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Bentley Continental GT | PH Fleet

The sudden lockdown left PH with a few cars we weren't expecting. Some were better than others...

By Dafydd Wood / Thursday, April 2, 2020

In the game of musical driver's chairs imposed on us by the Coronavirus lockdown, I came up trumps. Because while plans for a celebration of all things 12-cylinder unfortunately had to be shelved, one of the participants had already arrived.

Regardless of overall performance, the fitment of a V12 elevates a car into a very special automotive echelon indeed. As we'd have no doubt discussed in said feature, the 8,700rpm redline of an Aventador SVJ's screaming 6.5-litre motor is one of the most exhilarating highs you'll find; likewise the insatiable acceleration of an 812 Superfast. But when driving is limited to essential journeys only, which in my case means a weekly 60-mile round trip to the supermarket, a 140-litre luggage capacity or restrictive ride height are not your friends.

In fact, all of the cars set to be involved had various compromises of their own, made in the name of performance, styling, drama or speed. All but the Bentley Continental GT which, as we've come to appreciate over the last few years, is the consummate all-rounder. Its woofly W, rather than V, 12 produces 635hp and 664lb ft of torque - the latter from just 1,350rpm - enough to propel the 2,244kg leviathan to 62mph in just 3.7 seconds. That supercar performance is matched by genuine comfort and practicality too, with one of the nicest cabins available in any car complimented by a cavernous 358-litre boot.

Not that I've made use of it just yet, of course, instead opting to stow my various groceries in the footwells, and even buckle more fragile bags into the seats. Passers-by may well dart concerned glances in the direction of the seemingly wealthy eccentric who's clearly had a nervous breakdown, but unless you have enough to thoroughly pack the boot - and I'm no hoarder - the combination of tarmac-crimping thrust and miles of winding B-road have a tendency to combine my newly acquired ingredients in ways I didn't intend.

That image, though, the way that others perceive both car and driver does seem to have been brought into sharper focus recently. The genuine dynamic prowess and far more elegant styling of the second-gen GT have certainly helped to shed the footballer's car connotations that marred the original - in my book, at least. But that doesn't mean there aren't still some strings attached. Perhaps it's just me, but there is a certain amount of unease which comes with wafting through town in something so nice during a time of national crisis. An updated version of the famous WW2 poster comes to mind: "To drive extravagantly in war time is worse than bad form, it is unpatriotic."

Luckily, as a Cricket Ball red car with the new panoramic roof and optional Blackline pack 'my' Conti is more subtle than most. It's also the kind of car that might conceivably be run as part of a one or two vehicle garage, meaning that hopping out of it clutching an armful of bags-for-life doesn't seem like as overt an attempt at showing off as it might.

With W14 BML in my possession for longer than expected, though - the next four weeks at least, or however long Bentley's factory is forced to remain in lockdown - it feels important to put it to better use than I am currently able. Bentley has already utilised several of its press cars for a Crewe-based 'Meals on 22-inch Wheels' service, and with that in mind I've signed up as a volunteer in my area, hoping to be able to help anyone isolated in what is a very rural part of the country, and perhaps bring a few smiles to people's faces in the process.

There'll be more news on the outcome of that next time but, in the interim, if any PHers know of someone in need of a hand in North Norfolk, then do let me know. And of course, if you have any questions about the car itself, then fire away in the comments below.


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