Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

2012 Bentley Continental GT (Bentley)
2012 Bentley Continental GT (Bentley)

2012 Bentley Continental GT

Opulence in Oman: Taking luxury to new heights Add to ...

You never forget your first. At least that's the case with my first drive in a Bentley and my first trip to the Middle East.

We're in Muscat - the capital of Oman, the oldest independent state in the Arab world. It's bordered by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In this area, a woman driver is rare - and brings double takes from men, especially when it's a woman driving a new 2012 Bentley Continental GT coupe.

More Related to this Story

The Continental is one of Bentley's most revered names. The original Conti GT was revealed in 2002 at the Paris auto show; it hit the streets in 2003. Now the second-generation Continental GT two-door four-passenger coupe raises the bar even higher - with a more aggressive design, a more lavish interior and extra power to boot.

"The effort of the second generation was twofold - to keep the character of the first generation of the GT because it was a huge success. … And at the same time create a new second-generation car which has all the improvements and all the goodies customers would expect," says Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen, the recently retired chairman and CEO of Bentley Motors Ltd.

Subtle changes update the look, yet don't alter the iconic, classic design. A wider track - 44 mm wider at the front and 48 mm wider at the rear - creates a more aggressive, sporty stance. A new headlamp design with Bentley's traditional four-lamp format, LED daylight running lamps, a mesh radiator grille, and flared oval exhaust tips grace the exterior. Twenty-inch alloy wheels are now standard, but if you want to blow them away go for the optional 21-inch designs - they make a statement.

2012 Bentley Continental GT

The interior is breathtaking - it's even more luxurious than the previous version. Plush beige leather and bird's eye maple complement my tester's Aegean blue exterior beautifully. The front seats are super-luxurious and comfortable with heating, cooling and massage functions at your fingertips.

The back of the front seats are recessed, creating extra knee room for the two rear-seat passengers. It's appreciated because riding in the rear is a little cramped. Getting in and out of the rear is also tricky and requires some flexibility.

The dashboard is high-tech and filled with numerous buttons and dials - too many for my taste. It can take a little time to find some functions. A new eight-inch, touch-screen 30 GB infotainment system includes satellite navigation with route guidance, but it's not the best on the market. It's difficult to program and not intuitive. I wish Bentley had borrowed the Audi A8's new Multimedia Interface system, instead -it's much easier to use.

Under the hood is a more powerful 6-litre, twin-turbo, W12 engine, which produces 567 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque - that's 15 hp and 37 lb-ft more than its predecessor. A new high-efficiency four-litre V-8 engine will join the family in late 2011. Bentley officials boast it will deliver a 40 per cent reduction in emissions compared with the W12 engine. Both engines are coupled to an allwheel- drive system with a sporty 40:60 rear-torque bias compared with the 50:50 bias of the original GT.

Mated to the engine is a sixspeed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which are very responsive to the touch.

The Conti GT, which is 65 kg lighter than its predecessor, is an elegant ride. It's not stiff or harsh; it's supple, gliding gracefully over the sweeping perfect roads along the desert landscape. The cabin is ultra quiet. Even the engine noise is subdued, unlike a Ferrari or Lamborghini. I actually prefer the quiet engine over a loud, grumbling one - it's a refreshing change.

The steering is tight and accurate; it requires little input from the driver. Overtaking other vehicles is a cinch and I often saw men do double takes as I passed them on stretches of the highway. I did try to blend in - I wore a pashmina scarf as a makeshift burqa. But choosing a pink scarf meant I still stood out like a sore thumb.

However, the Bentley Continental GT coupe is right at home in Oman - a country filled with abundance, luxury and excess. Granted, opulence comes at a steep price; in this case, $208,900. Add some options like carbon ceramic brakes with black brake calipers ($14,670) and polished wheels ($10,495) and the price jumps to $246,840.

Tech Specs

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

2012 Bentley Continental GT

Type: Two-door, four-passenger luxury coupe

Base Price: $208,900; as tested, $246,840

Engine: 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged, DOHC, W12

Horsepower/torque: 567 hp/516 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 25.4 city/11.4 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Porsche Panamera, Aston Martin DB9 coupe, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Related contentDrive like Leonardo DiCaprio for $180,555

Peter Cheney takes the much-hyped Tesla Roadster out for a spin. No one mistook him for Leonardo DiCaprio.
For the Tesla Roadster and the celebs who love it, it's easy to be a zero emission hero

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

More Related to this Story

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories