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Continental Breakfast

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In March, we previewed the spectacular new Bentley Continental GT, but didn't get the chance to thoroughly open it up, let 'er rip, tear up the asphalt, lay waste to pavement, that sort of thing. I can now say, however, with clear-eyed fervor in the name of all that is good in the universe, that the situation has been rectified.

And the Continental GT is a monster. No British beauty has reached a top speed so elegantly since Princess Diana entered the Pont d'Alma Tunnel. (Sorry.) As I was given the keys, the Bentley handler told me, "be careful, she likes to keep it around 90." He was right, the speedometer is more of a guideline than a gadget, and it was more of challenge to maintain 70 than cracking the century mark. Theoretically, a car that weighs some 5,300 lbs. shouldn't move like a Ferrari, or at least not so comfortably, but it does. It's like sitting in a personal NetJet cockpit, swathed in leather, with a heated steering wheel, available as a $393 option along with $589 veneered door panels and $1,963 19" spoke chrome wheels, bringing the take-home to $162,000 and coming soon to a Jay-Z video near you.

Breezing the Continental in and out of the tree-lined single lanes in and around the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, I felt like a billionaire, Michael Schumacher and the star of a VH1 show: The Fabulous Life of Patrick J. Sauer. rolled into one. As I told the numerous star-struck inquirers, "it's not mine, but it's mine for the weekend," and my wife and I had a quite a time playing Robb Report dress-up. The folks at Crewe have plenty to be proud of, the handling is impeccable, squeezing curves tighter than Marc Anthony on Red Bull and Grey Goose.

And, not only is the Continental a world-beater, it's a relative bargain, as far as stuff only-the-uber-wealthy-can-afford goes, so sales are rolling like its trunk-filling 550 hp V-12. North American Bentley PR director John Crawford says they have delivered 670 in the Americas in 2004 and production levels can reach 2,100, only leaving 1,300 poor -- well, rich -- suckers on the waiting list. The good news is that sounds like Bentley is going to ratchet up production to some 5,000 in 2005, so start saving your penny stocks.

Sitting in the Continental backseat wasn't as roomy as it seemed upon first glance, so hold off on the chauffeur, or chauffeuring freeloaders around town. Also, and I suspect this will make Bentley folk wince, a guy walking by asked me if the Continental was the "new Chrysler {300C}" and I heard the same anecdote from another car writer. Chalk it up to the subtle "borrowing" by Chrysler of the Bentley front grille design, or chalk it up to the fact guys at the 7/11 aren't used to feasting their eyes on a true automotive celebrity, the Continental GT, even if it was only for a weekend. . . .




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