What's New for 2009
The 2009 Bentley Continental GT receives a handful of new options, including adaptive cruise control, an iPod adapter and a Naim audio system with 13 speakers and two subwoofers. Additionally, a park distance control system is now standard.
In the lofty ultra-luxury coupe segment, our usual vehicle evaluation logic doesn't really apply. The 2009 Bentley Continental GT is a case in point. It costs about $25,000 more than the similarly conceived Mercedes CL600, for example, which outperforms it in just about every measurable way -- yet the Continental GT is a popular choice among business executives, professional athletes and Hollywood stars who want to make a powerful automotive statement.
Rather than crunching performance and pricing numbers, most buyers of the Continental GT will be more concerned about prestige, presence and whether they'll see other cars like their own during the daily commute. Rather than comparing feature content, they're more likely to figure out if they can create their own exterior paint color. For folks willing to plunk down 200 grand for a coupe, they want attitude, exclusivity and exquisite quality -- the Continental GT has it all in spades.
Let's start with the Bentley's dramatic exterior shape, which makes the Benz look even more like a frumpy Solara than usual. Check out the quad circular headlamps, fastback profile and imposing 19-inch wheels -- now that's attitude. The Continental GT continues to impress inside, where rich cowhide, gleaming wood and classic analog instrumentation combine to create a perfectly opulent environment. Under the hood, the all-wheel-drive Bentley receives a twin-turbocharged W12 power plant courtesy of parent company Volkswagen. It's a distinctive-sounding engine that generates gargantuan low-end torque. As for exclusivity, well, Southern California, home of Edmunds' headquarters, is home to a dizzying array of ultra-expensive cars, and even we don't see too many Continental GTs tooling around.
Of course, our logical brains are unmoved by such considerations, so the Continental GT doesn't make a lot of sense in our book. The far cheaper Maserati Gran Turismo is more engaging to drive and arguably more stylish. The aforementioned Mercedes is quicker and more nimble, and it also costs less. The BMW M6 will keep pace with the Bentley for barely half the price. The seductively sleek Aston Martin DB9 is competitive on all fronts. But for many well-heeled coupe shoppers, the 2009 Bentley Continental GT's regal bearing and scarcity on the street will trump more practical considerations. Logic aside, the Continental GT clearly has that "je ne sais quoi" that appeals to those with the means to buy one.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Bentley Continental GT is a premium luxury coupe available in one loaded trim level. Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, an electronically adjustable air suspension, bi-xenon headlamps with washers, an automatically deploying rear spoiler, parking sensors, keyless ignition and entry, a power opening/closing trunk, a full leather interior with a choice of primary and secondary hides in 17 colors, burr walnut trim, multizone automatic climate control with rear-seat controls, 14-way power heated front seats, memory functions, Bluetooth, a navigation system and a 10-speaker stereo with satellite radio and a glovebox-mounted six-CD changer.
Options include carbon ceramic brakes (only available with optional 20-inch wheels), adaptive cruise control, a three-spoke sport steering wheel (heated or regular), an 1,100-watt 13-speaker Naim sound system with two subwoofers, an iPod input jack, massaging front seats, four upgraded interior veneers and a rearview camera. There are also a variety of special-order options known as Mulliner Driving Specification that range from more exclusive veneers and lamb's-wool carpeting to diamond-quilted seating surfaces and specialized exterior paint colors.
Powertrains and Performance
Underneath the AWD 2009 Bentley Continental GT's hood is a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged engine with 12 cylinders arranged in the Volkswagen Group's unique W formation. The W12 cranks out 552 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, the latter of which is available at just 1,600 rpm. Paired to a six-speed automatic with steering-column-mounted paddle shifters, this massive engine whisks the big Bentley from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds en route to a 12.8-second quarter-mile at 108 mph -- not quite as quick as the CL600, but still good enough to match the Audi R8 supercar. Fuel economy, should anyone care, is EPA estimated at 10 mpg city/17 highway and 13 combined.
The Continental GT comes standard with stability control, antilock brakes and side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Bentley Continental GT's cabin is a standout, even in this rarefied segment. The metal accents, rich wood trim and soft leather will make buyers feel as if they got their money's worth and then some. There's a charming old-world feel to the whole affair, highlighted by push-pull vent controls, a Breitling timepiece, and switches and levers constructed of real metal. Unfortunately, the infotainment system is old-world as well -- Bentley hasn't changed it since the Continental GT's 2004 introduction, and it shows in the undersized display screen and nonintuitive interface.
Double-pane side glass blocks wind noise and helps keep the cabin as quiet as a reading room. Interior controls are intuitive enough that most drivers will be able to figure everything out without cracking the owner's manual. There's room for two shorter passengers in back, but only if those in front are in a generous mood; otherwise, the backseat is good for parcels and puppies only. The 13-cubic-foot trunk provides ample cargo space for a car of this type.
The last time we weighed a Continental GT, we wondered if our scale needed recalibration. Nope; turns out our 5,177-pound measurement was right on target. Given that it's heavier than many SUVs, this Bentley's fleet-footed acceleration is truly remarkable. It can't hide all those pounds in corners, though, where nimbler competitors will show it their taillights. (The uprated Continental GT Speed model fares better in this regard.) Happily, the regular GT is a champ at smoothing out rough surfaces, and its real-world acceleration and handling will be more than enough for most buyers.