2008 Bentley Continental GTC Convertible
According to David Reuter, Bentley’s spokesman in the North America, “Our median buyer has a net worth of a little over $3 million,” Reuter said. “And that doesn’t include real estate holdings, just liquid assets.”
That buyer is also predominantly male, typically in early middle age, Reuter adds. And he “has three or four other automobiles, like a Ferrari or another British car.”
So what are these affluent buyers getting for a Bentley like the 2008 Bentley Continental GTC Convertible?
The answer is a lot more than they were before Volkswagen bought the brand a decade ago. The old, British-designed car had nothing to sell but high-quality materials and a mind-boggling amount of hand work.
From a technological standpoint, the cars were antediluvian. Their pushrod V-8 was designed before the Earth’s tectonic plates assumed their present positions.
The folks who design Volkswagens and Audis changed that. The test car was powered by a techy, twin-turbocharged, 6-liter V-12 that developed 552 horsepower. This power was dispatched to all four wheels by a six-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system featuring a Torsen center differential. Three rear-drive models use an extensively modified, turbocharged version of the old V-8.
“It’s a real car now,” Innaurato said. “It’s very well-engineered and styled, and performs well.”
And it does perform. Despite the fact, it weighs a morbidly obese 5,478 pounds, the big droptop gets from 0 to 60 in a factory-claimed 4.8 seconds, then finishes up at 195 miles an hour. The big guy is also surprisingly light on its feet in the corners.
While things have changed on the technological front, some things remain the same. The car is still built in Crewe, England, it still gets lousy gas mileage, and the materials and workmanship are still stunning.
Virtually all cars built with “leather seats” only have leather where it touches your body. The seat’s sides and backs are vinyl. The soft, exquisite hides used in the Bentley I drove covered the entire seat. They also covered the parts of the door panels and dashboard that weren’t devoted to beautiful burl walnut inserts.
When you opened the doors to reveal the front jambs, you found they weren’t the usual stamped steel. They were covered with the same saddle-stitched leather found on the dash.
The paint work on the tester was enough to make Rembrandt and Titian jealous. You get that kind of flawless depth by running the car through the paint shop three times, and hand-rubbing it between each coat.
In all, it took close to 150 hours to build this car, about four times the assembly hours on a conventional auto.
A paint job this magnificent left me haunted by the possibility of a door ding. I found myself looking for three contiguous empty mall parking spaces so I could put the Bentley in the middle one.
As much fun as I had driving this car and pretending I was rich, I was a little relieved when the Bentley boys took it back. Story by: Al Haas at Phillynews.com.