The fascia architecture is faintly reminiscent of the Winged B's upper form, which, together with the full-length center console, divides the cabin into individual quarters for its occupants. The traditional Bentley styling cues such as the bulls-eyes air vents with their organ stops to control the airflow are still there, even if more for show than go. Then there is the Breitling analog clock in the upper fascia.

The chromed controls have knurled edges to them, providing an extra sensory delight to their coldness. With such attention to detail, it's a shame, therefore, that the starter button is such a cheap, black plastic affair that, even on right-hand-drive models, is located for left-hand drive. Oh, and another minor moan: Why doesn't the fuel filler cap have either a retainer on the lid or a rubber flap to protect the paintwork?

Amidst all the wood 'n leather 'n carpeting there's nary a VAG component in sight, although the gearshift surround looks uncannily like those in Audis and Phaetons, while the key fob is pure Audi. If I had just spent $300,000 on a Bentley, I wouldn't want to explain to polo club rivals that though the key fob looks like an Audi A3's, I really own a Bentley. As they say, the devil is in the details.

With its 9x19-in. wheels and steamroller-sized 275/40 tires, the first impression you might expect from the GT is a ride that picks up every crack in the road, every nuance in surfacing and resonates that back into the cabin or through the steering. Not so. As I headed the Bentley out of Malaga towards the Spanish hinterland, it became apparent that the car has massive reserves of comfort. The first and enduring impression of the GT is the weight of the steering; don't be misunderstood, the steering doesn't require California governor-sized muscles, but you are conscious that it's a 5,258-lb car.

Suspension is a self-levelling air system inherited from the Audi A8 but tuned specifically for and by Bentley. Whichever setting you opt for the ride is on the firm side; it gets more so when you opt for "sport," and although it enables swifter motoring through twisty sections, this is at the expense of ride comfort and the occasional "kerrump" as surface joints are encountered. For most of the highway dash to Monte, I left the car in "comfort" mode, but through the high-speed swoops of Spain's E15, I switched back to "sport" to minimize body movement-which is always well damped and controlled-and sharpen turn-in on sweeping bends that were regularly attacked at 150 mph or more.

Like all Bentleys, the GT felt out of place on tight, winding country lanes. It fills them almost to bursting at the seams, so it wasn't until more open roads, where you can see through the sweeps and apexes, that I gathered the confidence to put the hammer down. Be prepared for that first time and savor it, because it comes as something of a surprise.

The enduring appeal of previous Bentleys has been their prodigious torque, which appears virtually from tick-over and carries on like a locomotive until a 4500-rpm redline.

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