It’s easy to get excited about a high-end luxury automobile. Rolls-Royce, Maybach, Aston Martin and others all build some amazing products. But for my money at the high end, I’m rolling the dice with Bentley, and I know “seven” will appear every time I throw a pair.
Why? Because pound for pound, and dollar for dollar, I don’t think any other manufacturer offers Bentley’s combination of luxury, performance and everyday drivability. The last factor is really the key, and case in point is the 2012 Continental GT, a supercar that’s not high strung, and is as happy driving you to work as it is shredding roadways.
Bentley recently invited me to Muscat, Oman to drive the new GT, and the idyllic setting conveyed the power and grace of this supercar. Oman’s lunar-like landscape portrayed power – and Continental GT displayed it in the form of a twin-turbo, twelve cylinder motor that produces 567 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, capable of pushing the GT to 198 mph.
The glass smooth roads across this nation spoke of stability, and the GT responded with an adaptable, all-wheel drive chassis that made quick work of the myriad twists and turns we encountered on our all day drive.
The peace and harmony of Oman was portrayed in the many smiling faces we encountered along the way, even if Arabic and English did not always match. The GT’s stunning leather, hand-finished wood and metal trimmed cabin provided us with peace and harmony as well, and a stunning aural experience through the 11-speaker Naim for Bentley audio system.
Styling for 2012 is evolutionary, and that’s a good thing. Up front, the four lamp design, including circular LED daytime running lamps, is similar to those on the flagship Mulsanne. A deep air dam portends muscularity in a way that’s pleasing to men and women. This in no way is just a guy’s toy, as a woman behind the wheel of a GT is a sexy sight to behold.
Along the sides, chiseled wheel arches front and rear house standard 20-inch wheels and are accentuated by a sharp beltline crease that extends from the front air dam to the rear wheel arch. To the rear, new LED tail lamps surround a defined trunklid, just above the twin oval chrome exhaust tips.
It’s a graceful design that is also quite bold, and the superior aerodynamics not only lends to the beauty of the GT, but helps it achieve its stunning top speed numbers.
Inside, details matter. Close the door, and an automated seatbelt presenter hands driver and front seat passenger your belt. An eight-inch display uses a combination of touchscreen controls and classic knurled rotary switches to offer advanced control of audio, suspension settings, navigation (with Google Maps) and climate control. Leather lined storage areas are recessed to keep your valuables out of view when parked. A beautiful folding case, made from veneers that match the rest of the wood in the interior, holds additional valuables and can easily slipped into your purse or pocket. My test car was finished in white leather, which really brightens the interior. The wood is stunning, and everything inside that looks like metal is, from the dash vents to the “Organ Stop” airflow controls. Yes, this adds to the prodigious 5100 pound weight of the GT, but these are the details that one expects from Bentley.
The 2012 Bentley Continental GT is the baby of the GT range, with even higher performance models due that will bear the name “Speed” and “Supersports.” The GT revitalized Bentley when it was introduced in 2003, and the marque’s presence in the high-end market is no longer as the stepchild to fellow Brit Rolls. Bentley is for real, and the 2012 GT, priced at a reasonable for Bentley $189,900, represents a solid leap forward for an already terrific automobile.