The magic and majesty of this grouping was evident, even without the turn of a key. All this beauty and luxury begs the question: “What is the best Grand Touring coupe to transport two adults and their baggage to the cottage in comfort and at break-neck speed?” I shared this experience with several other enthusiasts who, at the end of the day, would have very different answers.
No car felt as regal as the Bentley Continental GT Speed and no car felt as elephantine either. A total of 5100 lbs. is a lot to carry around at high speeds, but the GT carries it well. The Bentley does luxury like no other car can. If any of the others can feel half as special as this one, they will be doing well for their owners. Conversely, the Bentley is no slouch. A W-12 engine displacing 6.0 liters, 616 horses, a 4.2 second 0-60 mph time and a top speed of 205mph make for a car that is best used as a high speed cruiser and an eyebrow lifter, not an apex carver. You don’t get a blast of speed, but instead, a steady surge of power. It’s comfortable but surprisingly quick. Two tone quilted leather, swaths of wood and every infotainment convenience known to man is standard. This is the schoolyard bully who is definitely strong, but if you taunt him, you will be surprised to know that he can also run.
If urgent speed is what you need with your comfort, then you should turn to the Aston Martin. A total of 510 hp and 457 lb-ft. from a 5.9-liter engine is very enticing. While the Bentley wallows a bit in curves, the Aston loves winding roads and shoots to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds on its way to a claimed top speed of 183 mph. the DB9 rockets along any stretch of road with a glorious V-12 shriek at high revs and a touch of crackle and pop on deceleration into corners. The brakes are quiet as can be. Leave the suspension in its softest mode and the compliance won’t let the occasional surface imperfections throw the car off line. The interior is comfortable but doesn’t hide its sporting intentions.
We’ve already covered the Maserati GranTurismo Coupe and the verdict is the same with the Sport – this isn’t an all-out performance car. The thrill is there at high revs or on track days, but on public roads and in daily stop-and-go, this transaxle setup is simply too jumpy and easily triggered to blend smoothly with Maserati’s gentleman-GT image. The Sport brings a little spice to the party with sharp suspension and steering. Some people were betwixt and between enjoying the exquisite leather interior and reveling in the symphony of the 4.7-liter, 454-hp, DOHC 32-valve V-8.
If the DB9 and GranTurismo Sport are analogue machines, then the BMW M6 is very much at the forefront of the techno age. BMW has filled the new car to the gills with a 4.4-litre V8 that is twin-turbocharged with a 7-speed dual-clutch in place of an old-school six-speed auto. Forget elegance and glamour, this thing is about function. Even with the well balanced proportions, this is a thug in sheetmetal. It’s techy and brutal, but its looks are more sensuous thanks to a recent redesign. The M6 feels extremely well planted and the steering is quite pleasant in any of its three settings. The M6 has the most controlled chassis of the group. Supple Merino leather covers the seats, console, and door panels and for a little extra change, everything else. Here’s where it gets interesting. There is an electronic setting for EVERYTHING. If there was ever a car that you could set up yourself, this is it. Headlight dimmers, power output, even the firmness of the suspension is yours to change at the movement of an i-knob. Everything you can’t adjust, there is a computer that will adjust it on the fly. It is very high- tech, maybe only for high tech’s sake.
Finally, there is the Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG, the hot rod of the group. Standard AMG practice means the styling changes are slight, but include a more aggressive front fascia, side skirts and prominent quad exhaust outlets. The V-8 for the automaker’s new 5.5-liter bi-turbo unit renders 563 horsepower while torque tops out a stump-pulling 664 lb-ft. of torque. This train goes to 155 mph in standard form (186 mph with the upgraded package) and a zero-to-60 mph sprint of 4.3 seconds for the AMG Performance Package model. Buyers considering the CL63 want more than just power and speed, so Mercedes-Benz has packed this coupe full of standard features like the COMAND system with 40-GB hard-drive GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, an 11-speaker Harman-Kardon LOGIC7 5.1-channel surround-sound system, power sunroof, bi-xenon headlamps with active curve illumination, electronic closing trunk and a slew of AMG-specific interior upgrades like premium leather, performance steering wheel with aluminum shift paddles, new instrument cluster and 14-way power heated seats. None of which will make any difference when you are hanging on for dear life in the corners and screaming to the top of your lungs in the straights. AMG has one rule: “handle the straight line like a champ and make ’em scream like a school girl in the corners”. Comfortable and exhilarating!
Which is best? It depends on what you want and from what country you want it from. Only the Bentley and Mercedes offer comfortable four-place seating. The Germans seem to have gotten the visceral formula for 60’s muscle car – albeit with electronic nannies at every corner. Still, a CL63 AMG has the same brute force of a ’71 Hemi Cuda, go figure! The British are refined double agents. They have luxury and craftsmanship along with speed you could use to get from Slough to Glasgow before your mates. They aren’t performance GT’s, but GTs in the truest sense. The Maserati is the lone Italian (wish we could have had an F12) and stands as a blend of art and engineering. It’s the best way for affluence to have romance. Perhaps in the future, we can bring along the Porsche 911, The Nissan GT-R and Jaguar XKR to round out the contest. For the sake of debate, I’d throw in a Cadillac CTS-V. Those who can afford this type of machinery are not into fuel economy or storage compartments. They just want a car to reflect their success and personality. Any of these cars is an equally brilliant way to do that for $200,000 dollars.