By on February 17, 2015

Continental GT Speed

Nine years ago, I paid fifty-eight thousand dollars for a new VW Phaeton, after paying seventy-seven thousand dollars for a different VW Phaeton six months previously. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.* I was very active on a VW message board at the time and it was not uncommon for me to get random private messages from teenagers:

99VWJettaSlushbox: lol suck it u loser the FAILton is the worst VW ever

I enjoyed my Phaetons tremendously and drove them everywhere from Manhattan to VIR. However, I was virtually alone in my enthusiasm for the model. My second Phaeton, the black 2006 V8, was one of just 300 brought into the United States that year. When VW discontinued US sales before the 2007 model year, most people took that decision as conclusive proof that you can’t sell a $100,000 Volkswagen to Americans. They were correct; however, you can sell a $200,000 Volkswagen to Americans, and you can do it for a very long time.

Bentley Continental GT Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com

The Bentley Continental GT and Flying Spur are, of course, the Sevilles to the Phaeton’s Nova, or possibly the Cimmarons to the Phaeton’s Cavalier. Probably the latter, because the CGT and Spur were cheaper in real terms than any other Bentley sold in the postwar era. Although much has been done to differentiate the cars, from completely unique exterior styling to a real Bentley-burnished (well, supplier-burnished) metal ring around the power-mirror joystick, if you drove them blindfolded only the superior thrust from the W12 or turbo V8 would let you know you were in the Bentley.

As a consequence, these are now old cars, particularly when considered in the context of the Rolls-Royce Wraith and Ghost. (For the record, the 7-Series-to-Ghost transition is far more convincing than the Bentley’s bespoke disguise.) Last year, the Flying Spur received a complete suite of upgrades, including a new and very vintage-looking rear body contour. This year, the CGT gets the upgrades, too.

Continental GT Speed (2)

The most interesting change is the addition of variable displacement technology to the W12. This cylinder-deactivation scheme, seen previously everywhere from the Cadillac V-8-6-4 to the Honda Odyssey to the V8-powered Continental GT, improves fuel economy by five percent. Or, “as much as five percent”. Which means “probably less, but definitely not more, than.”

Continental GT Convertible

An utterly horrifying new “flying B vent” distinguishes your $250,000 Mulliner Driving Specification Speed GT from the $40,000 deferred-maintenance 2005-model-year specials on eBay and will be very popular with your friends at your private Moscow high school. The current look of the Continental GT, festooned as it is with all manner of chrome and brushed metal and exterior highlighting, makes me almost nostalgic for the debut model, which was remarkably ungainly-looking and almost LaForza-esque the way it sat high on massive wheels but which had unadorned flanks and the courage of its visual convictions.

What Bentley could really use would be an aluminum CGT based on the next (or even the current) Audi A8. Given that they’ve just redone the bodywork on the current cars, however, it probably won’t happen immediately. In the meantime, you can get the same quality of drive from a used Phaeton W12, and have $230,000 left over for unscheduled maintenance. Just be prepared to be told how Americans won’t pay real money for a gussied-up VW, okay?

* With apologies to the late Douglas Adams.

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66 Comments on “Bentley Adds Variable Displacement, Garish Trim To The 2004 VW Phaeton...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    The maker of the worlds arguably best V8 engine doesn’t even have 10 proven years of successful cyclinder deactivation technology, and VW decides they should do it? For a 5% improvement? If that’s not code for “If we can’t sell more we’ll repair more” then I don’t even know.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      If you can’t “Dare Greatly” as Cadillac can (part of Oscar Ad campaign) what good is anything?:

      Dare Greatly; love Johan, Melody Lee & Publicus:

    • 0 avatar
      caltemus

      The grammar of this comment took forever to wade through. Are you trying to say that since GM hasn’t had seamless cylinder deactivation tech, that other companies should wait for them to have it for a decade? I wouldn’t trust any cutting edge tech from GM to work in it’s first run. That’s some backward logic coming from a Hummer fan and Cadillac basher. If anything, I would expect a better level of engineering from VAG. Regardless, any fuel economy improvement is worthwhile in this era of CAFE standards. You are accurate in stating that you “don’t even know”.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        “I wouldn’t trust anything from GM to work.”

        Fixed.

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          The cylinder deactivation technology in GM pickup truck V8s seems to work tolerably well, as does the similar system in Hemi V8s. Of course, they are a German supplier invented technology. The Honda V6 system is on its third iteration, and people still complain.

          It’s a matter of keeping the deactivated cylinders warm and up to temperature. Since this is a known, better systems are being developed to minimize the problem. Till then by all means avoid, but be aware criticisms are only warranted if you have some real clue as to what you in your wisdom think is reality.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I’m saying GM actually needs it done right since they put these engines in over a million vehicles a year.

        And VW is well known for shoddy engineering that requires a constant supply of replacement parts.

        Now a technology that is put into the cash cow of one manufacturer which is still trying to perfect it, is going to be adopted by VWs usual half-ham attempt at building cars.

        By the way, I’m not a cadillac basher, I would be ecstatic to see Cadillac do well, I just don’t agree with the downmarket products with upmarket price scheme.

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          “Dead Weight” is a subtle reference, of course, to the extra, unnecessary poundage included in decades of Cadillacs, just to make them larger, gaudier, more expensive, bloated and thirstier than anything else on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      The Mulsanne is the only real Bentley current offered.

  • avatar

    Variable Displacement is just one thing that needs to be done, but the more important thing is START/STOP technology.

    I just need to be able to keep my heater/AC, radio, heated/cooled seats running whilst sitting in Holland tunnel traffic. If every car had both technologies, we’d save probably twice as much fuel.

    with the heater on (it was 5 degrees F yesterday morning with a windchill), my 300SRT gets 9.8 mpg and my JeepSRT gets 10.2.

    • 0 avatar
      caltemus

      “Twice as much fuel”

      99% of all statistics were made up on the spot to prove a point.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      How much does the fuel economy of those vehicles improve if you keep the heater off? Maybe it would be worth dressing warmer to reduce engine load.

      • 0 avatar
        bludragon

        Heating in a gas powered car is free once the engine has warmed up as heat is a waste product of the engine. Cold engines are less efficient, and in the cold, and with the heating on, they take longer to warm up, but I would guess the heating does not make much difference to that.

        With start/stop, once the engine is stopped, then you need to pay energy for heating, or store enough up from when the engine was running.

    • 0 avatar
      hgrunt

      I think that’s the longest dictionary word I’ve ever seen you use! I’m excited to see some educational commenting and I look forward to our next vocabulary lesson.

      Anyway, back on topic, I get around 22 mpg average in my car, but I don’t live somewhere that drops below 50, or have to idle in tunnels.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I have no real opinion on the value of a car that is worth more than my house. I will say that it is a very pretty car and no one is going to believe it has anything to do with a VW.

  • avatar
    mvahle

    Don’t panic.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Ahhh, VW & Ferdy.

    I came within *inches* of buying a 2006 Phaeton with a bit more than 20,000 miles on it in 2009 from the biggest VW store in Cook County, Illinois, for a negotiated (nearly sealed) 28.5k (this was around the time I was looking to get a large, comfy sedan, and was also looking at mint, used Lexi LS430s).

    It was a pristine one owner car bought from that very dealer with all service records. It was an 8 cylinder.

    They LITERALLY couldn’t give these cars away at the time (beginning of the Great Repression).

    The reason I didn’t?

    I spoke to a mechanic friend who is into German things and he dared me to call around and see how many VW dealers had a staff mechanic specifically certified to perform warranty work or service on the Phaeton.

    End result? There wasn’t one such VW dealer within 100 miles of my house (I quit looking after that)

    • 0 avatar

      Out of curiosity–as I shudder at the thought of their hourly rate–would it have been feasible to take one of these cars to a Bentley dealer’s service shop? Presumably, Chicago has one.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Muller VW of Highland Park (Chicago Suburb)services Phaetons

        • 0 avatar
          doub

          honestly, there seems to be a crazy amount of Phaetons around the Highland Park area. Was there a dealer in the north shore that really specialized in them back in the day?

      • 0 avatar

        Speaking of dealers and service, I’ve always wondered what you do when you own an exotic car and there are no dealerships for that brand in your state. The most exotic dealerships here in Oklahoma are probably Bob Moore Maserati (also shared with Land Rover) and Alfa Romeo of Edmond (also shared with Fiat)…which has no Alfa Romeos in stock. We don’t have a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Bentley/Rolls-Royce dealership. So what does the new Bentley owner do for service and maintenance?

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          They’re pretty much SOL.

          I am in Tulsa for business 2x a year (and often Norman once), and had thought there was a large import dealer selling Bentleys in Tulsa (can’t recall name).

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          Presumably, Bentley Roadside Assistance would pay to flatbed to (and maybe from) the nearest dealership for warranty work.

        • 0 avatar
          Ihatejalops

          It’s up to the manufacturer to tow them or provide some kind of car for warranty work. Any maintenance can be done by a 3rd party if it’s not covered under warranty. As long as you keep the documentation and something fails under that period, the manufacturer is on the hook.

        • 0 avatar
          hgrunt

          I think how it works when there isn’t an official dealership is that your car goes to a factory authorized service center closest to you, that has the expertise and tools to service the car.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    How could anyone take seriously anything painted that color green, I mean really?

    ;-)

  • avatar
    Ihatejalops

    Shoulda bought it at $42,000…but you’re not the only one who thought the Phaeton’s were excellent cars, if not slightly over-priced, but branding does matter (in this instance). I mean, VW sells Tourags (sorry cayennes) all day long and Tiguans (Sorry, again, Macans) without anyone batting an eye.

    • 0 avatar
      vtnoah

      Sorry man, VW doesn’t sell shit for Tiguans or Touregs for that matter. In 2014 they struggled to sell 2000 Tiguans a month. Compare that with the Subaru Forester at over 10k / month. The Toureg fares even worse at an average of 500 – 600 a month. No doubt they are cool SUV’s but they also suffer from the overpriced VW curse and the market has acted accordingly.

      • 0 avatar
        Ihatejalops

        You missed the whole point of the comment. Flew right over your head. The Macan is a Tiguan and the Cayenne is a Toureg. Yeesh.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          ” I mean, VW sells Tourags (sorry cayennes) all day long and Tiguans (Sorry, again, Macans) without anyone batting an eye.”

          But they don’t, really even at a price point well below the Phaeton. Does anyone think of a Touaregs as Cayennes?

          • 0 avatar
            Ihatejalops

            Pretty sure Cayennes and Macans come close the Phaeton dollars. A mjority of porsche’s sold are there SUV’s.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Anyone that drove both the first generation Touareg and Cayenne knows they were the same miserable thing because both squeezed their balls between the miserable vice formed by their comically wide center consoles and their door panels. They are the least comfortable vehicles I’ve ever driven.

        • 0 avatar

          Er…no

          For one thing, the Touareg is a pretty nice vehicle. The first-generation model was absolutely a luxury car in all but name. Volkswagen figured out that if you didn’t care about performance, the Touareg was a steal versus the Cayenne. As such, the second-generation Touareg (which debuted for MY2011) is not as nice as its predecessor, and can’t be had with nearly the same level of equipment. Still, it’s more the case that the Touareg is a pared-down Cayenne than that the Cayenne is a gussied-up Touareg.

          As for the Macan, it is a platform mate of the Audi A4, A5 and Q5, which use a completely different (longitude-engined) platform than the Golf-based Tiguan. The Macan has nothing to do with the Tiguan.

          • 0 avatar
            Ihatejalops

            Er, Yes. Does anyone actually read Jack’s article or just comment?

            1. They’re all platforms of VW, so it’s the same thing that Jack States above with the Porsche:VW as with Bentley:Phaeton
            2. I owned the First gen Toureg, it was junk.
            3. You’re right, the Tiguan is based on the golf, but people are lining up to buy a product that’s not really Porsche engineered and just a copy.
            4. In fact Porsche sells more “non-Porsches” than they do actual Porsches.

        • 0 avatar
          vtnoah

          I understand that they are platform mates… mate. I’m just pointing out that VW isn’t exactly selling them like hotcakes. From your comment, it seems like you make the point that they sell a bunch. Either way, I’m guessing that Porsche and Audi sell way more Macans, Caymens, Q5’s, and Q7’s than VW’s versions. Cheers!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I checked: This car is smaller inside than a Kia Rio, and I suspect the Rio owners are happier with their purchase.

    But logic isn’t always what guides our car buying.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh quilted interiors – how brougham! ;-)

    FYI I have seen a W8 Passat in traffic but NEVER a Phaeton.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy

      You probably have and just didn’t realize it. My biggest bitch about the Pheaton was that it looked just like a Passat at 11/10th scale.

      I’m guessing they would have sold another 4 or 5 units if they LOOKED like a car costing twice the amount of anything else in the lineup.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Although Kyree will wish me malice for saying so, the Phaeton was more aesthetically pleasing than the Bentley, exterior design wise.

        • 0 avatar

          No, you’re right. The Phaeton is reserved and stately; the Bentley looks like a drag queen. The Continental Flying Spur (2006-2012) was just godawful from a design standpoint…and I say that as a Bentley fan.

          I’ve actually been considering a Phaeton—since I have a specialist and could afford the maintenance—but what’s been putting me off are the un-upgradeable 2006-era toys…

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Amazing that this car will have a run longer than the dearly departed Volvo XC90. Unlike Volvo, VWAG can easily afford to replace this thing, but as long as they keep selling, why bother?

    The more pure styling of the early cars may have looked better, but the interiors definitely did not. If you think the VW/Audi parts bin switchgear is obvious NOW, go back and look at those first couple of model years. Yee gad. Plastic trash switches that looked suitable for a VW Polo diesel.

  • avatar
    Timothy

    Quilted leather for the win. Does that make me weird?

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    As a serial VW buyer, I’d be in no position to diss JB’s Phaeton for its humble lineage. I’d admire it, but question the price. I think the warning signal was that he could buy the same model one year later for $20K less. That sounds like terminal depreciation!

  • avatar
    John R

    Hm. This would be interesting study. What is the pricing threshold for a brand?

    What ever it is the Genesis and Equus (I see that around surprisingly) haven’t seem to have reached it yet, but the K900 and the Phaeton have. How do you find that number? Once you find that number what causes it to be that way?

  • avatar

    Whatever crimes the Continental GT and Flying Spur have committed are instantly rectified by the Mulsanne. It displays absolutely exquisite craftsmanship and is completely hand-built. I daresay it’s better than the Phantom. As the spiritual successor to the traditional Bentley/Rolls-Royce Models (Arnage, Brooklands, Azure), it carries on with the heritage 6.75-liter pushrod V8, for the time being. You’ll find plenty of Audi electronics in the Mulsanne (including the characteristic Audi “chirp”), but nothing offensive. I was hoping Bentley would hurry up and do coupe and cabriolet versions of the Mulsanne.

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      Agree. I think there has always been a bifurcation in both perception and build quality between the Mulsanne (and even the Arnage before it) and the CGT and FS, with the former two being “real Bentleys” and the latter being a thinly veiled attempt to tap new markets. Not unlike the original Boxter vs. the 911, but scaled up in price point.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Watching a canary yellow Conti GT do a hill climb up an iron mine, then herd 4,000 head of cattle in the Outback (with help from a GT-R, M6 Gran Coupe, and a couple helicopters) were certainly sights to see, and made me officially change my allegiance from Bentley GT-hater to lover.

  • avatar
    marc

    Why did you buy two Phaetons? Was one a parts car?

  • avatar

    As the owner of a LaForza, I never would have expected to see my vehicle used as an adjective.

    While I’ll agree about the unadorned flanks, the wheels are actually pretty small.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    That B logo is as horrible as the Ventiports on a Buick these days. And the interior is too festooned to cover up the age spots. And honestly what does 5% economy matter, grr.

    But I still prefer these to the Ghost. Its squinty face and pretend Phaeton styling do little for me.

  • avatar
    baconator

    Drove the new CGT at our local Bentley / Jaguar dealer. The interior detailing isn’t really any nicer than a Jag XJ with the Portfolio package. The supercharged V-8 version of the XJ also accelerates just as fast as the CGT, and is more responsive in the corners, too. By comparison, the Jag looks like a bargain at $85k.

    Maybe there’s a neighborhood somewhere where Bentley ownership says something positive about you that a Jag is too lowbrow to express. But I live in a place where RS Audis and AMG S-classes get five figures of additional dealer markup, and I can’t figure out why one would unfurl $225k in Benjamins for the new CGT.

  • avatar
    993cc

    so, a W12-10-8-6-4, then?

  • avatar
    wmba

    The Phaeton : Ferdy Piech’s wet dream.

    VW Group is trying to save $5 billion annually to pay off the interest and principal on their ill-judged MQB venture.

    So several weeks ago, Euro business mags were criticizing Piech for plowing ahead with the Phaeton Mark Two, considering that an analysis showed that each Phaeton cost VW $28,000 to make over and above what they were sold for. But Piech is bound and determined to make that up with volume. And he’s the boss.

    So the glass-walled factory remains, where ordinary mouth-agape stolid Germans can come and watch craftsmen bolt together highly overweight, loss-producing cars in the time-honored manner using air guns, so medieval in concept and execution.

    When the Phaeton first came out, it was pointed out that rendering an Audi A8 in steel rather than aluminum added over 1,000 pounds of Buick-like road-hugging weight, dulling its responses and trashing already poor fuel economy.

    Still a quick car of course, and decidedly decent for passing cars at 130 mph on the right hand shoulder. Quite why I’m supposed to buy into a semi-trashing of the Bentley simply because VW charge a prime dollar for it, rather than the giveaway prices they charged for the same car underneath as a Phaeton, is beyond me.

    Not only is this yet another rant on the edges of one niche of the car world, it rates as another solid irrelevancy. The only fascinating thing it brings up is the examinination of the hubris of Piech, whose decisions can have wide-ranging impact on the car world at large when he goes off the rails.

    Show me the Bentley Owners Association lawsuit clamoring for their money back, and maybe this critique would have some merit. Other than that, it’s just personal biased opinion pretending to be important news and “OMG isn’t it just awful!” attempted rabble-rousing. Like that “they kicked me in the nuts” Porsche lament last week. It’s all too personal for what appears on the surface as an attempt as real analysis, and not objective.

    Outrage on small matters affecting few people, and relatively privileged people at that who buy new, is surely not the written matter of legend. And as for the wide-eyed twits buying 10 year old Contis on eBay, so what?

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