For $230,000, you could buy a house, put your kids through college or travel the world 10 times over. Or you could buy one 2013 Bentley Continental GTC V8. That's right, the automaker that is the epitome of those champagne wishes and caviar dreams Robin Leach talked about has released its latest sports coupe. From its 8-inch infotainment touch screen and exclusive Naim 15-channel audio system to its monstrous 500 horsepower twin-turbocharged V8, this 2-ton luxury machine is the kind of car the richest 1 percent of 1 percenters would drive. So what kind of teched-out car does nearly a quarter of a million bucks get you? Grab your champagne flute and find out.
There are few things that can make a statement quite like a Bentley. Roll up to a posh hotel or nightclub in any city and you'll be swarmed by onlookers eager to see who's behind the wheel. Cruise the streets with the top down, and fellow motorists will nod in approval. It's not just the GTC V8's nameplate that makes it special, however. This two-door convertible is a breathtaking machine worthy of the mouths left agape at its mere presence.
Coated in a fierce Dragon Red paint job, 21-inch wheels (part of the $12,230 Mulliner Driving Specification package) and a black Beluga leather interior, the GTC V8 sports Bentley's signature glossy black split mesh grille flanked on either side by a pair of bi-Xenon headlamps and daytime running lights. Below the grille are the GTC V8's three mesh air inlets. The Bentley's taught, sinewy sheetmetal and muscular, swept back haunches exude a power that is only enhanced by the twin figure-eight tailpipes around back.
Inside, the GTC's styling is just as ostentatious as it is out. The Beluga leather that covers everything from its seats to the dash is beautifully offset by red contrast stitching, while the Piano Black panels along the center console draws your attention to the bull's-eye air vents and Breitling analog clock. At the heart of the console is Bentley's own 8-inch 1080p touch-screen display and associated controls. Exterior colors include Beluga, Dark Sapphire, Glacier White, Moonbeam, Onyx, St. James' Red and Thunder. Internal color options include Imperial Blue, Porpoise and Newmarket Tan.
The GTC V8's infotainment system features a host of options ranging from audio and navigation to phone and ride height controls. Directly below the system's touch screen is a single SD card slot, which can be used to import media such as music and movies. Below that is a control bar with buttons used to access the system's various features, including Tone, Band, Media, Telephone, Map, Navigation, Guide and Car.
The Tone, Band and Media buttons serve as shortcuts to various audio and sound settings, while the Map, Navigation and Guide buttons deal with the GTC's navigation system. Telephone opens the hands-free calling menu, while Car allows you to adjust vehicle settings. On the control bar's left is the system's power and volume button. Opposite that is a multifunction knob that provides users with different levels of functionality depending on the selected menu.
On the Bentley's steering wheel are a set of controls that allow users to manipulate infotainment settings without having to move their hands from 3 and 9 o'clock. On the left side are buttons for adaptive cruise control, including a scroll wheel for selecting the distance you want to keep from the car in front of you (more on that later). On the right side are the Voice Command, Phone, Menu and volume buttons. A scroll wheel lets users change the 3-inch digital display situated between the GTC's speedometer and tachometer.
Generally, the infotainment system was easy to use. Its large on-screen buttons were easy to read, and we never felt overwhelmed with having to deal with too many options, an issue we ran into with the Audi A4's eight-button MMI Navigation Plus system. We were also particularly impressed with Bentley's decision to emulate the knurling found on the GTC's various knobs.
The biggest complaint we had with the Bentley's system was the roughly one-second delay each time we selected something on the touch screen. This was most noticeable when scrolling through radio stations or entering navigation information. For a vehicle that costs $230,000, you would think its touch screen would be more responsive than one found in a Kia. That said, the interface stays out of your way, which is something many automakers are still struggling with.
Maps and Navigation
One of the Infotainment system's best features is its various mapping and navigation options. You can select from a standard map layout, a 3D map, traffic map or a topographical map, and can zoom in to within a few yards of your vehicle's location or far out enough to get a complete view of North America.
To set a destination, press the Navigation button and begin entering your information via the touch screen. The system's predictive text feature pulls up a list of potential addresses after you enter the first few letters of the state, city and street of your destination. We found the predictive text feature to be accurate and quick. Once a destination is set, the system will provide you with a continually updated list of directions via the 8-inch display, as well as appropriate voice prompts. Further directions for upcoming turns are issued via the 3-inch display located between the GTC's tachometer and speedometer.
With live traffic activated, the Bentley can automatically provide you with the best possible route to avoid gridlock. You can also set the system to avoid specific terrain features such as tunnels, detours, bridges, ferries and more. If you need your next direction repeated by the system's voice navigation feature, you can press the Guide button below the touch screen and the command will automatically be repeated.
Satellite and Audio
Drivers have a litany of media options available at their fingertips, including Sirius satellite radio, terrestrial radio, a CD and DVD player, an SD card slot, 30-pin iOS connector and a built-in hard drive. No USB port or Bluetooth streaming in this ride. Users can control the features via the Infotainment system's touch-screen controls or using the steering-wheel mounted dials.
Our test GTC V8 came packed with a ridiculous 15-channel, 10 speaker Naim for Bentley audio system. Audiophiles will find particular joy in drilling down in the Sound setup menu and setting the exact point in the car at which they want to focus the audio.
With the top down and the volume turned all the way up, we couldn't help but blast Jay-Z's "Money Ain't a Thing" while cruising the streets of Manhattan. Whether with the top down or up, the Naim audio system sounded exquisite. We felt the thunderous subwoofer's bass hits pounding in our chests, but were still able to talk over the music without having to raise our voices.
Once you've dropped $230,000 on a car, you want to make sure it's got top-flight safety features to help protect it and you. Put the gear selector in reverse, and the GTC's rear-facing camera (part of the $3,810 Convenience Specification pack) streams live video to the 8-inch touch screen.
Unlike other vehicles we've reviewed, the GTC's backup camera offers several settings depending on your situation. While parallel parking, the standard setting helps guide you along the curb, alerting you via front- and rear-mounted sensors when you are too close to an object. A series of high-pitch squeals and on-screen notifications point to exactly where the obstruction is in relation to your car's bumpers. Switch over to the parking mode, and you'll be able to easily back the GTC up into any parking space, thanks to its simulated parking blocks and sensors. If the display is too dim or bright for the current conditions, you can adjust the contrast and hue. Switching between modes was intuitive and easy, but we would have liked to have seen Bentley offer blind-spot monitoring similar to what Audi and Mercedes offer in their vehicles.
The Convenience Specification package also includes Bentley's Adaptive Cruise Control. This system, which uses sensors built into the front bumper, allows users to set the distance from the vehicle in front of them while cruise control is active. During a drive down the New Jersey Turnpike, we set the distance to five car lengths and our speed to 65 miles per hour. When a car pulled out in front of us doing 50 mph, the Adaptive Cruise Control took over and began to slow our GTC to match the other car's speed. When the other car eventually moved to a different lane, the Bentley sped back up to 65 mph.
Bentley designed the Continental GTC V8 to power down the highway or around the track like a demon released from the pits of Hades. Its 500 horsepower twin-turbocharged V-8 practically begs to be pushed. Considering the GTC's weight -- nearly two tons -- all that muscle is needed.
With the eight-speed transmission set to Drive, the beast is relatively tame, eliciting only a slight burble. If you fancy a quick shot to highway speed, you can flip the paddle shifter down a gear and rocket away. If you truly want to experience the exhilaration of the GTC's motor, switch to Sport mode. With the exhaust note more pronounced, you can hit the gas and the Bentley will pull from 0 to 60 mph with such force you can feel your body being pushed into the driver's seat. With the throttle wide open, the engine positively roars. It's a visceral experience that needs to be felt and heard.
But that fun comes at a hit at the gas pump. Conservative driving will get you an estimated 17 miles per gallon, but pushing the engine will have it guzzling fuel. In fact, the Bentley's fuel economy is so abhorrent that the EPA hits you with a $1,000 gas guzzler tax.
When you're in the mood for a more relaxed cruise, the Bentley handles everyday driving like a proper English gentleman. Potholes disappear under the car without ever causing so much as a thump. That said, masking two tons of mass is nearly impossible. In fact, you can practically feel the Bentley's elephantine weight fighting the brakes when bringing the car to a stop. The GTC's veniliated front and rear disc brakes certainly offer more than enough stopping power and we never experienced any unpleasantness with them.
At nearly $230,000, the Bentley Continental GTC V8 is as outlandish a vehicle as you can imagine. Still, its incredible craftsmanship paired with the mechanical monstrosity that slumbers beneath its massive hood are worth it. The Infotainment system is enjoyable and informative, but we wish Bentley put as much effort into its performance as it did the rest of the car. Its lack of USB functionality and Bluetooth audio streaming is a shame and the touch screen's slow response time can be painful. Overall though, there's no denying that the GTC V8 is a true status symbol.