, because the redesigned Bentley Continental GT W12 is a splendid example of a modern-era grand touring coupe.
In our tests, this 5,019-pound (2,276-kg) beast gets from standstill to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, turns the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds at 120.8 mph (194.4 km/h), can carry 0.99 g on the skidpad, and whips through our figure eight in 23.8 seconds.
What does the preceding spex spew actually mean? The Bentley is swifter to 60 than a Mercedes-AMG GT R, boogies through the quarter quicker than the dragstrip-purposed Hellcat Redeye, has more lateral grip than Subaru WRX STI Type RA, and figure eights more zealously than an Aston Martin Vantage. The Bentley Continental GT is more than just a pretty status symbol.
And it is much more than an ostentatious sporting machine. That it feels the same underfoot cruising posh neighborhoods at 35 mph (56 km/h) as it does barreling down a late-night stretch of freeway at 95 is the ultimate expression of a truly premium vehicle.
Its relentless surge of acceleration is quite thrilling—surprise, it has launch control—given that you’re motivating a two-and-a-half-ton vehicle. Road test editor Chris Walton says: “It accelerates like an electric vehicle, with ‘all the torques.’ It feels exponential.” All the torques? Yes, 664 of them produced by the 6.0-liter W-12. It’s not the sort of twitchy, semi-terrifying rush of a Lamborghini; it’s more akin to a locomotive’s unstoppable force, just more so.
Speaking of unstoppable … how are the brakes? Impressive. Are they up to the task of bringing the Conti to a retina-detaching halt if a deer suddenly leaps in front? Answer: Yes, despite having an awful lot of car to stop. From 60 to 0 mph in 105 feet ain’t quite supercar territory, but it’s downright impressive for a car of this girth. What’s more, attests assistant road test editor Erick Ayapana, the Continental GT has “excellent fade resistance; the brakes like a little heat.”
Which may be partly why, on cold mornings especially, the steel discs whine in protest. Normally the reserve of carbon-fiber brakes, the racket from these iron tea-service plates was enough to wake the neighbors—more so than the engine’s throaty bark at startup.
Similarly, the price you pay for the performance of the meaty Pirelli P Zeros (275/35R22 front; 315/30R22 rear) is the intrusive din of tire roar in the cabin. But in exchange, Walton states, “Grip on the skidpad is surprisingly high. The steering weight is just right. As the understeer goes away mid-skidpad, I can start feeding throttle, feel the front tires start to put the power down, and the tail starts to walk a bit.” In short, the Bentley is Gronkowski performing a pas de chat.
But Bentleys are ostensibly also about transporting their occupants in relaxed splendor, and here the Continental W12 falls a bit flat. The Comfort suspension setting is a bit underwhelming. I expected some sort of floating pillow, filled with zephyrs and angel feathers. Instead it was just a less sporty setting, with plenty of jolts and bumps from the road impacting my driver’s throne. Yes, I understand what the “GT” suffix means and entails. This was just a bit … much.
It’s the interior where the luxury truly shines. All the switchgear feels so elegant in its swing, detent, and rotation. The chrome organ-stop pulls and knurled knobs, combined with all that leather, feel like you’re lounging in some monarch’s hidden lair. What few pieces of plastic exist remain well hidden. Then there’s the secret rotating central display, which adjusts to suit your preference whether you like your information in analog or digital form—or you can silence it entirely behind a polished wooden fascia. Whirring through those panels never gets old; you hear yourself chortling like an 1890s land baron.
The diamond-quilted leather seats (in a choice of 15 colors) pamper with settings for five types of massage and as many intensities for each. Unfortunately, the rear seats are vestigial, less in keeping with transporting passengers than the stowage of your fascinator en route to the royal wedding.
Like any elite club, the Bentley provides the occasional passive-aggressive reminder that there are others who are ever so slightly more elite (the British are nothing if not about maintaining the class structure). So it was a bit startling to be curtly prompted by the display screen that—even though I purportedly had shelled out more than a quarter-million dollars—this particular Bentley trim level did not come with satellite radio or live-traffic navigation. Strewth!
And at this price point, wouldn’t you expect the Bentley’s Apple CarPlay integration to be crisper than that of its proletarian VW Jetta cousin? Or that pushing forward on the gearshift to engage reverse wouldn’t mean the heel of your palm would routinely activate the park button instead?
These are petty annoyances, sure. But what makes the rich different from the rest of us is that they can dismiss these trifles as part of the car’s personality. The Continental W12 is a magnificent beast, unaffordable to all but the very few. Whether they care if they are admired or denounced for their purchase is something you’ll have to ask them for yourself.
|2019 Bentley Continental (GT Coupe W12)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$276,730|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||6.0L/626-hp/664-lb-ft twin-turbo, 2 x DOHC 48-valve W-12|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5,019 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||190.9 x 76.9 x 55.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||11.6 sec @ 120.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||105 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.99 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||23.8 sec @ 0.85 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not tested|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||Not tested|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||Not tested|