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Luxury with zip in modern Bentley

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: The Bentley Continental GTC convertible that I tested did not have the standard-issue gas cap lurking under its filler flap.

No, my example of this British icon was a bit more upscale. It was fitted with the “Mulliner Alloy Fuel Filler Cap,” a $290 option.

According to David Reuter, Bentley’s spokesman in the North American colonies, the difference is the Mulliner model is graced with the Bentley logo (a winged B).

You may wonder why someone would spend an extra $290 for a B you can see only when you open the filler flap to put gas in the car. But, if you have to wonder, you cannot afford this particular $211,475 ragtop.

So, who can?

“Our median buyer has a net worth of a little over $3 million,” Reuter said. “And that doesn’t include real estate holdings, just liquid assets.”

That buyer is also predominantly male, typically in early middle age, Reuter adds. And he “has three or four other automobiles, like a Ferrari or another British car.”

That buyer is also pretty recession-proof, observes Joe Innaurato, general manager of ultra-luxury car sales at F.C. Kerbeck & Sons, in Palmyra, N.J.

Innaurato says Kerbeck’s new Bentley sales have been going “very, very well, in contrast to the regular auto industry, because people with money aren’t affected by this economy.” He adds that Kerbeck is selling Bentleys at a 150-a-year clip, and came in second in U.S. sales in July, behind the Beverly Hills franchise.

And what are these folks getting for these big Bentley bucks?

The answer is a lot more than they were before Volkswagen bought the brand a decade ago. The old, British-designed car had nothing to sell but high-quality materials and a mind-boggling amount of hand work. From a technological standpoint, the cars were antediluvian. Their pushrod V-8 was designed before the Earth’s tectonic plates assumed their present positions.

The folks who design Volkswagens and Audis changed that. The test car was powered by a techy, twin-turbocharged, 6-liter V-12 that developed 552 horsepower. This power was dispatched to all four wheels by a six-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system featuring a Torsen center differential. Three rear-drive models use an extensively modified, turbocharged version of the old V-8.

“It’s a real car now,” Innaurato said. “It’s very well-engineered and styled, and performs well.”

And it does perform. Despite the fact, it weighs a morbidly obese 5,478 pounds, the big droptop gets from 0 to 60 in a factory-claimed 4.8 seconds, then finishes up at 195 miles an hour. The big guy is also surprisingly light on its feet in the corners.

Read whole story here. 

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October 19, 2008 - Posted by | Lifestyle, Money | , , ,

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