Fifty years ago, British car royalty probably wouldn't have wanted to make the Grand Tour, or GT, with the aid of Germans. But today they face a new temptation: the 2004 Bentley Continental GT. Bentley hasn't produced an all-new model in decades. But its owner, Volkswagen, encouraged the designers at Crewe to spend their cash creating a car for the ages. The pounds were well spent, as the bratwurst-and-mash combination melds craftsmanship, luxury, and technology into the self-styled "fastest four-seat coupe in the world," a mantle solidified when Team Bentley took the top two spots at the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Sticker price: $150,000, which also makes this the Wrst Bentley in the "theoretically possible" price bracket.
Available: April 2004.
Vital stats: 6-liter, 12-cylinder, twin-turbo engine kicking out 550 hp; all-wheel drive, 6-speed manual paddle shift (in addition to this feature, borrowed from racecars, there's a semiautomatic gear shift and an automatic--feel free to mix it up, they all come standard) and it zips along at 198 mph, 0 to 60 in under five seconds.
Nice touches: Breitling analog clock, actual roomy backseats, a fuel tank under the floor that frees up trunk space to make any Mafia don weep, keyless entry, a six-CD changer tucked into the glove compartment, and a Nokia "docking station" that displays text messages and your address book on the console, so you can call your jackass brother-in-law to tell him you've purchased a Bentley.
What you think it says about you: "I've made it. Bring me your fattest calf and finest wine."
What it really says about you: "No more French's for me, slather my earl of sandwiches in Grey Poupon."
Second opinion: "Bentleys say you are in power, you like being in charge, and you love to drive, as opposed to a Rolls-Royce, which is supposed to have a chauffeur," says Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille, renowned automotive psychoanalyst. "But the design of the Continental GT doesn't have a strong identity. The CEO who buys a Bentley wants to make a statement: 'I am a successful entrepreneur, and I want it known.' That won't happen if you have to read the nameplate to know who manufactured the car."