For most of the day I was cruising at 140 to 155 mph. It's not that I intended to maintain such law-breaking averages, it is just that the Bentley seemed to set its own gait. In many big saloons and sports cars, anywhere between 100 and 125 mph seems a natural pace. At those sorts of speeds the Bentley feels as if it's only just getting into its stride; adding those extra mph just made it feel right.
At those speeds, mental concentration is high. Other road users can't always compute your closing rate as you bear down on them at 155 mph, even with the xenon headlamps on full beam. Thankfully, the GT is equipped with some of the biggest brakes yet fitted to a production car: 405mm at the front and 335mm for the rear, all ventilated, of course, and equipped with both ABS and ESP. Maybe it was because the car had been used for track demos by Derek Bell, but the brakes were a bit sudden in their grip at times and rumbled under heavy application, but since they are capable of producing over 3,480 bhp of retardation (needed on more than one occasion), I don't suppose I ought to grumble too much about them.
High-speed stability is one of the Continental GT's strongest virtues. Drafts caused by trucks and bridges went unheeded by and large, and only the occasional mountain pass gust caused the car to shimmy slightly. Likewise, the only time the car felt nervous was in a long right-hand bend, when an expansion joint in the road surface caused the back end to slightly corkscrew on its suspension as I turned in. At these velocities, only the understeer starts to increase, and the mass within the steering also makes its presence more apparent. Still, it is a mighty impressive performer, although the need to re-fuel every 2 to 3 hours is frustrating.
Inevitably, wet weather hit the drive, swamping the road surface in driving rain. I am not happy driving at high speed in such conditions; road spray can hide too many slower cars, their drivers concentrating on what's ahead rather than what's coming up behind. Even so, the GT felt confident at 100 to 125 mph, its all-wheel-drive system providing terrific assurance and stability.
The photo shoot at the Dali Museum, amidst bewildered locals, excited school parties and just curious onlookers (see europeancarweb.com), was over, and it was onward to Monte Carlo, though at a less frenetic pace. The French police have recently started becoming more conscientious about speeding, and the thought of fines running into thousands of Euros tempered my haste.
Sunday night in Monte Carlo: Evening pictures by the harbor and in the tunnel taken; time for reflection and answers.
Does the new Continental GT live up to its heritage?It is, for sure, a finely engineered car, and the engine has all the power and torque a driver can ask for, but it lacks that mellifluous, relaxed, almost arrogant delivery of Bentley's own turboed V8. I still have problems with the styling and the car's visual proportions, which were dictated by its underpinnings, especially the long front overhang and the horizontal radiator.
So, is it a Bentley? Yes, it is-but not as we've known them.