(Photography by Dave Nutting) Let’s get this out of the way: We caused a death in the three days we had to drive the Bentley Continental GT V8 S. It wasn’t our fault, and it wasn’t the car’s fault. It just was. It’s something that took us three, maybe even four miles to get over.
We should start from the beginning. My arch nemesis, Brian Lohnes from BangShift.com, had mentioned the Red Bull Frozen Rush to me about a month ago, asking if I was interested in going up to the mountain on January 8 to see trucks race on the mountain. Anything engine-related, I’m up for, so Brian promised to send out an email. Which he promptly forgot about.
A few days later, I got an email from a public relations contact for a few different companies, including BF Goodrich, writing to ask if I’d be interested in going to Maine to get a ride in one of the Red Bull Frozen Rush trophy trucks with Ricky Johnson (which you can read all about here). I answered in the affirmative. I mentioned it to Brian and he signed up, too. We’d drive the four hours to Maine togehter.
The only question remaining was what we’d drive up there. Brian was driving — literally — the least expensive car in America. The day we were set to leave I had nothing other than my 1996 Buick Roadmaster Wagon. Suddenly, four hours with Lohnes — who is like having a badger in the car with you under the best of circumstances — was going to be a long trip.
Then, out of the blue, Bentley came calling with a Continental GT V8 S. All of a sudden, we were wondering how we could make the trip longer.
The idea that Lohnes and I would be driving a Bentley in any other circumstance is ridiculous. I barely own a suit, and the last time I put it on, it was because I was going to a wake. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lohnes without a baseball hat.
When W. O. Bentley was putting cars together, I’m not sure he would’ve pressed on if he had any idea that two morons like us would be driving them.
The Bentley Continental GT V8 S is a fabulous automobile, with a price tag almost exactly $50,000 higher than the first house I bought 35 minutes west of Boston. It’s a grand touring car in the grandest possible sense. The back seat is an afterthought — the floor mats back there can’t be more than five inches deep — but the trunk is deceptively enormous. Luxury cars trunks are typically measured in golf bags. I don’t play golf, but I bet I could get at least two Fender Telecasters and a pair of Deluxe Reverb amps back there. Come to think of it, this would be a perfect car if you were Keith Richards on a weekend getaway.
To give you a sense of the car’s size, it sits about a half-inch outside the footprint of a 2015 Ford Mustang all the way around. Their overall lengths are within an inch of each other, and so is the width (the Bentley is the larger of the two). The Bentley’s wheelbase is almost exactly an inch longer than the Mustang’s, too.
Where things start getting nutty is the curb weight. The Mustang GT — again, same sized car — is about 3,500 pounds and change. The Bentley Continental GT V8 S is 5,060 pounds. Fifteen hundred pounds heavier. That’s half a car, packed into the very same dimensions.
When you start looking around, you see where all that weight is coming from. There was no attempt to make this car light, if it was at the expense of comfort or luxury. There must be 350 pounds more sound deadening in it. The leather is thicker. The glass is what a gas station attendant in a really bad neighborhood would sit behind. The carpet is more dense. Even the gas cap — which has a giant knob of aluminum to turn it home — is heavy. It is a tank that completely dismisses the idea that cars made of aluminum are light. You could make this out of 3/4-inch plate steel and not tip the scales much more.
It is also mind-bendingly fast. A 5,000-pound car should be sluggish. This one gets to 60 miles an hour in 4.3 seconds. It hits the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds, and has a top speed of 191 miles per hour. Let’s put that into perspective: When the Ferrari 355 F1 arrived in 1998, it took 0.3 seconds longer to get to 60, the same time to get to 1320 feet, and gave up nine miles an hour in top speed.
It was also 2,000 pounds lighter.
How does that happen? With a twin-turbocharged, 521hp V-8. Out of just 3.9-liters, this engine manages to turn the earth with 502-lb.ft. of torque. From any gear, at any speed, acceleration is your friend. You’d think it would be a gas hog the way Bentleys always were, but the eight-speed transmission turns in some fairly surprising numbers. At highway speed, provided you stay out of that gas pedal that eggs you on every second (I didn’t) you can squeeze 24 miles per gallon out of it.
It’s also driving all four wheels. When we arrived at Sunday River, we were treated to four or five inches or snow that had been rained on for at least a few hours. It was a sloppy, waterlogged mess everywhere we went, but the Continental GT was the most sure-footed, well-planted all-wheel drive car I can remember. That 5,000 pound curb weight has something to do with it, but it’s remarkable what that car was able to do with performance rated all-season tires, rather than the winter tires I prefer for snow.
There are some odd anachronisms. Those of you who haven’t updated to any kind of digital devices for music storage will appreciate that the glove box is packed with a six-CD changer, and one more slot for a seventh disc in the dash. Is it the last production car with a multi-CD changer? We’ll look into it.
Bentley Public Relations Manager Corey Proffitt notes that there’s also no USB port in the Continental GT. There is a specialized plug in the glovebox with a vintage iPhone connection, plus the Lightning plug, but a USB won’t be along until 2016. It’s also quite obvious that the entertainment center and climate controls are straight out of parent company Volkswagen’s parts bin.
The question is, is it worth $235,000? There are some cars that cost more than $100,000 less that are faster, better handling and just as luxurious, but none of those cars are Bentleys. Driving one, you begin to realize that no matter where you are, you are constantly being looked at, to determine whether or not you are, in fact, a professional athlete or Richard Branson.
Sorry to disappoint you, Maine Turnpike drivers. I’m just a schlub with a fun job.
About that death. At 60 miles per hour on Maine’s Route 26, a fairly large, dark object darted in front of us, diving perfectly into the air duct below the driver’s side headlamp. We hit it hard, and it bounced off into the path of an oncoming first-generation Miata, which struck it, too. It was a turkey, and it never had a chance.
2015 Bentley Continental GT V8 S
Base Price: $202,435
Price As Tested: Approximately $235,000
Truly incredible performance
Surprisingly adept all-wheel drive
Audi-sourced center stack
Rear seat space
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