By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor - Updated Date: 7/5/2012
In the world of high-performance super luxury cars, few combine the performance, luxury and heritage found in the 2012 Bentley Continental. Offered as a coupe (GT and Supersports), a convertible (GTC) and a sedan (Flying Spur), the Continental lineup is all encompassing. There's even a high performance Speed variant. While the sedan is certainly every bit as capable as its 2-door counterparts, it's the coupe and convertible that steal the show. Big, wide and heavy, these beauties harken back to a different era, one where bigger really was better. Only now, they are equipped with enough modern technology to allow for blistering acceleration and brilliant handling. Available with velvety-yet-thundering twin-turbo 8- and 12-cylinder engines, the Continental truly is one of a kind.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for Ferrari-like performance in a subtle but alluring design, the 2012 Bentley Continental may be the perfect car. Traditional British interior coachwork is beyond reproach, as is its German engineered mechanicals.You May Not Like This Car If...
You don't need to spend $200,000 to get the kind of luxury and performance found in the Continental. A nice Audi S8 or BMW 7 Series can do the job, plus you get a much more extensive dealer network.What's New for 2012
Minor styling changes and some added horsepower mark the big changes for the 2012 Bentley Continental.Driving It Driving Impressions
We were lucky enough to spend some time behind the wheel of the 2012 Bentley Continental GT V8. Despite four fewer cylinders (the other Continentals employ a twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder engine), there was no lack of power underfoot. The GT V8 launched to 60 mph in a scant 4.6 seconds and Bentley claims a top speed of 188 mph. The 8-speed ZF automatic transmission is flawless so long as you keep it in sport mode and the 40/60 front-to-rear torque split on the all-wheel-drive system provides just the right amount of traction without smothering the car's cornering ability. Most impressive, though, is the utter sense of solidity the Continental displays. Rattles are nonexistent, there is little to no outside wind and road noise and no rude sounds from under the hood. It's like driving something carved from a single ingot, unflappable and without a weak spot.Favorite Features
Created exclusive for Bentley by British audio expert Naim, the system electronically alters the position of the speakers to transform your car's cabin into an auditorium.
COBRA DESIGN SPORT SEATS
These ultra-plush sport seats not only offer incredible support at every point, they are also ventilated and include a massage feature.
Interior craftsmanship is what the Bentley Continental for 2012 is all about. There are numerous choices to help the customer individualize his or her car, including diamond-pattern seats, two-tone leather combinations and seven different wood veneers. Bentley claims 80 percent of the Continental's interior is covered in some form of leather; the remainder is wood, a few plastic bits and lush carpet and headliner. The cabin on the sedan is spacious enough and rear-seat passengers are treated as well as those up front but, in the coupe and convertible, the rear seat isn't really fit for anything more than a short ride.Exterior
There is something undeniable about a hand-built, hand-polished and hand-crafted automobile. Every inch of the Bentley's 2012 Continental is built without flaw or misstep. From the nearly 100 custom paint options to the 21-inch 10-spoke chrome wheels, the Continental oozes distinction. On the coupes, a concealed rear spoiler electronically deploys at high speed, helping to stabilize the rear end, as if a nearly 5,000-pound car needed further stabilizing.Notable Standard Equipment
Among the more notable features that come with buying a Bentley are a twin-turbocharged W12 engine (except the GT V8), bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, premium leather hide interior in your choice of 17 colors, engine start/stop-button ignition, four-zone climate control, power lumbar massaging and heated front seats, voice-activated navigation/infotainment system, ventilated front and rear seats, and a full suite of safety features including electronic traction and stability control, front and rear side airbags and full-length side-curtain airbags.Notable Optional Equipment
Among the more lavish options for the 2012 Bentley Continental Flying Spur are carbon ceramic brakes, the Naim audio system, full-width rear seat with lumbar massage and seat heaters, radar-based adaptive cruise control and a rear backup camera. Other features vary by model and include heated steering wheel, lambswool rugs, electronically-adjustable neck warmer (GTC), and various two-tone exterior and interior color splits.Under the Hood
Power for all 2012 Bentley Continentals, save for the GT V8, comes from a twin-turbocharged W12 engine mated to a 6-speed ZF transmission. Unlike a V formation, the W houses four sets of 3-cylinder groups in a W formation, allowing for the power of a V12 in space normally reserved for V8. The GT V8 employs a 500-horsepower twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 equipped with cylinder deactivation, for those rare times when it is more important to save gas than impress your date. The GT V8 also uses an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. The Continental is also E85-compatible.
2012 Bentley Continental GT and GTC V8
4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8
500 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
487 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700 rpm
EPA city/high fuel economy: 15/24
2012 Bentley Continental Flying Spur, GT and GTC
6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12
567 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
516 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 11/19 (gasoline), 8/13 (E85)
2012 Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed, Supersport
6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12
600 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
553 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700-5,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/19 (gasoline), 8/14 (E85)
Regardless of which 2012 Bentley Continental you choose, the check you write is going to begin with the number 2, possibly 3, depending on how carried away you get with the available options. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price for the 2012 Flying Spur starts around $187,000, while the Speed version pushes the price closer to $215,000. The GTC will be around $285,000, the Supersport coupe tucks in nicely near $270,000 and the GT starts just under $195,000. With options it's easy to add $50-75,000 to the bottom line of a Continental. You can certainly get equally good performance and luxury from a Porsche Panamera, BMW Alpina B7 or Audi S8 and not spend anywhere near the price of a Bentley. But, they won't be a Bentley.