2014 Bentley Continental GT

After essentially reinventing Bentley following its introduction in 2002, the Continental GT has become something of an icon among high-end super luxury coupes. The GT is offered with an Audi-derived 4.8-liter V8 and a 6.0-liter W12, and each engine is available in two power tunes. A convertible dubbed GTC is offered for buyers who prefer a droptop.

V8-powered Continental
The twin-turbocharged V8 engine promises much improved fuel economy while retaining most of the 12-cylinder's power. The eight-cylinder sends 500 horsepower and 487 lb-ft. of torque to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, enough to send the heavy coupe from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and on to a top speed of over 180 mph. Fuel economy comes in at 15 city, 24 highway miles per gallon.

Although the V8-equipped Continental GT is technically the range's entry-level vehicle, Bentley isn't treating it as such. V8 models come fitted with a unique black gloss matrix grille with chrome frame and center bar, a red enamel Bentley 'B' badge, and a black matrix three-segment lower front bumper divided by distinctive body-color strakes. Out back, the car gets unique chromed 'figure eight' exhaust tailpipes, a dark lower valance and a red enamel 'B' trunklid badge.

The V8 model comes standard with 20-inch wheels, but a bespoke, 21-inch wheel package is also available.

New for the latest model year is a more potent (and more expensive) V8-powered model called GT V8 S that gains an additional 20 horsepower and 15 lb-ft. of torque, pumping the engine's output to 521 ponies and 502 lb-ft. of twist. As a result of the power boost, the GT V8 S sprints to 60 mph from a stop in 4.3 seconds before topping out at 192 mph.

GT V8 S models gain special 20-inch wheels, a body kit, bespoke fender badging and two exclusive paint shades. Inside, the changes include available two-tone trim choices.

Underneath, the GT V8 S' air suspension has been lowered by about 10 millimeters while increased spring rates and unique damping are designed to give the car more performance-oriented handling. To complement the suspension changes, the GT V8 S receives its own recalibrated steering and damping control systems as well as a unique tuning for its stability control.

W12 Lives On
For Bentley traditionalists, however, twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 carries on with an output of 567 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Lighter than the outgoing model thanks to some material changes throughout, the revised W12 sprints to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.

The twelve-cylinder sends power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic capable of delivering gear-skipping double downshifts for improved response. Fuel economy is rated at 12 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway.

The Continental GTC's all-wheel-drive system splits 40 percent of the power to the front wheels and 60 percent to the rear to reduce understeer. Both 20 and 21-inch alloy wheels are available.

Bentley's fastest car ever is the Continental GT Speed. The performance flagship touts a 205 mph top speed as its trademark and does it the old-fashioned way: by adding more power. The 6.0-liter W12 has been massaged to churn out 616 horsepower and 590 lb-ft. of torque.

Power is transferred to all four wheels via a ZF-built eight-speed automatic transmission. The sprint from zero to 60 mph takes four second flat.

Fuel economy checks in at 13 mpg in the city, 20 mpg on the highway, and 15 mpg when combined.

To match the added straight-line speed, the GT Speed sits lower to the ground thanks to a unique suspension setup. The electronically-controlled campers and the electronic power steering system have both been reprogrammed to make the most of the extra power.

Drivetrain aside, the GT Speed stands out thanks to rifled exhaust pipes, dark tint in the lower fascia and bespoke 21-inch wheels. The range-topping Continental GT also comes standard with the Mulliner Driving Specification package that adds perforated and quilted leather.

Welcome Aboard
Inside, this potent luxury coupe features a hand-crafted cabin that boasts high-grade materials. Examples of the exquisite opulence include soft-touch leather hides, an extensive range of wood veneers depending on the buyer's personal taste, cool-touch metals and deep-pile carpets - all expected in a luxury vehicle of this caliber.

But while the aforementioned materials may sound relatively standard fair for a luxury vehicle, perhaps the realization that there are 17 standard soft-touch leather hide colors with six color split combinations, which are then complemented by a choice of one of seven veneers - each produced by Bentley's own craftsmen and women - would provide a bit more perspective.

The cockpit is centered around a sweeping dashboard and instrument panel finished in premium, soft-touch leather hides. A touchscreen-based, 30GB infotainment system introduces advanced satellite navigation with dynamic route guidance, seven-digit postcode entry and Google Map compatibility for certain North American, Asian and European markets.

The audio systems feature the latest wide frequency Balance Mode Radiator speakers as standard, as well as Dirac Dimensions DSP for exceptional sound reproduction (Naim for Bentley premium audio).

Key competitors
In terms of price, image and sheer luxuriousness, the Continental GT is a bit unique - but don't be surprised to see the big Bentley compared with the Audi R8 Plus, the Aston Martin DB9 one of many Porsche 911 Carrera models.

Price-wise, the W12-powered model can be cross-shopped with big-name supercars such as the McLaren MP4-12C, the Ferrari 458 Italia and the upcoming Lamborghini Huracan.