Recently driving through the snow-encrusted Austrian Alps in a not-yet released Bentley, I had an upsetting thought: If you, Dear Reader, can’t spare the $214,600 starting price when it arrives in dealerships next spring, I may be the closest you’ll ever get to the 2019 Bentley Continental GT. And that’s a shame.
Because here on the world-renowned Grossglockner High Alpine Road, vicarious experience is a near-tragic substitute. Twisting the control panel’s diamond-pattern knurling between your fingertips, reclining on Scandinavian bull hides embroidered with 712 stitches per square, gliding through the fog rising off the Austrian Alps on a butter-smooth transmission... You kind of had to be there.
Any Bentley engineer, designer, or executive will tell you that the company strived to create the “perfect grand touring car,” one that fuses the luxury of a GT with the performance of a supercar while somehow still managing to check the box for “everyday usability.” Could you roll up to Whole Foods or the proverbial date-night bistro in this car? I guess. (You’d need to be the type not to worry over parking lot dings and careless valets.) The point of the car, though, is that it’s the antidote to the quotidian, a salve for the everyday.
This GT derives from Bentley’s R-Type Continental, which debuted in 1952 as the world’s fastest four-seater. That mid-century car served as the design inspiration for the original Continental GT nameplate, which launched in 2003 as the first car of Bentley’s modern era. The introduction of a new W12 engine and all-wheel drive helped the Continental GT establish a new market segment: the modern luxury grand tourer. The second-generation, launched in 2011, enjoyed a solid seven-year run as Bentley’s best-selling model.
For this latest version, Bentley said it aimed to overhaul the car’s chassis, powertrain, electrical system, material mix and design and develop an entirely new animal. Outfitted with a 626-horsepower, 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 and dual-clutch eight-speed transmission, the third-generation GT is well-attired for dramatic roads with sweeping views, particularly from high above the Alps.
The Continental GT that arrives next year occupies a similar footprint to the outgoing model but creates the impression of sitting even lower and wider for a more “athletic stance.” It's accordingly quick, allegedly engineered for a top speed of 207 m.p.h. But we didn’t need to target even half of that to achieve an anything-but-daily drive on the Grossglockner mountain pass.
The platform was developed with Volkswagen sister company, Porsche. So if the GT is out of your price range, you can always try you luck with the Panamera.