As we mentioned, earlier this summer GP got the chance to dive into the fabled world of Bentley Motors. Immersing ourselves in a century’s worth of motoring history the marquee boasts, we took an in-depth look at everything from Bentley’s bespoke coachbuilding process to an all-access look at Bentley’s factory grounds. And of course, time behind the wheel in the devastatingly handsome 2012 Continental GT.
We’ll be bringing this to you over a series of several posts, but it’s Wednesday so why not start with dessert: a photo essay. Dive in right after the jump.
Route 1: Crewe to Wales
2:30pm, Monday | The prospect of getting behind the wheel of a $215,000 car can be nerve wracking. Commanding 567 horsepower in a car that achieves 198 mph is hardly weekday mischief. Add to that a myriad of impossibly narrow, English countryside roads (right side driving, no less) and rain, and suddenly you begin to think a little less about thrills and more about your insurance status. But carpe diem, right? And so we grabbed the keys (not that the Bentley’s keyless start requires such trivialities) and brought the British cutlass to life to the tune of a 12 cylinder growling ensemble. 516 lb ft torque roll call? Check.
Meet the 2012 Bentley Continental GT.
Unless you live in Alpine, New Jersey or end your address with 90210, the Continental GT isn’t a very common sight. Even in Crewe, England where the the car is produced alongside its siblings at Bentley’s factory, the GT garners a bevy of second and third glances. And here in the bucolic British countryside you can imagine the kind of reaction one derives when a trio of candy-colored coupes (cardinal red, moroccan blue, and claret) came hurtling through the rain — we were quite literally a traffic camera’s wet dream. Arriving at our undeterminable destination in Wales (I believe it was a pub?) it began to settle what kind of cars we were driving. The Continental GT is a large car by every measurable standard, but it never drives like one. After the sticker price, limitless power and unsettling feeling of driving on the right side have subsided you begin to realize that this grand tourer feasts on miles, coddling you with comfort and road going competency.
The culmination of calculated changes renders it a significantly different, and better Continental than its predecessors. Similar, but sharper. Familiar, but tauter. Potent and voracious.
Route 2: Crewe to London Heathrow
10:45am, Tuesday | A car bred for speed, the GT is without a doubt, achingly gorgeous — especially in its 2012 form. Chisel sharp powerlines, precision queues, and a sweeping profile give it substantial presence. Then again, it doesn’t hurt that the sledgehammer W-12 packed under the hood can vault the ~5,000 lb damascus to 60 mph in under four and a half seconds.
At first glance the car doesn’t appear significantly different than the car that debuted in 2003, but like all great things Bentley has (thankfully) chosen to go the route of refinement rather than revolution leaving everything great about the car intact, carefully honing it into the sculpture you see today. The culmination of calculated changes renders it a significantly different, and better Continental than its predecessors. Similar, but sharper. Familiar, but tauter. Potent and voracious. En masse, the GT feels and looks like it’s gone to Spring training and returned not only more athletic but eager too, begging you to shave seconds off your ETA.
And that’s exactly what we did. With my compadre, Jeff Carvalho of Selectism, we dug deep into the Continental’s arsenal of firepower and took on (rapidly and cautiously) the slew of British A and B roads our off-the-beaten-path route called for. Final destination, London.
Barreling down you begin to appreciate the unseen upgrades Bentley has made to the Continental. A revised suspension, faster transmission, more power and a lighter package all add up to a finer specimen. Stepping into its handcrafted interior is a bit like checking into a five-star resort. Little is out of place and everything makes you convivial. But the real magic of the the Continental GT is neither its ability to execute the pledge (its beauty) or the turn (its performance), but its ability to also deliver on the prestige:
… not only makes you feel like you you’ve arrived quicker, it actually does.
2012 Bentley Continental GT
Engine: 6.0L, 567 hp, 516 lb-ft twin-turbo W-12
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
0-60 mph: 4.4 sec
60-0 mph: 113 feet
Quarter Mile: 12.8 sec @ 111.2 mph
Fuel Economy: 12/19 mpg
Photo Essay Data
Fuji X100, Canon 7D, Canon 85mm L, Canon 17-55mm EF-S, Canon 60mm Macro EF-S, Tokina 11-16mm DX, Hoya ND Filter, Hoya Radial Filter, Hoya Polarizing Filter