Steering Wheel Controls
The Continental GT V8 features fairly typical steering wheel-mounted controls for volume, phone, and voice commands. Whereas Audi uses plastic jog dials, Bentley steps up to an aluminum jog dial with a diamond-cut pattern for greater tactility. Again, those little details make the Continental GT stand out even from other luxury cars.
A Breitling Center Piece
There's a conspicuously-placed Breitling clock at the top of the Continental GT's center stack. The Swiss company's products run anywhere from $2000 to $175,000, making the timepiece an appropriate fit for this car.
Perhaps coincidentally, since Breitling is heavily involved in aviation, the clock is flanked on both sides by aluminum vents and aircraft-inspired open/close toggles unlike anything we've ever used before.
A Useful LCD Gauge Cluster
Bentley deploys a classy cluster with an analog tachometer, coolant temperature gauge, fuel level, and speedometer.
Sandwiched between the tachometer and speedometer is a well-integrated LCD display that shows trip information, music controls, your phone book, navigation instructions, and vehicle settings. Unlike some of the vehicles we've reviewed that seem to incorporate LCDs wantonly, the Continental GT's screen integrates smartly with the infotainment system. As mentioned, you can get navigation details to show up there; you can even scroll through your phone book using the jog dial and gauge cluster.
Although I'm not a huge fan of Bentley's choice of infotainment platform, the Continental GT V8 has a nice set of gauges and a useful LCD display. That's one bit of tech the car does well.
A High-Quality Key Fob
The key fob is another example of the care that goes into a Bentley, part of what makes it cost so much more than a Volkswagen or Audi. Now, the switchblade mechanism is very similar to what you'd get with a vehicle belonging to those other brands. But Bentley dresses it up more. Instead of all-plastic, you get an aluminum frame with the same textured diamond-cut pattern as the control knobs. A leather case wraps around the key fob for an extra bit of luxury.
Active Damping Suspension
The Continental GT V8 employs air springs that continuously adjust damper settings on the fly. You can change the suspension's tuning through the infotainment system; four settings exist between Comfort and Sport. Every time the car starts, it defaults to the second-softest option, which is perfectly fine for cruising down Las Vegas Boulevard. But if you want something different, you need to remember to go into the menu and make the change. When we drove through the Tehachapi mountains, we configured the suspension to ride as stiff as possible for having fun with the curves.
A Self-Deploying Rear Spoiler
The Continental GT V8 comes with an active spoiler that deploys when the car hits 95 MPH. At that speed, it's designed to generate down-force that helps keep the back end planted. The spoiler automatically retracts once you drop back below 65 MPH. If you like the aesthetic, Bentley even gives you the option to pop the spoiler up manually. In some circles, that'd make you a poseur. But when you spend close to a quarter-million on a car, you can cruise around with your spoiler up if you want.
Double-Pane Windows? Yes, Really
In your home, double-pane windows are used to help keep warm air in during the winter, or cool air during the summer. But Bentley gives the Continental GT V8 laminated double-pane windows so that the cabin stays quiet at high speeds. This is grand touring car, designed for cruising at a rapid rate, after all.
Even at higher-than-suggested speeds, Angelini and I were able to converse easily without raising our voices, and Fritz in the back seat had no trouble joining in. Really, the quiet operation is something you don't even notice until someone points it out. Double-pane glass might seem excessive in a car, but there's no arguing with the results.
The Window Sticker
I couldn’t resist attaching the window sticker to show how crazy the Continental GT V8's options can get. The car starts at $177,500. Add the Mulliner Driving Specification package, which includes some interior dress-up details, along with the Ghost White paint job, and you just added as much as a well-equipped mid-sized sedan costs. It doesn't stop there, either. Our car also came with the Sports Specification that includes a full carbon fiber interior for $8145 and the “Naim for Bentley” premium sound system priced at $7300. Those big-ticket options make the $1905 for contrast stitching, $1215 back-up camera, $955 power trunk (boot for our British readers), $275 valet key, and $200 for contrasting steering wheel stitching sound like pocket change.
With just the options added together, you could buy Angelini's E63 second-hand and still have enough left over for another car. The grand total, including destination charge, puts our Bentley Continental GT V8 test car at $227,110, which is about $8000 more than what I paid for my house in Graham, Washington, brand new.
Hate To See You Go; Love To Watch You Leave
I won’t lie; I enjoyed every minute of driving the Bentley Continental GT V8. Its price is outrageous, but I can understand why it costs $100,000 more than Audi's S8. Although the car does rely on some vestiges of mass production, there's still a lot of hand-crafted workmanship apparent in the final product. You're paying for exclusivity and excessiveness...
...and there's nothing wrong with that. We live in a world of six-figure watches and bottles of wine that'd pay my monthly mortgage. Just because I find those things excessive doesn't mean there isn't a market for them. The same is true for this Bentley. If I had the money for it, and if I wanted a daily driver with comfort, speed, and handling, the Continental GT V8 would make an excellent choice. It's a remarkable car that combines quality and class. It draws attention, but remains subtle. It's as cool and smooth as James Bond.
I've driven an A8L, and I'd love to own an S8. But something about the Continental GT V8 makes it so much more memorable. It could be the scent of high-grade leather, the melodious exhaust, the feeling of real carbon fiber trim, the obvious attention to detail, or just the attention from others in the industry that made my week with this car so enjoyable.
So yes, the Continental GT V8 is excessive, expensive, and shares its platform with a Volkswagen. At the end of the day, though, Bentley did an excellent job of transforming the Phaeton's foundation into something deserving of those trademarked wings.