Words Ezekiel Wheeler
Photos Yves Huy Truong
The engine howled as we accelerated up the steep hill. The top was down and our hearts were racing as we relived a lost hill climb course from the early 1900s. Our Bentley transported us to a time when men were brave and machines were wild.
We received the keys to a 2013 Continental GT V8 Convertible, to gain an understanding of what Bentley has been up to since the outgoing model. With design updates and new powertrain options, like our V8 and the new Speed version looming on the horizon, now was as good a time as any to get comfy in the super luxury drop top.
What’s the newest Bentley feature? A tuned twin turbo V8 you say? Yes, please. The same motor lurks under the bonnet of Audi’s S6, S8 and S7 models. This helps reign in the price for more attainable means – $208,000 as we tested with ours.
When fuel is added, 500hp and 487 lb. ft. of torque is created and transferred toward the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. 0-60mph is accomplished in under five-seconds and top speed is rated at 180mph. Retracting the top does take a considerable amount of time but we’d like to assume that when purchasing a Bentley you aren’t in an enormous rush to get anywhere.
Bentley offers a characteristic often forgotten amongst many car companies– maturity. Often these elements are overlooked when competitors begin adding horsepower and technology to a car.
Maturity isn’t something bestowed overnight, nor is heritage created within one good story. Both are earned in the continuous commitment in overachieving your own standards.
Bentley’s maturity comes from its deeply rooted motorsports history and celebration of the craftsman. The Bentley Boys weren’t just a bunch of rag tag men who spat on spark plugs. They were recognized gentlemen of their day, well educated and had public passion for speed.
Bentley’s doesn’t just stop experience at the racetrack though. They bring a bespoke experience into the hands owners around the world, and they do it with plenty of charisma. Their hand-selected craftsmen spend countless hours in apprenticeship focusing on the obsessiveness it takes to refine every touch point. This is why Bentley’s woods feel warm, their aluminum is refreshing and their leather breaths life.
Our GTC V8 was dipped in Moonbeam silver paint and capped with a denim canvas top. Less we forget about the exclusive ivory leather Mulliner package. Recognized by it’s diamond quilted stitching throughout the cabin, an exclusive shift knob and embroidered Bentley wings on headrests. Outside, the exclusive 20x9.5” wheels wrapped Pirelli P Zero tires help keep the stout figure planted to the ground. The wheels feature a subtle five-spoke design cascading toward the famous Bentley “B” center cap.
The entire car emits an attitude as if, this is the only car that mature adults should own. No flashy red paint or matte finishes. It’s a well-tailored suit hiding a .45mm pistol and means business.
Driving the car, two personalities are revealed. The first being serenity. The Bentley is a large, wide vehicle that seems to waft while at cruising speeds. Its therapeutic during while at speed on the freeway but during rush hour weight transfer is noticeable under frequent braking.
Getting up to the “speed limit”, the engines unique note rings through your ears and becomes addicting. Every on tunnel becomes a personal amphitheater with surrounding cars as your personal audience. Top down, or up the power is felt immediately. Yes the Speed model will churn out another 100hp+ for a considerable amount more than our model. But when did 500hp become a bad thing? For the money, you’re better off selecting a few more options in the catalog and living quite happily in the Continental GT V8 Convertible.
Living in Southern California, few places can provide a suitable backdrop for a Bentley to roam freely. After some research, we decided that Pasadena would be a great location to explore. As luck would have it, the city possessed a unique racing heritage. Pasadena used to host a world famous hill climb race between 1906-1909. During its tenure the race alone drew in over 30,000 spectators from around country. Everybody came to see drivers and their automobiles accelerate past the starting line at Los Robles Avenue and Orange Grove Avenue. Then blaze across Woodbury Road, and then climb the steep incline of Santa Rosa Avenue finally finishing atop Lake Avenue.
Sadly the event was closed after only a few years because of new residents setting up bungalows along the race route. The police also couldn’t control the throngs of “crazy spectators” lining the tack.
As we retraced the route and reached the top, we realized the task that racers had to achieve over 100 years ago. The incline was steeper than we had imagined and the trees lining the course were borderline claustrophobic. Some home’s front doors were a dozen or so feet away from the tarmac. This certainly was a sketchy race, but it had to be a thrilling one none-the less.
We could almost place ourselves back into the vary seats of the brave men who lusted after faster times and even faster cars. The Bentley was at home here and we had to let the car enjoy its moment once we crossed the imaginary finish line.
While we shot up the hill quite easily in our GTC V8, we had to keep in mind that our predecessors only had ten-percent the power our car was producing. Sitting on top of Lake Avenue, we soon began to wonder what the racecars of the day were like within the city. Where would they have gathered for a drink, parked for a showcase or even cruised if the hill climb were still around today?
Old Town is bursting at the seams with historic buildings, roads and various unique areas of interest. We found ourselves exploring City Hall, the Art Center South Campus staircase and of course the iconic Old Town Colorado Avenue. Lined with shops, eateries and alleyways where no doubt a racecar had been parked out front or hidden down in the era. Earning a second glance as the car passed by pedestrians imagining themselves in the drivers seat.
Alas, we were in a modern Bentley that still earns such envy today. Our observers weren’t so much as interested in the motorsports aspects of our chariot, but the maturity and heritage the car envelops. Its here we discovered that numbers aside, you find a soul within a car that everybody seems to connect with. While mass marketing and global design appeal floods our showrooms, its nice to know that even today you can purchase a car that is respected by nearly everybody for just strolling through town.