What follows is part 3 of a 6 part series describing my experience driving 5 exotic cars on real roads in real life. This opportunity came through local luxury automotive storage club Auto Vault’s Fantasy Drives service. This particular Fantasy Drive package was a 6 hour event, involving nearly an hour of drive time in each of the 5 cars, garnished with complimentary bakery treats and a gourmet dinner. The 5 cars for the event were an Audi RS7, Bentley Continental GT Concours Edition, Lamborghini Huracán Spyder, McLaren 650S Spyder, and Audi R8 V10. This part will go into detail on my experience in my second car of the day – the Bentley Continental GT-S Concours Edition.
When thinking about cars, it’s important to remember that everything is relative. For example, the Volkswagen Golf GTI is often described as a high quality car – it provides a quality driving experience, and is built with high quality interior materials that simply feel good.
Then you step into something that’s on a whole different level of quality. After getting out of the Audi RS7 on an Auto Vault Fantasy Drive, it was difficult to believe that anything would really impress me. Frankly, the Audi RS7 provides the whole package: luxury, comfort, technology, and showstopping performance. But next up was the Bentley Continental GT-S, and I had no idea of the unique experience that was headed my way.
Right from the moment I got into the Bentley Continental, I was struck by the prestige that the car emanated. That’s one of the things I find fascinating about cars; with the carefully considered stroke of a designer’s pen, a car can transcend familiarity and result in an entity that is far greater than the sum of its parts.
When you boil cars down, you find that they’re really all the same – an engine, a transmission, some bodywork and some doors, all standing on rubber shoes. But we know full well that not all cars are the same and they have numerous distinctive features. And some cars have features that are so distinct that they take on a life of their own.
From the understated and elegant lines of the exterior to the hand-stitched leather surrounding the dashboard, the Bentley Continental GT directly reflects the purity of the craftsmanship that went into its production. Certainly, there are other cars with more lavish interiors, but there are few cars that feel as special as a Bentley.
Despite the fact that Volkswagen Group now owns Bentley, there are few signs of corporate standardization throughout the car. I can’t say for absolute certain which components of the interior are or are not from Volkswagen Group’s parts bin, but in total the car didn’t make me feel like I had experienced it before.
However, this uniqueness is not without its drawbacks. The booming audio system is interfaced through an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system that seems clunky and foreign. The platform of the Continental GT goes back to its debut in 2003, and the numerous facelifts and enhancements that were done to keep it relevant are evident. In some sense, it feels as if it’s been rehabbed beyond the platform’s capabilities.
Even still, there’s not much to complain about. The metal switchgear are still satisfyingly solid and the heated and massaging seats are still capable of soothing even the most cantankerous of travelers.
Ah yes, those seats. It’s kind of weird but I still vividly remember them, even months later. Supple yet supportive, I could do miles in those seats without any issues. And that really drives towards the essence of this car – a grand tourer. GT cars are definitely en vogue right now, what with three British gents stumbling about on Amazon and all. But nonetheless, everything about the Continental GT is designed for pure grand touring; high speed, long distance cruising in extravagant comfort.
Which brings me to my next topic – the driving dynamics. At about 5,100 lbs, the Contintental GT V8 S doesn’t exactly trim the fat of its W12 powered relative. Nonetheless, its 521 HP and 502 lb-ft of torque are more than enough to help the car get out of its own way. Really, the car is far quicker and more agile than it appears. That’s not to say it’s a born and bred supercar, but the capabilities of the car are far beyond what most owners will ever access.
And after the brief sprint up to speed is when the Continental GT is at its best. One of the key advantages of its oil rig proportions is that the ride quality at speed is serene. It may sound completely ridiculous, but I was genuinely surprised most of the times I looked down at the speedometer. The signs of excessive speed that are commonly looked for – instability in the steering wheel, increased road and wind noise, screams of terror from your passengers – are either diminished or gone entirely in the Continental GT.
So, what sets this car apart? For most ordinary cars, I’d probably start a discussion about pricing and options, but does that really matter to anyone who’s buying this car? No, probably not.
What matters most is prestige and the experience, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything that outdoes Bentley in those categories. One of its closest competitors, the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, could be had instead with some money leftover. But, the three-pointed star doesn’t garner quite the same admiration as the Bentley wings in the Illuminati derby at your local Burberry Outlet parking lot.
At this point this post is pushing 1,000 words and anyone that’s still reading is either being forced at gunpoint or a glutton for punishment, so it’s time to land this plane. Bottom line – the Bentley Continental GT V8 S is an elegant, comfortable, high-speed cruiser that is somehow still relevant despite its ancient platform. It was an absolute joy to drive, even on twisty back roads, and I highly recommend driving it if ever given the chance.