To drive a Bentley in Los Angeles is to learn to stew/sit patiently while everyone and you achieves speeds of about 15 miles per hour in town and on the 405. Unless it’s, say, 2 AM.
You’re also surrounded on all sides by Italian and German exotic rivals and guys in more expensive Bentleys, so you don’t get videoed or photographed or beeped at. Wait, didn’t you get this car so people would gawk – a little?
On the other hand, there are few cars it’s as much a pleasure to be caught in traffic in. My Continental GT Convertible was a beautiful-looking, beautiful-smelling stealthmobile, as grey as a brewing storm, its twinkly LED headlamps lighting up the city after dark, the city where my movie idols from the 1920s, 30s and 40s plied their trade. It was all ok with me, see?
The big Bentley news for 2022 in this case is the introduction of the company’s GT Speed model, delivering a higher-powered version of the famous W12, six-litre, 650 HP engine. Mine was the good old V8, which I appreciated as the boy is thirsty and gas in Beverly Hills is close to 6 bucks per gallon, premium, that is. One does not feed the King a baloney sandwich.
Being “hot” in Los Angeles is a practically a city ordinance, and the Continental GT more than qualified. An extended wheelbase lends a long, sleek, sinister countenance to the car, with a quad exhaust, a curvy aerodynamic hood and body completing the look of elegant ferocity.
You roll on sweet 21-inch rims, with the Mulliner variant offering 22-inch wheels. Top up or down, it is a Kingly experience either behind the wheel or being seen coming in or out of a Ralph’s, Dude. Your roof deploys or stows in just 19 seconds at speeds of up to 30 MPH, too.
With so much slowtime during different parts of my test, I could really appreciate the interior of this $310,000 (with options) jewel. The finest of everything is at your disposal, of course, such as leather galore and genuine wooden accents on all standard trims. A Mulliner variant receives a Grand Black veneer with Diamond Milled chrome overlays but you can actually get whatever you wish – wood, carbon fiber, piano black, or all three. It’s hand-built, yes?
There is plenty of room for driver and passenger but none at all for anything in the rear seat save your backpack, a 12-pack carton of seltzer, or a bunny. But the bunny will luxuriate. Trunk space was adequate, with my suitcase requiring the bit of eyeballing and clever positioning to get it to fit, but fit it did. My guitar and backpack rode with me up front.
Riders in the front get 20 positions of power-adjustments as they do do a heating, ventilation, massage and neck-warmer function. Your climate, sound and Nav system all do their jobs well, although the Nav system is slow to program as auto nav systems have been for 20 years. Goddess bless Droids and iPhones.
A twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8, mated with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, was more than adequate for my needs, making 542 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque delivered to the four wheels and going 0-60 speed in about 4 seconds. I never really did hammer it, nor did I want to. What’s the rush, bub?
The ability to produce lightning in a split second made it easy to accelerate out of traffic situations, though. Step on it and lickety-split, everyone else is in your rear-view mirror. A dual-clutch transmission was utterly smooth. There isn’t much ferocity sound-wise, but rather a low, assured, satisfying rumble.
It wasn’t all city-crawling. I took the vehicle to the San Bernandino mountains, spending two nights in a small village about 90 minutes outside of L.A. to attend an event. The ride there was spirited – it was rush hour – and the car hugged the road like a mama bear, though an ever-so numb one.
It was when I was going back down the mountain, during a vicious rain/fog-storm, that produced a 15 MPH euphoria, listening to the sublime sound system with visibility about 30 feet at times, steady as she goes, and grateful for guardrails.
On another trip on the 101 North to Ventura, the world seemed the proverbial oyster with the top down and “Ventura Highway” blasting on the sound system. (You just have to.)
Four drive modes are available – Bentley, Comfort, Individual, and Sport, with each mode altering steering, suspension, throttle responses, and even the transmission as needed and wanted. A three-chamber air suspension smooths road bumps and the vehicle is surprisingly quiet with the top up.
One must push down on the “B” gearshift button to move the car into reverse and drive. It took some getting used to and, once, I was stuck in an intersection executing a U-turn, the traffic backed up while I attempted “Drive.” The expletives flew. But I practiced later in a parking lot and bingo, no more problems.
2021 was a quieter year than 2020, and that’s not saying much. But no matter what’s going on in the “real” world, the world of the 2022 Continental GT is a quiet, civilized, pleasureable one.