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AUTO REVIEW: 2010 Bentley turns heads and is one sweet ride

"Is that the new Chrysler?" the guy asked, shouting through the rolled-down window of his white Ford Explorer. New Chrysler? For what this car costs, you could probably buy a controlling interest in Chrysler. "No, it's a Bentley," I tell him, and...

"Is that the new Chrysler?" the guy asked, shouting through the rolled-down window of his white Ford Explorer. New Chrysler? For what this car costs, you could probably buy a controlling interest in Chrysler. "No, it's a Bentley," I tell him, and he nods and smiles and rolls up his window. Unlike most who ask about the car, he does not inquire as to the price, which was fine. I had grown self-conscious at the answer, and always hastened to add, "It isn't ours."

Sadly, the thought of owning a $276,405 vehicle such as the 2010 Bentley Continental GTC Speed in the midst of a recession seemed like something to apologize for, even if I was only borrowing it for a few days. Is that what capitalism has become? The good news is that the Bentley's cloth top raises in just 20 seconds, and with the remarkable sound-deadening materials used, there is no way to hear the cries of the proletariat unless they get really, really close. And with a 600-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V-12 under the hood, what are the odds of that happening?

Actually, pretty good, because even with a big 23.8-gallon gas tank, when you are only getting an EPA-rated 10 miles per gallon in the city, you still have to stop for fuel a lot. And that will be premium, please, unless you have something better than premium.

Driving the Bentley Continental GTC Speed makes you feel especially blessed, because this is not, after all, the common Continental GTC, which has only 552 horsepower. The Speed model is somehow even more deluxe, with options that can cost more than an entire car -- ceramic brakes, for instance, add $16,500 to the price, which would buy you a nice new Ford Focus.

GTC Speed owners can look with pity upon the owners of mere non-Speed GTCs, which must be the ultimate form of snobbery.


For decades, Bentley and Rolls-Royce were literally joined at the hip, at one point essentially the same car with different badges. But in a complex and downright messy transaction, BMW ended up with Rolls, and Volkswagen ended up with Bentley, and the two German rivals and done an impressive job of putting their own stamp on the brands.

BMW engines now power Rolls, and this GTC Speed is powered by a 6.0-liter engine that is basically a pair of Volkswagen V-6 engines melded into a single 12-cylinder. The transmission is a six-speed automatic. Old friend Dennis Simanaitis of Road & Track magazine says the Bentley GTC Speed's acceleration is like "being majestically pulled forward on a silken cord," and I can't really top that.

Even with 600 horsepower, and an advertised top speed of 200 mph, the Bentley doesn't feel as fast as you might think, due in part to the weight of over 5,500 pounds, or about the same as a Chevrolet Tahoe. Still, due largely to the air-cushioned suspension, the car is startlingly light on its feet, right up until you drive hard into a tight turn, where even the finest engineers can't entirely mask 3 tons, including gas and passengers.

Inside, as you would expect, the Bentley comes with everything but a concierge. Rear seats are mostly ornamental, but they can at least carry some--well, what do Bentley drivers carry in the back seat? Groceries? Dirty laundry? I figure if you own this car, you have people for that.

The real value of the GTC Speed may be to serve as a rolling example of what a car can be when no expense is spared, no corners cut, no regard given to green-ness. Is it magnificent? Yes. A thrill to drive? Yes.

Does it make you feel rich? Very. But it is sort of a Rockefeller-in-1929 rich, a stare-straight-ahead-past-the-unemployment-office rich that I find to be too much responsibility. I was not as sad to see the Bentley go as you might think.

But man, what a wonderful car.

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