Depreciation Appreciation: 2003-2011 Bentley Continental GT

Welcome to Depreciation Appreciation! Every month, your pals at autoTRADER.ca dig up an instance of how depreciation can make for an extraordinary used-car deal.

Folks, this month, we’ve hit the jackpot.

During a recent saunter through the autoTRADER.ca website for my daily browse of cars I wish I could afford, I discovered a thing: you can have your very own, real-life Bentley Continental GT for under $50,000 all day long.

Maybe, the desire to drive something from one the world’s foremost luxury brands is burning in your guts like a gallon of Sriracha sauce. Maybe you want to look like a total boss, a big-dollar shot-caller, or a distinguished business mogul on the relative cheap. Maybe you’d just like to roll up to your local gym or Walmart and be mistaken for a real estate agent from House Hunters International.

In any case, be sure to give this a read.

The gist? Numerous copies of the Bentley Continental GT are available for about the same money as a nicely loaded Lexus ES.

Of course, from an investment standpoint for the long haul, the Lexus ES is the (far) more logical choice. There are many reasons to drop $40,000 or $50,000 on a vehicle though, and logic is just one of them. Compared to the (advised) Lexus, the Continental GT has twice as many cylinders, and will easily fulfill your dreams of leaving dollar bills raining down behind you as you peel out of the KFC drive-thru. (Don’t forget to turn off the traction control!)

Just understand that you don’t buy a car like this because its sensible, easy on fuel, or capable of being owned for years without turning your wallet inside out. Even the fuel bill will be decimating. But imagine, if you will, installing a set of studded winter tires, rocking this around for the winter, and selling in the spring? Just to say you did, and all the rest.

The Sticky

Boys and girls: the Bentley Continental GT we’ll look at today spans model years 2003 to 2011 inclusive, and was available with a twin-turbo W12 engine of 6.0 litres’ displacement that generated no less than 560 horsepower.

All-wheel drive (AWD) was standard, so you can rip snow-doughnuts in the library parking lot after the lights go off to your heart’s content. There are four heated seats. Automatic climate control was included. You can install a roof rack. Hell, a used Continental GT might be the classiest ski-trip rocket going.

Of course, the Continental GT also has one of the most lavish and beautiful automobile cabins and bodies ever built, high-performance lighting and stereo provisions, Bluetooth, navigation, and virtually every other feature you could shake a crisp stack of dollar bills at.

Approximate New Value

New vehicle pricing for this classiest of roadbeasts clocked in well north of $200,000 before any options, packages or customizations. With some add-ons, and depending on the specification and year, it’s safe to say this was easily a quarter-million-dollar car.

Approximate Used Value

Today, look for a used copy of the Continental GT for under $60,000, with many units on offer for far less than that. Case in point? Here’s a unit with 12-cylinder power, AWD, and full rap-video specification with black-out tint, black paint, and black wheels, on offer for under $44,000.

Here’s an example with fewer miles, available for under $50,000 with that creamy and delicious caramel-coloured interior.

Stretch your budget a little towards about $70,000, and you’ll find units like this, with even fewer miles on the clock.

Just remember: “Oh cool! That’s a big-dollar car for $45,000. I can afford that!” is some dangerous thinking with this vehicle. Why? The upfront cost of the Continental GT isn’t the only thing required of your bank account.

Be sure to do your homework, understanding that the cost of insurance, fuel, maintenance, fluid changes, and (heaven forbid) repairs are all going to be enormous. Ditto the tires. Ditto the brakes.

And God help you if you whack a pothole and turn one of the wheels into an octagon.

Cars like the Continental GT are loved for many reasons, but Lexus-like long-term ownership costs are not among them.

Test Drive Tips

If you’ll pull the trigger on a used copy of this rocket-propelled luxury spa, don’t let lust cloud your judgement, as you will pay very dearly for this mistake.

First, assume that the vehicle you’re considering needs four tires, brakes all around, and at least one overdue or missed maintenance and servicing routine, which alone may cost $2,000 or more. Work backwards from an expectations standpoint to help prevent buying someone else’s maintenance and repair bills. Put simply, approach any used Conti assuming it needs $7,000 to $8,000 worth of work, until you have proof to the contrary.

Next, read this discussion, where several owners chime in about the potential repair costs, what needs to be dealer serviced and what doesn’t, and some possible ways to keep the maintenance and repair bills down.

Note that oil changes can run $500 or more, and that a potentially problematic brake-light switch can require several thousand dollars to repair if it goes bad. Check the brake lights for proper functionality before you buy, and look for any warning messages in the instrument cluster relating to the brake lights, to help confirm that this is not the case.

Other issues to check for may include leaky power steering pumps, saggy interior headliners, and niggling electronic gremlins which may require a pre-purchase diagnostic scan to reveal. If you don’t have a Bentley dealer nearby, your local VW dealership may be able to help, as some of the electronics, and interfaces used to read and diagnose them, are shared between the brands.

Other than the possible brake light switch issue, specific and widespread problems are hard to nail down given low sales volumes, and even fewer owners taking to the internet to share their experiences.

For best results, we’d advise ensuring that the unit you’re considering has never been modified in any way by a previous owner, ensuring that each and every maintenance item outlined in the owner’s manual is up to date, and to have a diagnostic scan completed, as a bare minimum. If you’ll keep your Conti for a few years, budget to buy the best extended warranty package available, to help protect yourself from expensive repairs.

Verdict

This generation of Continental GT puts one of the world’s foremost luxury vehicles within reach of many, though it’s vital to understand that the ongoing costs of ownership can be relatively enormous. Many owners have enjoyed their Continental GT for years with few if any problems, though the average shopper, with the average bank account, is advised to budget for contingency fund of a few thousand dollars, in addition to the purchase price, just in case.

Classiest winter rocket on the road for $45,000? 12/6/2018 8:00:00 AM