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  • MilesDriven

Bentley Continental GT: First Generation

Similar to the stock market, some things are always a buy, their stock always rising, others, always a sell. So which side of the coin is a used Continental GT.

Powering along in W12 thunder leaves you in one of two camps, the thrilled and the thawed. The accrual of speed doesn’t match the noise with a lightning reaction, instead, it lifts you in your armchair and gently places you several miles away. The thrilled enjoy the ease of speed, with the exception of a Rolls Royce this is in a class of its own. Those left feeling thawed were looking for a gentleman’s transport with a little more nuance.

Sitting in the Continental GT, interacting with it, and driving it reveals that this car has failed in the one area that should have been at the forefront of its design. There’s is nothing unique, nothing special when compared to the wide range of high-end VW group products. The parent company feeling is inescapable, having driven a Phaeton you would easily sense that one is simply a stretched version of the other. The connection between them unmistakble. In the first fifty feet, the car revealed this. Anyone moving up the VW/Audi product line will spot the giveaways in the early models of the GT. Later ones began to diverge from the VW product but were still unable to delineate themselves.

this car sits waiting for a master to command it, it's Jeeves without the suit and tie. A long term companion and ever willing servant of your needs

People looking for a used bargain in a continental GT, and hoping that it can be run on a shoestring due to its undergarments being lifted straight from the Volkswagen Phaeton are going to be very disappointed. Not only does the Bentley not make any real effort to differentiate itself from the big Volkswagen dynamically, but the parts cannot be purchased at a tenth of the price just because there is a VW badge on them. Make no mistake, this is an expensive car to live with.

The inside of the car feels premium, but it isn’t the last word in high-class motoring.

British prestige marques have a history of borrowed parts. Aston Martin lifted switchgear, keys, and infotainment from Volvo and Ford, among other things. A trick they still pull today, but from Mercedes. Rolls-Royce had an engine from a BMW 7-Series, but the Continental GT takes this to a new level. It hasn’t lifted bits from someone else’s car, it has started with someone else’s car, and then tried to modify it to feel different.

A shame, Porsche manages to set itself apart where it counts, a Macan may have a whiff of Audi about it, but most steak smells the same, there’s still an appreciable difference between a Sirloin and a Ribeye. A 911 proves their form in taking VW basics and making their own creations.

Having driven both Diesel and petrol variants of the VW Phaeton, of different ages I can say that the interior really could fool you into forgetting the VW badge. They are also, absolute bargains to buy used, but for good reason, even S-Class owners would wince at the repair bill for some items on a Phaeton. The hope being with such high standards that they can pass 150,000 miles without repair bills sullying the experience.

The W12 is a fantastic engine to experience, heavy on fuel, and no faster than many much smaller capacity, lower cylinder count motors, but still a standout.

The inefficiency feels wasteful and excessive, a character that the Bentley celebrates in these early models rather than embarrassingly admitting in some small print. Having too much excess isn't a concept the target consumer was worried with back in 2004. The wealthiest weren't flying in on private jets to hear people talk about climate change back then.

Buyers didn't care about leaving half a Lobster dinner because they have become bored with the view, or taking a flight to Italy just for a good coffee. A life of excess needed a Bentley in it, and it rolls off the tongue better when asking the butler to retrieve it. Some of this is still true today, although the rise in popularity of their V8, a dedication to go fully electric, and a short stint with diesel in early Bentayga's show a new direction.

There is a very solid feeling to the GT, for long drives, it would be a soothing companion. Making sure that the slightest annoyances on the road are minimised for its occupants. Those waiting for the part about steering feel and corner damping will be disappointed, pushing on in the GT doesn't eke out rewards as they would in a similar age DB9, and for good reason. The Continental wants to offer the choice of long-distance travel in comfort, driving to the South of France rather than flying. Here is where the real success of the car shines. Whether exhausted or fresh-faced this car sits waiting for a master to command it, it's Jeeves without the suit and tie. A long term companion and ever willing servant of your needs. The big five spokes on the early models are smooth like the bodywork, the big brakes are discreet, much like the power unit and the rear load space is cavernous, much like the interior. This is when the veil begins to fall, the Continental GT doesn't belong on the country lanes I had searched out for it, instead, it needs a wide-open high-speed arterial road to give it's best. Returning it back to the outside lane of a motorway let off the same relief as getting a Ferrari out of a rutted field and onto a swooping well-sighted bit if tarmac.

The differences between the First and Second generations are considerate according to Bentley. Although the first generation with a private plate would fool most casual observers into thinking you have just laid out six figures. However, in buying one you are committing to some possibly ruinous repair bills. If it is a well-kept example to be stored in the garage with a little jar of saving ready for tyres, brakes, servicing and any failures then your ownership could be quite pleasant, and as they age further the possibility of getting your purchase price back when it comes to sale time is a real possibility. There may even be a few quid to be made, but the running costs will far outweigh any headline gains.

If it is an attempt to show status in the office car park after a recent promotion you may have just signed away your Christmas bonus, and next years holiday, and that new kitchen.

A used Bentley is still a Bentley.

In return, the early models are starting to look quite classy, amazing considering how they looked fifteen years ago. Today, compared with the new GT, the old one looks quite reserved and almost tasteful, entry into the classics when the time comes shouldn't be too much of a hurdle.

Good specialists, fairly reliable simple engines, and a body and interior that hasn’t aged poorly can result in owning some very special metal, without needing the accompanying private aircraft. The Continental GT has a complex engine, sculpted panels and a Bentley tax on everything you buy. Should it stop you from buying one? Only if you are stretching to buy one in the first place, the W12 isn’t going to be replicated, and so if you want something a little special, and have the money to run it, the early generation Continental GT is an itch worth scratching.

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