The car does make a difference! At least when it comes to being stuck in New York City's notorious holiday traffic. I have sat in traffic jams on the LIE, the BQE the Garden State and every other artery that carries the flow of people to the beaches and recreation areas of NY in everything from a 1964 Chevelle Malibu (my first car) to a F350 Super Duty Bighonkindiesel Ford. Some have been good, some really bad (The smell of my turbo hydro 400 cooking in my 67 GTO on the way to Wildwood NJ still lingers in my nose 30 years later) but nothing...I mean nothing… was as wonderful an experience as spending a few hours in Memorial Day traffic in the 2015 Bentley Continental GT 8 S.
It is car as tranquilizer, as something that takes the edge off of a stressful situation. a car that with every revolution of the engine takes more and more of the stress of traffic away until it all seems like another world out there.
That is not to say the car leaves the driver disconnected...anything but. The engine, a twin turbocharged version of the Audi 4.0 V8, roars from the tuned exhaust while the 8 speed transmission delivers the sheer power as you call up any portion or all of the 521 horses through the paddle shifters. The Bentley keeps you mechanically engaged just fine but there is something about the craftsmanship, the coachwork, the leather tufts, the feel of the gearshift lever, made of metal with fine ridges around the B logo that lets you know you are experiencing something special.
Trying to get the car off of my parents home in Staten Island was a feat in itself...stop for a hot dog and a crowd gathers...stop at the Italian Pastry shop and you leave with a bag of pignoli cookies just for letting the owner sit in it!
In Manhattan the car goes toe to toe and one ups everything that was pulled out of a parking garage that day. Up West Street the magnetic suspension adjusts perfectly to shake off bad pothole after bad pothole. It almost seems like the street flattens out for the Bentley. It probably doesn’t hurt that you are surrounded by fine materials, handpicked veneers, hand stitched steering wheel and classy analog speed indicators and gauges, all tied together by that Breitling clock, a Bentley trademark in the center of the dash perched above a tastefully done infotainment screen . Car as art as well as transit.
Jumping into it a bit on NYC's West Side Highway speeds over the limit came up on you way too fast. 0 to 60 times were a hair over 4 seconds and 0-100 comes in at 10.5. It’s fast. While I went back and forth between sports and comfort settings you really couldn’t feel much of a difference. The car handled like it was glued to the pavement with an incredible connection and athleticism for a car tipping the scales at over 5000 pounds.
Where the Bentley flexed its muscles was later that night on the Garden State Parkway. Most folks were sound asleep but I have a Bentley in the driveway and a full tank of petrol, so south on the Parkway and to the backroads of the Jersey pine barrens we did go.
Twisty country roads and adjustable suspension gave me a better feeling of what this car was all about. Tighten it up into sport mode and it became 5000 pounds of road hugging metal. Find a straightaway and it turns into muscle car with acceleration screaming as you take it through its paces while using the paddle shifters. Eight speeds later you are pinned into those finely crafted seats. In either case, the car...becomes more than a means of transportation it becomes a guilty pleasure, rumbling into the night with notes as clean as the ones coming out of Clarence Clemons saxophone in the Springsteen automotive opera “Racing in the Street”. Sure it has a great audio system built for the car by British sound crafter Haim but damn if I was going to listen to it on a hot summer night. The muse here was the windows down and the exhaust and engine as instrument.
By the way, have I spent any time on the sculpted beauty of the Bentley? From simple in the front with a blackout grille and round headlamps with subtle LED treatments to wheel wells that spent a lot of time in the gym and a double oval led rear tail light treatment that is as unique as you will see. The Continental sets a striking pose with it’s beautiful lines pulled together by a fastback roof and accented by 21 inch powder coated wheels. It’s a car you want to hand wash so you can run your hands over every inch of it, feel every line. Its line is classic and as subtle as $239,000 worth of Bentley can be.
If you want one of these babies for your driving pleasure you are forking over a base price of $196,500. Our test vehicle added a number of options that brought the sticker price up to $235,605. Gas mileage on the GT 8 was 15 city 24 highway 18 combined. It has not been rated in US government crash tests.
The GT 8 S is not the most expensive Bentley (Try that Mulsanne) or even the most fun (I’m thinking the convertible gets that distinction)or even the fastest (the GT Speed 12 cylinder outpaces it with a top speed of 206 mph) but it feels like it brings the whole Bentley experience of fine craftsmanship, power both engine and personal, fun behind the wheel and the base idea of driving something down the street that not many other people have to a perfect place. It really is the Muscle Car for rich guys.