It’s a little known fact that I was once anointed with the rather prestigious title of a “Bentley Girl”. Despite what you may be thinking, it did not involve the waving of flags, nor the use of silks to unveil cars, though I do have a striking Bentley driving suit with my name on it as a result.
Sometime back in 2014, when I was well into the pregnancy of my second child, I was invited on what was one of the most exhilarating journeys of my career, a visit to Crewe in the UK, the home of Bentley, to drive the storied Continental GT around the official Bentley race track with their official racing team. A group of glamorous women were plucked from all corners of the world, as representatives of some of the world’s loftiest magazine titles (Tatler, Vanity Fair, Vogue… and Denizen), to experience the thrill of driving these insanely beautiful vehicles around the race track, just as their creators had intended them to be.
The experience, which also involved touring the factory, where each Bentley is made to order, and in many areas, crafted by hand, left me with a lifelong desire to one day spec my own Bentley Continental GT, complete with the Sullivan-Kraus family crest emblazoned on the headrest, obviously.
Aside from the exquisite craftsmanship of each Bentley, what I really took from this memorable experience was just how damned fast (290km/h) these cars could go without losing the grip of the tarmac on the chicanes, leaving me with a sense of complete fearlessness. Though I do recall my daughter kicking my insides like crazy, no doubt fuelled by my body’s internal adrenaline.
So when presented with the opportunity to drive Bentley’s newly released 2021 Continental GT V8, I immediately rallied my daughter to see if she was up for a revisit of the experience, this time from the outside world.
Having already seen first-hand the expertise and precision that goes into crafting each and every car produced at Crewe, the new Continental is no different. It’s indisputably beautiful, sleek, refined, and pure class. The interior is so absurdly comfortable with its Beluga leather and contrasting red hand-stitched detailing that I am reminded of the person I met at Crewe whose sole responsibility was to use a fork (crafted from the finest silver, I expect) to make the small holes in the steering wheel leather, before hand-stitching the leather onto the wheel. It really is a study in pure craftsmanship, and adds to the overall feeling of being ensconced within the confines of the world’s chicest hotel room. The deep-pile overmats underfoot, the massaging seats, the convenient inductive phone charger, and the ambient lighting — this is a place you could easily stay the weekend and come home refreshed.
Almost everything is powered electronically, giving off an air of superiority over me. And for once, I am happy to be outwitted by a car, if it comes in the form of a well-trained butler, turning on the window wipers at the onset of rain, assisting me to change lanes without really even looking, and the best yet, ensuring that I don’t curb the wheels — an act from God really, if you saw the state of my current car’s rims.
From the expression on onlookers’ faces, I can tell this car has an extraordinary presence. The stunning, sculpted aerodynamic curves are a nod to the fact that this car was designed on aerospace principles to deliver genuine speed and power. And from where I’m sitting, just glancing in the side mirrors delivers a sense of road ownership with its aggressive stance thanks to the beautifully flared rear guards.
This new impressive incarnation of the Continental GT still honours the brand’s DNA. The digital display, for example, can at the push of a button, be rotated into a new facade that features the elegant dials of the original marques. So too with the air conditioning pulls, which are classic and chic. But despite the nods to the old, this is definitely a bold new ride. There are clear elements of evolution, like the fact that the GT V8 is powered by a new generation 4 litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine that outputs 404kW, and reaches a swift 100km/h in just four seconds. Push the sport mode button, and you’ll really not just feel the ultra sleek quad exhaust pipe, your belly will rumble with excitement at the guttural roar one expects from a car of this calibre.
So has my love and devotion to this beautiful marque waned over the years you may ask? Unfortunately not — the magic, the majesty, and the hand craftsmanship all collide to make this quite possibly the most extraordinary car of my dreams.