Bentley Continental GT

bentley conti GT speed

Price when new (2003-2004): $ 353,000 – 400,000

Price now (May 2014): $ 120,000 +

For some unknown reason I have had this faint idea in the back of mind that someday I will be driving around in an all wheel drive Bentley Continental GT. Wishful thinking I hear you say, and I dare say you are right. The thing is I would probably plump for an Aston if I had that amount of dosh, something like $400-500,000 in today’s market, so it has always been a questionable dream for me. Why the Bentley? It ticks all the boxes of course. It’s beautifully made, looks a million dollars, has an extremely powerful engine and is superbly fast. But it’s not an Aston.

Bentley-Continental-GT-steering-wheel

Back in 2003 when it was introduced, it was the first ever Bentley to use mass produced parts. Though much of it was still hand built, the marque’s new owners, VW, forced the brand to use the same platform as its wonderful Phaeton and share its brand spanking new 6 litre twin turbo W12 engine. Because of this, Bentley took more orders for its new car than any other it had ever built and has since gone on to be its biggest seller globally. It is perhaps because of the numbers sold that resale values plummeted and today in the UK you can get hold of a 2004 built model for as little as £25-30,000. Here in Australia, it is not quite as rosy, mainly because the car was sold at astronomically inflated prices in the first place, much like other high end makes and a practice I have whined about on this site before.

However, we weren’t immune from the depreciation issue and so the price you can get a GT for now is almost within our grasp, that is if you are a company director and have a company car budget that would get you a high spec Merc or Bimmer. So, consider this Mr. MD, or CEO, why bother getting a car that everyone is driving around in, when say, for $130-150,000, you can now get a 2004 or 2005 Continental GT with around 40,000 on the clock. Yes it’s second hand, but you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference alongside a new one, and who in their right mind would have spent over a third of a million bucks and not look after it properly? The car is essentially brand new!

2013 bentley conti gt interior
Courtesy of bharathautos.com

 

Aha, I hear you say, think of the costs and how much of a money pit it will be. Utter tosh, I would reply, the car has a reputation for being over-engineered and almost nothing has been known to go wrong with them. I say almost nothing, because there a few little issues, but as you can read under the Research category, these tend to be sensor or electrical issues, and very minor ones at that. There will always be one owner out there who will moan, but look around the forums and you will notice that at least 85% of buyers have been utterly, ecstatically happy with their purchase. Even those who bought second hand.

As with any second hand car, super or not, if it is not maintained regularly then you are asking for trouble. Yes a Bentley will cost more to service than a BMW. Yes a part, however innocuous, will astound you with its price, though not quite as eye watering as a Lamborghini or Ferrari, thanks largely to the mass production, and because of the size of the engine and the lack of space under the bonnet, even a spark plug change can mean that the engine has to come out of its bay. And yes, you will be visiting the gas station more than you’d like.

used-2004-bentley-continental_gt-basetrim-4162-11470398-21-640

The good news however is that there are no belts to worry about with this engine. The lack of kilometres driven even for an 8 year old car mean it is still within warranty, and if it is not, you can purchase an extra 1, 2 or 3 years from Bentley for peace of mind.

So perhaps my whimsical dreams are not so whimsical. Perhaps its because they are so much cheaper than I thought, so much more within reach, that I could actually be driving around in one. Perhaps that is why my brain has singled the Conti GT out. Perhaps someone will offer me the stewardship of a fortune 500 company and a car allowance to boot. Perhaps …

Fast Facts

Engine – 6 litre Twin Turbo W12

Power – 423 kW; 567 bhp

Top Speed  – 317 km/h / 197 mph

0-100 km/h – 4.4 seconds

Fuel Consumption – av. 14 L/100 km (but you’d be driving like your Gran)

Price – 2004 model with 40,000kms – $120,000 +

Research – http://wp.me/p3rCxt-kk

 

By: CONCAVO WHEELS - CC BY 2.0
By: CONCAVO WHEELSCC BY 2.0

 

 

 

 

Alfa Romeo GT

alfa romeo gt

Alfa Romeo GT, hmmmm, mmmm

I say hmmm because it’s the first thing that comes to mind. “It’s an Alfa,” for those un-initiated in the Alfisti, is synonymous with “it’s a piece of shit,” let’s face it. Not to look at mind, but with respect to reliability. I guess it’s the automotive equivalent of marrying a porn star. It’s as sexy as hell but has a penchant for other men who like lube.

Mmmm speaks for itself. I mean look at it. The Alfa Romeo GT is a thing ofbeauty. On the inside as much as the out. Yes the leather seats are as good as they look and there’s even room for 3 kids, small ones preferably. But it’s the engine, all 3.2 litre V6 of it, and how it delivers its power that is the hook. You don’t even struggle because the sound then embraces you, the red hide squeezes your love handles and it’s all over red rover, its exhaust note sounding very much like a woman exhaling on a cigarette.

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I can see why you’d want it, but do you need it?

If I were a younger man, say like Nadim, my chauffeur for the next 25 minutes, this car would have to be it. It’s got the lot. I think you can just make out the words chick and magnet on the side.

But I’m not going to ask him to let me drive because fair’s fair it’s not my place, he’s trying to sell it. If he offers though, I’d bite his arm off.

There are no nasty clunks on upshift, no jarring of the clutch. The power comes on so progressively that I have to check myself for being so used to turbos. The ride is firm but comfortable, and sitting amid the waves of red cow and beaches of tactile black plastic makes this a very nice place to be. I have to admit that for a passenger this is a tidy ride.alfa romeo gt interior

Now I must confess that on this occasion necessity stated that I had to bring two of my offspring with me, so perhaps you can understand my reticence to not ask to drive, I am taking liberties enough. I’ve just asked a bloke to drive me around in his impeccably presented motor with two – (vomit/sticky sweet/mess oh the mess) insert which ever is most appropriate – monsters in tow. And he did. Hats off to him.

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But why this Alfa? This is the only GT V6 I can find locally that has had the Q2 diff upgrade. And why is that important I hear you ask. Well, other than the fact the original differential was hugely suspect engineering-wise, that when it went, it often took large chunks of the engine with it, much like a major operation back alley style. Other than that, the heavier nose and increase in power exposed the limits of traction, control and compromised the steering.

The Q2 on the other hand is different. Alfa’s limited-slip diff almost eliminates torque steer and understeer, which for a front driver with 244 horses/177 kW in its nose is no mean feat. And it works too with very few reported issues, if any. Traction and cornering are aided substantially, and Nadim has had few issues even in the wet. It’s almost like a 4WD  system for a front wheeler, as it splits the torque to either wheel according to the road conditions and means you can get on the throttle with more confidence as you exit a corner. So you’re safe in the knowledge that, if the inside tyre spins, the torsen type diff will transfer torque to the off-side wheel and maintain a peachy drive. It even improves the steering. And that is what this car should have always been about. 

“a self-locking front differential which incorporates all the strong points of a front-wheel drive system in terms of active safety, increasing driving enjoyment and control, while providing some of the advantages typical of four-wheel drive, but at a significantly lower cost and weight.”  Alfa’s take on its Q2 system

IMG_4762Equally as important is its ability to function. Forums the world over seem unanimous with praise and so far, few problems have been identified. From “it is probably the best upgrade you can do, and definitely worth doing as soon as you can afford it,” to  “the GT definitely needs a Q2, as well as protecting against the well talked about diff failure it transforms the way the car drives in all conditions.” Total costs for the upgrade range between $2-2,500 and whilst you are at it you could have the master cylinder and the clutch checked as the engine needs to come out.

So if you were to scratch that itch and finally say you own an Alfa, is this one to go for? Many would say the 147 GTA is the best, but in my opinion, the GT with the Q2 upgrade looks better, and has the slight edge when it comes to dynamics. It’s fast, it holds the road exceptionally well, and when compared to Alfa’s of old this one won’t be seeing too many blokes behind your back.

Prices

$11,000 – 35,000 for a mint condition 100th Anniversary edition built in 2010. Interestingly the MY2010 cars still did not come with the Q2 as standard, which is a shame.

The car on show here is for sale for $17,999 ono with just under 75,000 kms on the clock  – visit car sales for more information: http://www.carsales.com.au/private/details/Alfa-Romeo-GT-2004/SSE-AD-2333325/?Cr=4&sdmvc=1

Maintenance 

Service work ranges from $400 to around $1000 for a major service. This increases further depending on any parts needed.

Cam belts must be changed every 50,000kms or so. Alfa used to suggest every 72,000 miles but revised this down to 36,000 miles. It is worth changing the water pump at this time as it is a “belt off” job and will save you time and money.

The suspension has been known to get a bit “crashy” but otherwise it is up to the job. Nonetheless, it would be worth investing in new dampers & springs, so budget for that.

Research

For more information on the GT go to the Research link: http://rezoom.com.au/alfa-romeo-gt/

 

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Jaguar S-Type-R

I want an XFR. I really want an XFR-S. And, as an earlier post suggests, I’d also go for the new XJR, not because it looks better, which I am in two minds about, but because it can better accommodate the family. Just.

Of course trumping all these would be the new F-Type-R, or the FTR as some would have it. But for that I would have to choose only one in the brood to accompany me, and that sounds like a recipe for much shouting and gnashing of teeth.

By now no doubt you’ve noticed the common thread. I seem to have a fetish with the modern Jaguar range. Is it because of my English heritage? Am I a sucker for punishment? Are they just over-priced gadgets that ultimately spend more time leaking on your garage floor? Do they break down as soon as you look at them once the warranty expires?

Jaguar S Type R

There was a time when all the above was true, particularly during the 1970’s and early 80’s. You needed your wits about you to avoid an example made on a Friday for instance, much like a Dagenham Dustbin (a name given to a Ford built from that Essex town on the last day of the working week).

But things have improved since then. The current crop from Coventry can only be said to possess rude health with only the spectre of depreciation hanging around their collective neck. Unfortunately for me, they are not depreciating quickly enough, propped up as their prices are by Australia’s luxury car tax and all the pricey Euro brands ripping us off over foreign exchange (see my blog from last year).

So what to do? Where can I get my Jaguar fix at a reasonable price? The X-type doesn’t really do it for me, especially since I can get a Mondeo for a much better price and it’s essentially the same car. The XK is wonderful but impractical. The XJ X300 and X350 are fantastic, but I don’t think I am ready for one of those yet. So I am left with the S-Type and its contrived styling nod to the old mark 2.

I used to like it but as time wore on, I found it aged badly. However, out of all this uncertainty someone decided to do what Jaguar used to do best. They focused on driver enjoyment. They increased the power output with an all new 4.2 supercharged V8 engine, replacing the old and more troublesome 4.0 litre jobby. They added more weight and feel to the steering and attached a new 6-speed ZF gearbox that transformed the car into a true M5 challenger. They beefed up the styling making what was once rather an effeminate shape that, from the rear, looked as though its pants were falling down, into something far sportier. Its stubby derriere now shouted testosterone and aggression. They built the S-Type-R.

My only issue with it at the time was that Jag dumped the manual clutch option entirely but those who drove it, seemed to forgive this indiscretion. Its ride and stopping ability coupled to its rear wheel driven playfulness made up for it. Quite simply it was the best car Jaguar had made for a long time.

jaguar s type r in black

Initially offered for sale in 2002, the car had a make-over in 2004 and this seemed to improve the car’s little nagging problems, mostly electrical. Generally considered to be robust and durable, certainly from 2004 and when compared to earlier model Jags, it seems to me that the boys who were planning the XF and what we see on sale today, had a large hand in its production.

Though it was no slouch, hitting 100km/h in 5.3 seconds, it wasn’t as quick as an M5 and, arguably, neither was it as focused. But, where as the M5 would rattle your teeth over anything other than smooth tarmac, the Jag had the ability, through its active suspension, to waft you around at cruising speeds and then hunker down when you really felt the urge. And when you did, you’d be treated to 80% of its 553Nm of torque from a mere 1500rpm. At 3,500rpm you’d be pushed hard into the seat as the supercharger took hold and the cabin was bathed in its distinctive whine. Some loved the noise, others less so, but with 400bhp (281kW) on tap you’d be hearing it quite often. But that is part of its character and you don’t buy a Jag if you don’t want character.

Over 15 months the S-type R proved to be a terrific all-rounder. The about-town stuff and the long-distance hauls it would take in its stride. The seats were superb, the ride taut but never crashy, refinement high. It was a heavy car (1800kg) and it felt it, too, so even with 400bhp you had to really prod the engine to make it fly. But fly it did, and few things on the road were quicker. I thought I might tire of the slightly whiny supercharger, but I didn’t mind it at all; and I came to love the wonderful V8 woofle … – Peter Tomalin evo Magazine

You also got exclusivity. Far fewer were bought compared to an M5, maybe for fear it would breakdown. Except they didn’t, well perhaps a few of the earlier models, but the facelifted versions from 2004 are awash with praise from the forums and, ultimately, a realisation of expectation, which is what it is all about, I guess.

jaguar s-type-r interior

Today, you can pick up a 2002 model from as little as $24,000 but that would come with over 150,000kms, and almost certainly expensive wear and tear. But double that and you can get a 2005 model with just over 50,000kms on the clock. Originally priced at around $169,000, that is a hefty reduction and you can probably knock off another $5k or so by using the research on this site.

As ever, make sure it has a full service history. Ask about any transmission issues, especially any lurching (see Research by clicking the link below for more information). Its ZF gearbox, though excellent, had been prone to electrical problems when new, but these would have been diagnosed and rectified by now. This was not solely a Jag issue either. BMW had problems with the gearbox and it seems that it was simply a software glitch.

Every forum I have read urges all owners to find a trusted repair and service centre. Not every mechanic understands these cars and it is definitely worth joining forums and asking the question of its readers. Dealers have been known to be less than accommodating, so a specialist can often be the way forward, especially for cars getting on in age.

Find a good one, and you may never look back. It is old school Jaguar but in a good way, and I think evo’s Mr. Tomalin says it best about his long termer;

Just because it’s taken Jaguar bosses 30 years to realise that people still like priapic sports cars, don’t take it out on the S-type R. It’s not just a very good car, but a very good Jaguar.

For more research and a list of useful forums, go to http://wp.me/p3rCxt-ho

jaguar s type r
By: Jaguar MENA