I don’t think anybody else in automotive journalism can make this claim: I’ve put in nearly 37,000 miles behind the wheel of a Bentley Continental GT, in places as disparate as New York City’s West 48th Street (home of Rudy’s Music), the rural roads of northern Kentucky, and the Climbing Esses at Virginia International Raceway. Forget a lead-follow press event or the rich-for-a-week-wannabe experience of a loaner car: every mile I spent behind the Bentley’s wheel was at my own expense.
Of course, I’m speaking literally here: I’d actually purchased the piano-black-wood-rimmed steering wheel from a Continental GT and installed it, along with a set of Bentley paddle shifters, into my 2006 VW Phaeton V8. When I finally got around to driving the real thing, I couldn’t believe how close the driving experience of the $190,000-plus Bentley was to that of the $68,000 Volkswagen. “This car,” I thought at the time, “is a Phaeton for idiots, which is really saying something.”
Five years later, the Continental GT is still a Phaeton for idiots, except now it’s an old Phaeton for idiots. Old, tired, and showing no signs of life despite a twin-turbo-V-8 heart transplant. It’s time to pull the plug on a car that never even deserved to be called a Bentley in the first place.