By now you’ve studied all of the numbers, read the previews and gazed at the photos from European first drive articles. So you’re no doubt familiar with what the Continental GT promises to deliver – mega-performance in a high class, luxuriously sleek, stylish package. And we would expect no less from the gentlemen at Bentley – they’ve been building some of the finest automobiles the world has ever known.
The Continental GT has the underpinnings of a true sports car – a 6.0-liter W12 with 48-valves and twin-turbos produces 552 unsatiable horsepower and 479 lb-ft of tire-melting torque (which begins at just over 1500 rpm). All of this glorious motivation is converted to (rapid) forward momentum via an all new, all wheel drive platform that includes a six-speed transaxle. The Continental GT features a ZF-built six-speed that’s mounted in the rear axle, and is controlled by way of paddle mounted shifters that offer your choice of full auto, semi-automatic, and full-manual.
We took delivery of the Continental GT to drive it, and drive it we did. Immediately noticeable is the exhaust note – it’s definitely unique, and it’s entirely intoxicating, if not slightly agressive at low rpm and low speed. Road noise was completely invisible, incredible when you consider the size and design of the Continental GT’s venerable 275/40/ZR19 tire package, which are, by the way, wrapped around gorgeous alloy wheels.
Wind noise was also nonexistent, and the chassis proved itself stiff and resistant to undesirable road harmonics, while providing a comfortable ride, even on Washington DC’s most challenging road surfaces. Kudos to Bentley for the impeccible build quality and their ability to dampen any intrusive outside noise.
Despite weighing more than 5,000 pounds, the GT’s weight is nearly transparent – the suspension is firm, body roll is nonexistent and the feedback is superb. Try as we might to upset the Continental GT in high speed turns, it remained firmly planted, almost as if it were anticipating our attempts to ruffle its feathers. Turn-in was precise and accurate with just the right amount of feedback. City folk rejoice, as the turning radius was remarkably tight.
With our trusty Beltronics GX2 Performance meter, we measured 0-60 performance time at just under 5.0 seconds, which is impressive when you consider the Continental GT weighs as much as a Porsche Cayenne, was filled full with fuel and was carrying around two well proportioned adults. Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to run multiple performance tests, but we have no doubt that when placed in full-manual mode, the GT will spring to 60 in around 4.5 seconds. The Continental GT is knife sharp and bullet fast; speed builds at a potent pace.
Any time you have a car that can build speed as effortlessly as the Continental GT does, brakes quickly become your new best friend. The gargantuan 16.1″ (410mm) vented front disc brakes hauled the hefty GT from triple digit speeds effortlessly and without drama, and provided some of the best modulation in the business.
Inside, the Continental GT continues to impress, with a lavish interior, wonderful ergonomics, and some of the finest sports seats we’ve ever sat in. The view from behind the steering wheel is fantastic, especially as the countryside is screaming past you, thanks to those 550+ horses. Interior space is generous, and we easily fit our 6-foot-plus frames comfortably into the front seats. The back seats (the Continental GT features a 2+2 arrangement), would be best reserved to youngsters or additional luggage.
Bentley’s navigation system is much improved from previous models and while we hate to compare it to the horrific iDrive system from BMW, there were some design similarities. The good news is that Bentley has done the system correctly – it’s simple to use, efficient and trouble free. The sound system was equally wonderful, as were the rest of the interior controls, switches and hardware. Everything is right where you’d expect it to be, and everything feels perfect. The Continental GT definitely doesn’t leave you wanting for anything more, except perhaps more time behind the wheel.
The Bentley Continental GT is a true “no compromises” luxury sports car, and if we dare say, a true bargain for the price. From its gorgeous body lines and supremely appointed interior, to its hellfire engine and seamless drivetrain, it’s obvious Bentley “gets” the sports car premise. Whereas we’ve quickly grown tired of other performance cars, the 2004 Bentley Continental GT left us wanting for more time with it – it simply acts and behaves like a true sports car should.
We’re extremely proud to be the first journalists to drive and report on the 2004 Continental GT from American terra firma, and we look forward to bringing you a follow-up review when we receive another car for long term testing. Even more interesting should be our comparison between the Aston Martin DB9, the Bentley Continental GT and the Mercedes-Benz CL600.
– Unsurpassed build quality
– Jaw dropping engine/transmission combo
– Incredible handling and braking
– Manueverable and comfortable