“Well, I seen a Cadillac window uptown
And there was nobody around,
I got into the driver’s seat
And I drove down 42nd Street
In my Cadillac.
Good car to drive after a war.”
—Bob Dylan, “Talking World War III Blues”
The Continental’s bottom line includes $3,700 in gas-guzzler tax. It weighs 5,170 pounds. It gets just 20 mpg in the city, and only 17 on the highway. You’ll pay an estimated $4,690 in fuel over the course of a year, during which time your car will consume 26.3 barrels of oil. The environment is further insulted by a federal carbon score of 14.1 on a scale that only goes up to 16.2.
Now let’s compare all of that to the other car in my driveway, a 2007 Honda Fit. That car cost approximately $16,000 new, gets 28 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway, costs $935 to fuel for a year (11 barrels of oil) and has a carbon rating of 5.9.
Remarkably, the tiny Fit will also carry more people and things. The Bentley has a gorgeous rear seat covered in “premium hides,” but it has almost no rear legroom when six-footers like me are up front. It helps if back-seat passengers are compliant children. The rear seat doubles as an elegant parcel shelf, because the trunk (would it be better if I said “boot”?) is fairly shallow.
The ergonomic shortcomings of the Bentley—some controls are awkwardly placed, there isn’t much upfront storage space—fade for performance junkies when they get behind the wheel. The twin-turbo W-12 engine generates a massive 600 horsepower through all four wheels. You reach 60 mph in just four seconds, and 100 mph in 9.9. It is indeed awesome and intoxicating to drive, as all those horses pull together in a massive blast of expended energy.
Of course, you’re probably like me and live in the real world, which means there’s precious little opportunity to exploit the car’s ability to reach over 200 mph. In bumper-to-bumper traffic, your attention may wander to the $6,900 premium audio system.
Robin Page, head of interior design at Bentley Motors, says that the GT “has proven to be an unequivocal sales success around the globe.” So some people don’t seem to be feeling the heat. But the fact that oil revenues are down around the Persian Gulf could be sobering.
If you “need” this level of performance, the Bentley delivers. But it’s nice to know there’s a green alternative. The Tesla Roadster is actually slightly faster, 3.7 seconds to 60. It’s a convertible. And it uses no gas at all, being powered by more than 6,000 lithium-ion batteries. Total fun and zero emissions, too. The cost? A mere $109,000.