Driving a Bentley is more like flying on the wings of its logo
When I was invited to my very first Bentley event I was ecstatic to learn more about the car model which costs more than most people’s homes, (including my own). When I stepped into the Bentley of Austin’s showroom which resembles that of an art gallery as opposed to a car dealership, I was taken aback by the beauty of the vehicles I was surrounded by. “These cars are a work of art because they are built by artists,” John Eagle European Motors and Bentley of Austin’s Dealer Principal, T.L. ‘Sonny’ Morgan said.
The main vehicle we were invited to the boutique dealership to preview and drive was the 2013 Continental GT V8 which is equipped with a 4.0L twin turbo with variable displacement which has the capabilities to switch (unnoticeably) from a V8 to a more efficient V4. “The Continental GT V8 combines the power and performance of a sports car with the efficiency of a grand tourer,” said a recent Bentley press release.
On-hand for the reveal of this and a few other 2013 Bentley models was President and COO of Bentley Motors, Christophe Georges. Georges shared a little history mixed with what to expect of the models we would soon be test driving. “Bentley’s are about passion,” Georges said. “The company was created in 1919 and our vehicles have always featured the best combination of luxury, refinement, and craftsmanship.”
The side body of a Bentley is made from one continual piece of aluminum which is heated at 500 degrees Celsius and then shaped and detailed. “The body is all one panel, we do not use several panels put together,” Georges said. Much of every Bentley is handcrafted, from the stitching of the European leather to the carved and stained exotic wood (Burl, Walnut, and Eucalyptus) accents used within the interior of every model. The extremely high level of detail can be seen throughout including in the matching mirror image wood grains used throughout each individual vehicle – this type of detail is imperative, especially for a quarter of a million dollar vehicle.
As seen in the GT V8, the manufacturer as a whole has been working on improving efficiency while reducing their carbon footprint. “We are very passionate about our environmental impact which affect everything from food production to our impact on the rain forests,” Georges said. The new line also includes a fully enclosed underbody to provide aerodynamic efficiency. “Our models are up to 40 percent more efficient and we continue to invest in greener solutions for the future. Everyone needs to share environmental responsibility,” Georges added.
A responsibility I was starting to feel was the monetary one since I would soon be driving these finely crafted machines.
Within the GT V8 one cannot help but feel a little nervous, especially when they start up the smooth but demanding purr of the vehicles engine. The handmade spun aluminum dash, vintage style air conditioning knobs and dials are all in homage to WL Bentley’s original design. Driving the GT V8 was definitely a dream – accelerating in it was exhilarating, especially when coupled by the roar of the highly responsive and more highly revved (500 hp) engine. Bentley holds the largest market segment of V8 engines for the luxury market and they also sold a little over 7,000 total units last year.
The drive of the ride was extremely smooth and the cabin noise was of course minimal. While driving the Bentley I was reminded of the wings located within the Bentley logo – I truly felt like I was flying. However, the entire vehicle was not without fault. In my opinion there were a few impractical attributes within or at times not seen within this, the ultimate luxury ride. For starters, there were not any air vents in the back of the vehicle and I experienced a few disconcerting moments when I went to use the turn signal and kept running into the (closely located) extended ‘paddles’ (for the gear shifts manual mode). The paddles stuck out just as long as the turn signal and its semblance was more like an oar.
Continually reaching for a turn signal which at times causes one to bump or grab for the paddle instead could cause some concerns to any driver. When asked why the paddle was so close to and almost exactly the same length and design as the turn signal Morgan stated that the design is a historical one for the brand. He also added that those who drive a Bentley long enough get used to the difference in levers and where they are located, (barely an inch apart from each other in some areas of the two levers). Needless to say, his response did not make me feel any less concerned. When I reach for a turn signal I do not want anything to impede my access much less be fumbled with only to find it is not the turn signal – but I digress..
The brand and models I drove also included the convertible (GTC) and the coupe. The thrill experienced in both was some of the most fun I have ever had in a street legal vehicle.
Also during the Bentley experience Georges shared that a concept Bentley SUV is in the works, dealers are taking orders for the new ride, and that it should be on the road in 2015.
Photo credit: Diana Merrill Claussen