(I’ll add pictures shortly for some reason my mobile isn’t cooperating and I apologize for this.)
Some people in life prefer to fly under the radar, staying subtle and to themselves. Others prefer to get noticed and make a statement. There is no shortage of these types of mindsets; and there is nothing wrong with it. Companies like Rolex capitalized on the human nature of wanting to be noticed; making a statement of personal wealth and success as well as personal taste.
There are similar statements to be made with cars. Myself, I drive a high performance 90s sports car and a newer econobox. One makes a statement and one flies right under the radar. Some people drive a Cruze while others drive something slightly more noticeable. The last 24 hours I was the latter.
Enter the 2014 Bentley Continental GTC and you’ll immediately learn that flying under the radar doesn’t happen. Everywhere you go you “crash the party” and everyone takes notice. It is hard not to notice a car like this, the rear haunches are about a foot wide and the car is about as long as a Ram 2500. It’s also about as heavy as one too but more on this later.
It doesn’t need to be said, the Continental is beautiful and timeless. The design is a little dated and familiar as it’s been in production with only minor changes for what seems like a lifetime. It seems Bentley lives by the adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and that’s okay too. Aston did it with various models and the 911 is the king of clinging to the past. It’s almost cliché to talk about how stunning the Continental is, but it does need to be said.
However, if you’re reading this you already know all of these things. You know the W12 makes around 560 horsepower and you know she’s a beauty queen. But how does it drive in real life? How does having a soft top affect the legendary Bentley luxury experience? Is this a car that offers an experience worth over $200,000 when new?
Let’s start with that soft top. I’ve driven many soft top convertibles and even owned an older soft top car. Anyone that’s driven a Miata knows wind noise is just a way of life. That’s the way it goes with most of these cars. Even the Porsche 997 I tested had quite a bit of wind noise due to the soft roof. Bentley somehow has managed to get around this. After all wind noise is for peasants right?
At 85 miles per hour with the top up it’s almost impossible how refined the interior noise is. This convertible car is literally twice as quiet as my mother’s $60,000 truck that is a year old. This is why you buy a Bentley. That being said, the fun comes when the top is down. There’s a serene and sobering feeling driving down the beautiful Ohio Coastal Highway in a car of this caliber. The outside environment becomes a beautiful panorama and the soundtrack for the day is the gentle spin of the twin turbochargers.
The Bentley makes all of its’ torque by 1,700 RPM and it makes the Continental literally defy the laws of physics. At roughly 5,500 pounds there is no reason this car can do 0-60 in under 4.3 seconds but somehow it does. The 6.0 liter W12 engine transmits all of that power through a ZF 8 speed automatic and powers all four wheels. Wheelspin is just a term this car doesn’t understand. Traction is monumental and it seems like the road just gets beaten into submission. This is a fast car, make no mistake. Granted by today’s standards a Scat Pack Challenger will turn a faster quarter mile sprint; the Bentley is all about how you get there.
So we know it is a fast car, but what about handling? Well, braking is excellent. The pedal feel isn’t on the level of a true sports car, but the stopping power seemingly is. It’ll halt the GTC from a 70 sprint faster than you can say “holy s—“ and your mind is blown. Around twisty roads you really do start to feel the weight of the car. It beats the laws of physics during acceleration and braking, but it simply can’t do it all. It definitely doesn’t handle badly, it just isn’t a nimble sports car. We all likely know this, and you can’t expect it to be. With that being out there, I can’t believe just how well it manages itself while cornering. It has body roll and it understeers heavily. It still is an absolute riot to drive quickly through corners. Steering is accurate and decently weighted, but the length and weight of the car doesn’t match the steering response. Turn the wheel and it’s almost like the front of the car fires an email to the rest of the car saying “hey it’s time to change direction” and that is the best way I can describe it.
Instead, the Bentley is best enjoyed at moderate speeds, with the top down, and not hurrying to get where you’re going. When you drive a car like this, it is all about how you arrive, not when you arrive. It does everything very well, but no one thing is perfect. That’s exactly why this car IS perfect.
Hear me out. The interior is freaking amazing obviously. This should be an obvious place the car is perfect, but it simply isn’t. The back seat is shockingly small, and that’s hilarious considering the size of the entire vehicle. With the driver seat in position where I drive the car, I couldn’t comfortably ride in the back. I’m being serious about this.
Additionally the trunk is surprisingly small for the size of the vehicle. There is no reason to have a trunk this small, but indeed it is. Also by today’s standards the center screen is small and lacking features. The technology of 2014 ironically and poetically ages this car today. It doesn’t take away from the fact that this is still the best place you’ll ever eat miles as a normal person.
The seats are very plush and comfortable. They’re also heated and ventilated. The wood trim is everywhere, and it is art in the most pure way. The interior craftsmanship is exactly what you’d expect from Bentley. The doors open and glide closed smoothly and with a reassuring “thunk” letting you know these are built well.
The quad headlights are stunning, and light output is plentiful. The rear tail lights are these beautiful ovals that softly exude elegance. Even the tail pipe tips look like much thought went into them. The wheels are 20” rollers wrapped in 275 width rubber, further helping get that monumental boat of a car propelled quickly. I can’t express enough just how pretty this machine really is.
I loved the W12 engine. The ZF 8 speed was shifting right at 62-6,300 RPM and when torque is available from just 1,700 that’s a massive power curve. The engine just never feels like it is ever labored, and it really isn’t. Even at 80 miles per hour it isn’t cruising at 2,000 RPM. In lieu of that I averaged 19.4 miles per gallon on the highway which is really good in perspective. Around town however it’s about half of that.
When you mash the accelerator to the floor the transmission won’t hesitate to drop 3, even 4 gears to get the battleship lunging forward. Downshifts (if you’re doing it yourself) are rev matched and almost comical. This car is a lot like having Sean Connery at your house party in a full suit with cuff links doing keg stands. It’s contradicting but somehow it just works.
That’s the whole idea of a car like this. It makes no sense to spend $200,000 on anything that isn’t a house. It never makes sense unless you’re ultra wealthy. It makes no sense to buy this car when a $50,000 Dodge could out pace it. How do you justify it?
Simple. Bentley knew the audience of this car perfectly. You don’t need to justify it. Of course it makes no sense; and that’s exactly why this car makes perfect sense. It’s impossible to describe what it is like to hard park this thing at a nice restaurant and drive it around the lake. It isn’t something you put into words, but it is something you feel in your soul.
Would I own it? Well… that’s tough. Maintenance worries would keep me away for sure. With one of the nifty Carmax warranties I’d encourage ownership of this car. Nothing I’ve ever driven has felt quite as right as this. I love big body cars and this one is the king of the mountain. It does all of the right things for me, and I found the overall package to be just the right bowl of porridge as the saying goes.
It isn’t the right car for everyone, and it doesn’t apologize for that. If you want to be noticed, want to get places in the most classy of ways, and want to be cradled in immense luxury; this is the car for you. Just be sure you can afford to actually own this car and not just buy it. Prices on these are reasonable today, but maintenance isn’t when things go wrong. Keep this in mind.
Now I return to my 2017 Mirage and back to my normal peasant life. For a full day however, I enjoyed the best of the best. You should too!