2013 Bentley Continental GT V8

If you’re considering your first exotic may I suggest Bentley’s latest iteration of their highly successful Continental GT; now with V8 power, a lower starting point but no less satisfying.

The dictionary definition of exotic is strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual.  And as it pertains to cars, it extends to include high performance at an even higher price.  Since its introduction, the Continental GT has been one of the sub-$200,000 exotics so seeing one on the road is far from unusual yet it’s still rare enough to create a commotion.  Available as a GT, GTC, Speed and Flying Spur, I’ve driven them all and now there’s an added choice –  W12 or V8.  What’s the difference you ask?  About $20,000 and 67 horsepower.     Additionally, the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 returns about 18mpg – that’s 3mpg better than the W12 engine so there’s no more gas guzzler tax, which is saying something considering Bentley has 4 entries on the EPA’s least fuel efficient cars list.  The V8 also drops about 55 pounds over the front axle.

This Conti may not have its 12-cylinder engine anymore but it’s unlikely you’ll miss it.  The V8 still provides incredible thrust and the sound is still amazing.

Rated at 500 horsepower and 487 pound feet of torque that starts at a low 1,700 RPM, this car, with its 60:40 all-wheel drive torque split will launch to 60mph in 4.6-seconds, about 3 tenths slower than its big brother.  It’s that kind of forceful, yet serene and composed acceleration that happens without fanfare…very Bentley.  It also features cylinder deactivation for times when 4-cylinders will do the job.  If this engine is starting to sound similar to the one found in the lighter, faster, more powerful, more fuel efficient and less expensive Audi S8, then you’re onto something.

But the B carries a higher level of cachet and here it’s colored in red enamel to distinguish itself from the W12 model.  There’s also the black gloss matrix grille and lower front bumper of similar design.  Out back, there are chromed figure eight tailpipes and a darker lower valance.

The craftsmanship and quality choice of cabin materials are almost as beautiful as the car itself.  This color split leather interior is optional as part of a package that includes extended color and veneer choices and a leather headliner.  The combination of the Dark Sapphire paint and linen interior is spectacular.  And everything is real; metal is metal, wood is wood, etc.  The front seats are a peaceful, spa-like experience replete with heating, cooling and massage though the controlling motors are noisy.  Most of the $30,000 in options on this car is related to interior materials and design, including this $7,000 Naim Audio System.  It’s too bad it’s controlled through such a slow and obsolete-looking infotainment screen, continuing the auto industry’s bizarre standard of the more you pay the worse the in-car tech will be.  It’s a great grand touring, long distance cruiser for 2 and their belongings but kids will complain about these deeply positioned rear seats that place their heads below the window.

At 5,060 pounds the Conti GT is a heavy machine.  To counteract some of that weight, the dampers are adjustable with 4 settings to tighten the body in turns while always preserving the Bentley ride.  My car has the optional 21” wheels and in its most aggressive settings with the 8-speed auto in sport mode, the GT can muscle its way through athletic country road driving with a roisterous soundtrack.  The paddle shifters are a long reach, fixed in place and surprisingly made of plastic so I generally left them alone.  This car likes to use its brute force and all-wheel grip to overcome the physics issues and can…just hang on as it gets a little white knuckle from behind the wheel.

Base price of the V8 is about $177,000 but no one  leaves without adding goodies so this car stickers for $204,555.  A fine place to start when shopping for your first exotic.

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