Bentley Continental GT
At idle, the twin-turbo V-8 is so quiet and isolated it feels as though it were equipped with a stop-start system. It’s not, and when you flatten the accelerator, the exhaust grumbles, and a few taps of the ZF automatic’s shift paddles later, 120 mph arrives. It’s when the road begins to meander that you remember the Bentley’s weight. The variable-boost steering weights up nicely enough for diving into curves at higher velocities, but a body in motion (approximately 5100 pounds for the coupe, 5500 pounds with the convertible) tends to stay in motion, and you need to adjust for the momentum. The car feels lighter through the controls than it reacts on the road, so you compensate by turning in a bit earlier and tucking in the nose before getting back on the go pedal. Once you get the hang of it, the Continental GT V8 is a very satisfying country drive. Yet when it comes time to return to civilization, and the likes of traffic, speed zones, and potholes—plus the odd castle or two—the Bentley maintains its bearing as a luxury car.
It’s been said you have only one chance to make a good first impression. And if the occasion were selecting just the right kind of contemporary Bentley in which to arrive at the front door of Downton Abbey’s Highclere Castle, might we suggest the Continental GT V8? Sure, there have been two generations and many permutations of the Continental GT during its 11-year run—the Woolf Barnato model of the GT Le Mans Edition was a particularly interesting one—but the Continental GT V8 S occupies a sweet spot in the line. In Bentley-speak, the “V8” designation means it is powered by the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 instead of the twin-turbo 6.0-liter W-12.