It goes like a Ferrari in a straight line and corners like an Audi quattro. This is because there's a 550-hp twin-turbo W12 engine up front and computer-controlled air suspension, twinned with permanent four-wheel drive underneath. Yet at the time of its launch in 2003, many unhappy onlookers viewed the new machine as merely a rebadged VW Phaeton. Now we can stand back and judge the car on its individual merits-of which there are plenty.

The new model has sold in big numbers. That's probably why it failed to turn as many heads. In the UK, its reputation was sullied initially by its popularity among professional soccer players. In the US, it started appearing with alarming frequency on MTV, driven along palm-strewn boulevards flanked by silicon-augmented blondes and the latest R&B sensation at the wheel, name-checking the car at every opportunity.

Since then, things have (thankfully) calmed down and the Continental GT is once again bought and driven by people who appreciate the finer things in life. Sales remain strong and its sister car, the Continental Flying Spur, still holds the crown as the fastest production sedan. The fastest Bentley, though, will be the 202-mph Continental GT Speed, launched later this year. The future looks brighter than ever for Bentley. For that we should all rejoice.

1953 Bentley R-Type Continental
*Layout
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

*Engine
4.6-liter in-line six, dual SU carbs

*Transmission
Four-speed manual

*Suspension
Independent w/coil springs (f), semi-elliptic springs (r)

*Brakes
Hydraulic fronts with servo, mechanical rears, 12.25-inch drums front and rear

*Wheels And Tires
Pressed steel rims with chrome hubcaps, 5x16 (front and rear), 6.5x16 radial tires (front and rear)

*Dimensions
Length x Width x Height (in.): 206.5 x 59.5 x 63Wheelbase: 120 in.Curb weight: 2980 lb

*Performance
Peak Power: 158 hpTop speed: 117 mph

2007 Bentley Continental GT
*Layout
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive

*Engine
6.0-liter W12, dohc, 48-valve, turbocharged and intercooled

*Transmission
Six-speed automatic

*Suspension
Progressive air springs, adjustable continuous damping with ride height control

*Brakes
Ventilated and drilled steel rotors, 15.9-inch (f), 13.2-inch (r), ABS

*Wheels And Tires
20-inch two-piece alloys, bespoke 275/35 tires front and rear

*Dimensions
Length x Width x Height (in.): 189.1 x 75.4 x 54.7Wheelbase: 108.07 in.Curb weight: 5258 lb

*Performance
Peak Power: 552 hp @ 6100 rpmPeak Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm0-60 mph: 4.7 sec.Top speed: 198 mph

Volkswagen: Hero Or Villain In The Bentley Saga?
Bentley in the hands of the Germans? Outrageous. That was the feeling in the UK when Volkswagen became its new owner in late 1998. Despite Rolls-Royce not really making the most of this coveted marque, it had gone on to outsell Rollers by nearly ten-to-one.

Investment was needed if eitherr brand was to survive and that meant selling the company. After much wrangling, VW bought Bentley and BMW snapped up Rolls-Royce. However, Bentley remained at the world-famous Crewe factory, while BMW had to relocate Rolls-Royce to a brand-new facility at Goodwood on England's south coast. BMW had basically just bought the rights to the name and the cars today have absolutely nothing in common with previous output.

Bentley, however, has retained its rich heritage and life at Crewe has never been better for its workforce. Volkswagen invested $1billion and breathed new life into the brand, creating a state-of-the-art production facility that can rightly claim to be among the world's best.

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