2014 Bentley Continental GT V8: Now that’s rich

IMG_4078AAlways check your email. While most of your inbox may be filled with advertisements and spam, once in a while there’s a pony buried under all that manure. In this case it wasn’t just a pony; it was a thoroughbred. I’m talking about the Bentley Continental GT V8. As freelance writers, we understand the pecking order of car loans: the bigger the circulation, the higher the priority of a top-end offering. That’s why I was delighted to get the email from Bentley asking if I’d like to borrow the Continental GT V8 to take on a road trip. Seriously? What would you have said?

An upcoming adventure already was planned for early March: our annual pilgrimage to Glendale, Arizona, for Dodgers spring training. With a driving range of over 500 miles, this sexy Bentley coupe would be the perfect companion. Plus, we figured we could sneak into the player’s parking lot without being questioned. (There was a Bentley GT in the clubhouse lot, but it was an older model. We didn’t want to embarrass anyone by flaunting our newer version, so we didn’t try.)

IMG_4087AWe did, however (thanks to a Dodgers blog we moonlight for called sonsofsteve garvey.com), manage to acquire media passes, which allowed us to slip into a space in the guarded media parking area. When you drive a Bentley, associating with those of lesser statute (ordinary fans) is unacceptable. Sorry for the attitude, but you just can’t help it. There are few cars on the planet that merit such haughty disposition as this does.

Describing the Bentley on paper doesn’t do it justice. The long bonnet, large mesh grille opening, lower splitter air intake, and inset oval headlamps draw your eyes to the front, while the giant 21-inch rims and tires (20s are standard) move your gaze to the side. At the rear quarter area is where the car becomes its own. An aggressive rear shoulder and steeply raked rear glass hints at the muscle the Continental is capable of flexing. There’s even a neatly concealed wing beneath the rear glass that elevates when you do the same with the speed. The rear is completed on the Continental with figure eight tailpipes, a tapered trunklid, flush-mounted taillamps and the winged “B” badge. There are other vehicles equally well designed, but few are as cohesive as this GT coupe, regardless of the viewing angle. While we can tell by looking at it this vehicle was designed with aerodynamics in mind, the 0.33 Cd number (0.31 with the spoiler up) solidifies that fact.

IMG_4259AOur Bentley test car featured the Hallmark exterior, which added $4,395 to the vehicle’s base $177,500 sticker. Hallmark is matched with the Brunel interior for a gray-on-gray color scheme. Save for the bright-red Bentley brake rotors, the vehicle looks understated and elegant. If you want showy, opt for the Ghost White Pearl trim with red leather interior. We selected this color scheme because, when traveling in a conspicuous vehicle, it’s always best to be as inconspicuous as possible.

Our journey started as it always does: over packing. We had two suitcases, two camera bags, a cooler bag, two pillows (if you don’t travel with your own pillow when on a road trip, start now), jackets, a tripod, a monopod, and assorted Dodgers paraphernalia. The 12.6-cubic-foot trunk (or boot, as the Brits would say) consumed the luggage like a black hole. We were amazed how much it could hold and still close. Speaking of closing, the power trunklid ($995 option) is controlled by the remote keyfob or by pushing a button on the underside of the lid to close it.

IMG_4291AOnce inside, we immediately settled into the seats. And we do mean settling on a professional level. We don’t have a sofa in our living room; we have two La-Z-Boy recliners. And we tend to judge all seating by that lofty standard. We have to give a slight nod to the Bentley, only for the fact that we can’t drive our living room chairs on the highway (although if we could, we would). The seats are 14-way power adjust, with heating, lumbar, thigh extension, and memory function. Apparently there is an option for a massage function, but we didn’t have it on our test vehicle. That’s good news because, if we did, we may still be in there. Our test model did have the optional Mulliner package ($12,475), which included diamond quilted seats, doors and rear quarter inserts, among other wonderful options (including those gigantic tires). It also added embroidered Bentley emblems in the seatbacks, in case you forget exactly which vehicle you had selected to drive that day.

IMG_4226AOur tester also included carbon fiber — excuse me, fibre — trim on the console, fascia panels and roof for an additional ($5,385). The panels add that sporty touch; however, if you’re looking for warmth instead, you have a choice of seven wood veneers instead of the standard Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus trim. While we say standard, there is nothing standard (read ordinary) in this vehicle. Even the knobs, beautifully machined knurled metal for the center console shifter and audio functions, are works of art. The flying buttress center console incorporates two open cup holders, a covered storage area, and assorted buttons and switches. Here we’ll pause from the drooling for two, let’s just say, critiques. First, the console box sits back a little far, making access less convenient. Second, and this one is a little bigger, the tabs that hold the cups in place in the cup holders are sharp, and they cut every container we put in there, which is never a good thing when you’re talking hot coffee or sticky soda. Sorry for the interruption, now back to the accolades.

IMG_4246AOther interior items of note include the Breitling analog clock, the organ-stop air vent controls, and the automatic safety belt presenter that was like having your butler ride along in the rear seat, handing you the shoulder harness before you took to the highway. We also appreciated the quality workmanship that went into the contrast seam stitching ($1,905) and tight-fit body panels. When Bentley talks about its vehicles being hand built, it shows in the details. Every item in this vehicle touches the senses: from the feel of the thick steering wheel, to the audible click of the soft-close doors, to the aroma of the leather, to the beauty of the instrument cluster. And all this is experienced long before you push the start button.