- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 7, 2005

There are cars that exist simply for transportation. There are cars that are intended to signify social status. There are cars manufactured with performance as the primary focus, with yet others concentrating primarily upon enveloping their occupants in sumptuous and luxurious surroundings. Only a few automobiles offer all of the above elements — they are reverently referred to as “Supercars.” They are indeed worthy of such a designation, if for no other reason than their price tags.

Super luxury or super performance vehicles most generally fall into the $350,000 to $450,000 price range. Some come with two doors, while others provide four sources of ingress and egress. Some seat but two, with others offering accommodations for four or more. The configurations range from roadster to sedan with coupes positioned in between. Some supercars take on an aura of simple and sometimes understated elegance with others presenting themselves in a stunning, breathtaking and emotionally stirring form.

Rolls-Royce and Maybach sedans fall categorically, without question, into the super luxury venue somewhere around the $350,000 level. Mercedes-Benz offers vehicles appropriately filling virtually all categories and body styles, with the SLR McLaren claiming the top price plateau at roughly $450,000. The Porsche Carrera GT is an absolutely gorgeous, high-speed, high-performance roadster with a suggested retail price in the neighborhood of $440,000.

Enter the Bentley Continental GT Coupe, which, with a few significant options rings up at the showroom register for a mere $161,586.20 including the “gas guzzler” tax and destination charge — the base price is set at $149,990.

The Bentley Continental GT Coupe features a short front overhang with a dominant, lengthy bonnet, stretching from the front axle line to the “A” pillar.

The cabin is both sleek and compact, blending with the rest of the car’s curvaceous and sinewy form and taut rear haunches. The chrome mesh grille, flanked by a headlamp design, hints at the Bentley heritage. A rear spoiler, or aerofoil, is integrated skillfully and unobtrusively between the rear screen and trunk lid, deploying automatically at speed as needed, adding necessary downforce, and retracting automatically at urban speeds.

The Continental GT is both fast and smooth, with power coming from an impressive 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder engine in a “W” configuration, a la Volkswagen. The W-12 staggers each bank’s cylinders, effectively creating two extraordinarily narrow-angle V-6 engines, as opposed to the two traditional, long six-cylinder banks found in conventional V-12 engines. The engine generates 552 horsepower and 479 foot-pounds of torque, and mates to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability via fixed, column-mounted paddle shifters.

The car is continuous all-wheel-drive with a Torsen Center differential, and rides on air suspension with driver adjustment for ride height and damper settings. Rolling stock consists of 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, shod with Pirelli P-Zero Rosso high-performance rubber.

Inside, the Continental GT Coupe is an exercise in stylish luxury, elegantly blending both form and function. The expanses of fine quality hide, highly polished wood trim and satin-finish aluminum accents are complemented by classically designed and executed chrome-bezeled gauges.

Pedals are stainless-steel surfaced, along with the driver’s footrest. Old World craftsmanship and modern, state-of-the-art technology are combined to deliver new levels of convenience with familiar comfort elements. The steering wheel, seats and mirrors are all heated, and the car is fitted with a premium 12-speaker audio and a satellite navigation system. A unique console extends from the instrument panel to the rear bulkhead, affording rear passengers the same ambience as front-seat occupants, providing that those up front are not too long of limb. The analog chronometer is a Breitling.

The test vehicle was finished outside in a bright blue metallic with a complementing soft blue hide interior accented with light burled trim panels. The car is a scintillating visual treat from every angle. It is a head-turner and traffic-stopper when parked or moving, eliciting favorable comments from those who behold it. It is definitely one of the most beautiful automobiles produced today, and is truly worthy of its heritage and tradition.

The Bentley Continental GT Coupe is a performer as well — it moves from a standstill to 60 mph in a scant 4.7 seconds. Capable of speeds up to 198 mph, it is equally smooth and rock solid. It is a car that entices one to exceed limits while inspiring heightened confidence, thanks to its enhanced safety and stability systems. It is definitely a car that delivers both style and substance in one fine package. It is indeed possible to pay more for another supercar, but why would you want to?

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