What a Ride!

By staff May 1, 2006

The item: 2006 Bentley Continental GTC, the long-awaited convertible version of 2003's popular GT. Prices weren't released at press time, but expect a range in the $200s. The 560-horsepower, 12-cylinder engine produces speeds of more than 190 mph, for an eye-catching, roof-optional ride that puts the wind in your hair, and everyone else in the dust.

What makes it special: Legendary strength and unmistakable glamour. Bentley's "Flying B" emblem turns heads even in chic Sarasota, and the GTC can go topless, too, the better for showing off its sumptuous leather seats and wood veneers. But the Continental isn't just for show: Bentley has given this moniker to its highest-performance models since 1952, when the first Continental was declared the fastest four-seat car on earth.

Behind the brand: Walter Owen "W.O." Bentley, an English train engineer and motorcycle racer, began making lightweight engines in 1913, and soon Bentley motors hummed away in World War I aircraft like the Sopwith Camel. The first Bentley production car debuted in 1921. Through that decade Bentley racecars broke world speed records and won the 24 Hours at Le Mans race three times. Rolls-Royce-no slouch in the luxury department itself-purchased the company in 1931. In Casino Royale, author Ian Fleming wrote that 007 was so enamored of his battleship-gray Bentley that he drove it "with an almost sensual pleasure."

Who has them: Prince George, uncle to Queen Elizabeth II, became the first English royal to own a Bentley when he bought a three-liter model in the 1920s. Her Majesty is now chauffeured around London in the 2002 one-of-a-kind State Bentley, which she helped design. They're a must for other Brits in the spotlight, including Victoria Beckham (formerly Posh Spice, now the wife of soccer hunk David Beckham), boxer Lennox Lewis and American Idol's Simon Cowell. Never one to skimp on luxury, Paris Hilton bops around Hollywood-and occasionally gets pulled over-in her own silver Continental GT, while Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe and J.Lo also tour Tinsel Town behind the winged B. And every rapper needs a fly whip, which is why Diddy and 50 Cent roll Bentleys, too.

Where to buy it: Five Bentley dealerships across Florida, including one in Clearwater, 21591 U.S. 19 North, and Miami, 2020 Biscayne Ave. Also in Orlando, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

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