2005 Bentley Continental GT Review

2005 Bentley Continental GT - The $155,990 question.


The general reaction to the stunning $155,990 Bentley Continental GT coupe is, "What is that!?''

Other drivers tailgate it, and pull closely alongside to get a better look.

Bentley probably could add $100,000 to the price of this voluptuous, hand-built car and have no trouble finding buyers for the 1,800 Continental GTs it plans to send annually to America. It costs about half as much as its aged Continental R coupe predecessor and is a vastly improved car.

Other 2005 Bentleys cost from $211,990 for the Arnage R sedan to $242,990 for the Arnage RL sedan.

Holding down the cost of the Continental GT is the sharing of some parts derived from those of expensive low-volume cars from giant Volkswagen, which bought Bentley in 1998, and has invested nearly $1 billion to bring the British automaker back to its former glory.

As with the rest of the car, the engine is built by Bentley at Crewe, England, and the Continental GT feels like a pure Bentley. It has perfect fit and finish and very rigid construction. No sunroof is offered, because it would adversely affect rigidity -- and steal needed headroom.

Volkswagen gave Bentley lots of money to build better autos and to win the world's premier endurance race at Le Mans, France, in 2003 (as Bentleys often did in the 1920s). It also wants to make Bentley visible to a wider audience.

The two-door, four-seat Continental GT is beautiful, inside and out. The aerodynamic body helps this car hit nearly 200 mph -- or a dizzying 198 mph, to be exact. It does 0-60 mph in just 4.7 seconds and reaches 100 mph in 11.25 seconds, with virtually no turbo lag. A discreet rear spoiler automatically raises above 55 mph to enhance high-speed stability. But Bentley wants to provide seemingly endless, effortless power here, not the fastest 0-60 mph time.

The Continental GT follows the tradition of the sleek 1952-55 Bentley R-type Continental, which was the world's fastest two-door four-seater and now is valued at $195,000.

The engine emits a soft rumble at idle through large twin exhaust outlets, and works with a smooth, responsive six-speed automatic transmission. It has a manual shift feature that can be controlled by race-car-style paddles on the steering column or by the console-mounted transmission shift lever.

The Continental GT has an electronic stability control system, and is the first all-wheel-drive Bentley. It's quite heavy for a 108-inch-wheelbase coupe at 5,258 pounds and feels massive. However, the car's handling is so good that it drives like a smaller, lighter car. The nicely weighted speed-sensitive steering is quick, and the air-spring suspension provides a ride that's rather firm, but comfortable. Huge disc brakes that fit into big 19-inch wheels provide short stops and have a nice pedal feel.

Bentleys always have been large, heavy cars. Bentley victories at the 24-hour Le Mans race were won by big, robust models with large engines favored by legendary Bentley founder W.O. Bentley. Bentleys won that race in 1924 and 1927 -- and for the next three years.

Bentley had a sporty, fun-loving reputation before Rolls bought it in 1931. That was because it won races and was the favorite of England's fast, wealthy set. It included flamboyant, champagne-drinking entrepreneurs who loved life, and made up the racing team, which became known as "The Bentley Boys.''

The Bentley used a Rolls-Royce chassis, but the Bentley emphasis was on power, performance and handling. It often was said, "One is driven in a Rolls-Royce, but one drives a Bentley.''

With 552 horsepower and enormous torque from its twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder engine, the Continental GT's weight is no problem. The car accelerates like a high-powered sports car and is so refined that it's a problem holding down speed. I felt as if I was driving the car at 65 mph on an interstate highway when a glance at the speedometer showed 80 mph.

Most Continental GT buyers probably aren't very concerned about fuel economy, but it delivers only an estimated 11 mpg in the city and 18 on the highway -- about the same as the big, luxurious Lincoln Navigator sport-utility vehicle. At least the Continental GT has a 23.8-gallon fuel tank for a decent highway cruising range.

The interior is a dream. Occupants are surrounded by double-stitched leather, aluminum and book-matched burled-wood trim on nearly every surface. It takes about 20 hours to produce the wood for a Continental GT interior. With 11 cowhides per car, the interior has no man-made synthetic materials. The elegant Breitling dashboard clock even is an expensive item.

There's good room for two tall adults up front in the quiet interior, and nicely shaped individual rear seats provide space for one 6-footer behind the passenger and a short adult or child behind the driver. Safety features include front side-impact air bags and head-protecting, front and rear side curtain air bags.

It calls for extra effort to get in and out of the rear. Long doors help, but their length and weight are awkward in tight spots despite big, easily grasped outside handles.

Front seats are set high, but it occasionally can be difficult for a driver to see out because of the wide windshield posts and swept-back rear roof sections. Most of the deeply recessed gauges are easy to read, but fuel level and temperature gauges are small, as are sound system controls.

The trunk is somewhat shallow but extremely long. You open it by a remote control or by pressing on the trunk lid's small Bentley emblem. Opening the hood involves pulling an interior lever and slightly raising the Bentley hood emblem with a few fingers.

The Continental GT is filled with such nifty little features, which include a small, chromed parking brake control on the console.

The Continental GT should draw new customers and more attention to Bentley because of its styling, performance and low (for a Bentley) price. It certainly shows the value of a giant corporate parent's deep pockets.



Stunning. Goes nearly 200 mph. Perfect fit and finish. First all-wheel-drive Bentley.

Long, heavy doors. Tight room behind driver. Low fuel economy.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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