Bentley Continental GT

Weekends: Bentley Continental GT

Muscat, Oman awoke to another day of sunshine and perfection as I strolled across the marble courtyard. We sensed, long before seeing, what awaited our arrival under the palm trees a few metres away. Aegean Blue is one of several new colours for the 2011 Bentley Continental GT and I was about to grab the keys and take the wheel of this all new super coupe. Fast cars, idyllic roads and warm breezes off the sea; it’s the kind of surreal moment I could never tire of.

Power comes in the form of a 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine. Performance is rated as 567 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with 516 lb.-ft. of torque commencing at 1,700 rpm.

Steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters allow for rapid transition between gears. Mated to a 6-speed ZF Quickshift automatic transmission, 0-100 km/h flashes past in 4.6 seconds. Additional rapid indicators highlight 50-80 km/h in 1.7 seconds and 80-120 km/h in 2.9 seconds. Top speed touches the stratosphere at a heart-pounding 318 km/h.

Going fast is not the only factor setting the new Bentley Continental GT at the top of its class. Overall drivability and luxury are two additional elements for which the luxury automaker from Crewe, England takes great pride in.

Speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering feels superb and refined, providing optimum feedback without the rugged touch required by several of its elite competitors. A front double wishbone and rear multi-link setup features air-suspension with anti-roll bars. Continuous damping adds dynamic performance, setting the table for high-octane thrills. The ride is supple yet tight with very little lean or body roll even at a jet-setting pace.

The Sultanate of Oman, located on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, is the perfect destination in which to stretch the legs of the 2011 Bentley Continental GT.

Our host’s claim that prior to 1970 there was only 40 km’s in total of paved roads to be found. Directed by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Sultan of Oman, we experience multi-lane superhighways filled with commuters and rush hour traffic. In a way, it feels like any large city in North America. Outside the main centers, two-lane roadways cut a swath through arid desert and mountain ranges, linking the cities of Muscat, Nizwa and Sur in a triangle of modern day ease and convenience.

Where other exotic cars provide extreme performance with audacious sound effects and bone-jarring stiffness, the Bentley Continental GT needs none of the bravado to deliver equal amounts of fun and excitement.

Driving at high speed across the serene landscape, I quickly overtake anything else on the road. We pause only to admire the scenery, so reminiscent of Arizona and New Mexico, while making sure to steer clear of the many goats walking alongside the roadway.

Rounding a corner, we notice three camels in the backyard of a house and pull off to snap some quick pictures. Several drivers stop their vehicles to see if we need assistance while taking time to admire the car. Omani’s know a new Bentley when they see one. Each person drives away a few moments later, leaving us with an indelible impression of their politeness and one of many reasons why Oman is certain to become a worldwide tourist destination for many years to come.

Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa resides on the tranquil south-western shores of the Gulf of Oman. A total of three distinct resorts comprise this luxury property set on 124 acres near the rugged interior mountains. The drive in is impressive; high rock walls blocking our view of the approaching utopia, heat waves shimmering across molten asphalt.

Al Waha (The Oasis) features 262 guest rooms designed specifically with the active family in mind. Al Bandar (The Town) is the heart of the resort and highlights 198 large rooms, restaurants, a shopping center and 7 meeting rooms. Our days are spent at the 6-star Al Husn (The Castle) with features that include an infinity pool, private beach and a total of 160 sumptuously large guest rooms and 16 suites.

Fine dining takes place in several settings within Al Husn. Sultanah features à la Carte international cuisine while equally impressive Sharazad tantalizes with Moroccan fare. Casual dining is offered at various snack bars throughout the resort or pool and beach side when the need arises.

Chi Spa impresses with a full menu of services. A short golf cart ride from our hotel, 12 treatment rooms are situated in a unique outdoor garden environment. I opt for the one hour and forty-five minute Aroma Vitality treatment. Spoiling oneself is something this part of the Arab world is famous for so I gladly oblige the tradition.

Rising early in the morning, bright sunshine baths the jagged coastal mountains in vibrant shades of yellow, ochre and deep orange. A different colour awaits my attention again today and I quickly settle in behind the wheel of the sea-coloured Bentley Continental GT. It’s going to be another tough day in paradise, but somehow I know we will find a way to survive.

2011 Bentley Continental GT
Price as tested (before taxes): $221,675
Options on test vehicle: Naim Premium Audio System
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 6.0-litre W12/6-speed automatic
Power/torque: 567 hp/ 516 lb-ft
Fuel (capacity): Premium Unleaded (90L)
Fuel economy ratings: 19.6 L/100 lm city; 12.4 L/100 km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 8.4 L100 km over 550 km
Competitors: Aston Martin DB9, Audi R8, Ferrari 612, Mercedes-Benz CL-Class, Maserati GranTurismo, Porsche 911 Turbo S

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Where to Stay:
Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

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