• Image Credit: Bentley

Big wheels, big grills, big money. A favorite of professional athletes, investment bankers and rap stars alike, Bentley drivers are often larger than life.

So why did Bentley outfit the base 2013 Continental GTC with a significantly smaller engine -- a 4.0L V8 to be exact, down from a 6.0L W12? Did Bentley seriously just downgrade a $200,000 vehicle?

In today's world, bigger is no longer necessarily better. In fact, automakers have been downsizing engines for the past couple of years, especially with their larger, more luxurious cars. In the face of more stringent fuel economy guidelines and more eco-conscious consumers -- even in the 1% -- smaller engines have become the norm on flagship vehicles.

The name of game is no longer horsepower but MPG. 

The 2013 Continental GTC is a 2-door exotic convertible, which now comes standard with this new twin-turbo V8, as well as almost every luxury feature currently known to mankind. The GTC's ultimate mission is to provide the driver with a lavish interior, smooth and supple ride, statement-making looks and power under the hood.

Basically, drivers want the world to know they are driving a car worth more than most Americans spend on their homes.

So now that it comes with a much smaller base engine, does the car still have the "go big or go home" feel? I drove the GTC for a week to find out. Here's what I liked -- and didn't -- about the exotic droptop.

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The Basics
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The Basics

MSRP: $193,300 - $225,740
Invoice Price: $179,769 - $201,252
As Tested (with options): $225,740

Engine: 4.0L twin-turbo V8

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Performance: 500 hp, 487 lb-ft of torque

Fuel Economy: 14 mpg City, 24 mpg Highway

Seating: 4 people

Cargo: 7 cubic feet

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Exterior Styling
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Exterior Styling

With its swooping curves, enormous grille and gargantuan rims, slow rolling down Main St. might be where you derive the most pleasure from this vehicle, as passersby can't help but stare. I think some of the color options on the Continental are questionable (Aquamarine Metallic, Aztec Sun 3 Coat Pearlescent and Continental Yellow 3 Coat come to mind), but the Moonbeam Metallic (also known as silver) on my tester looked fantastic.

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Interior
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Interior

The interior of the Continental GTC is nothing short of lavish. The seats are superb, leather is everywhere and the sound system is top notch. It's obvious that the designers and engineers went to painstaking lengths to ensure that every single surface the driver could touch, look at, sit on and even smell emitted an aura of pure lavishness. It would be impossible to list each of the luxury appointments that come in this car, but I was especially impressed by the Breitling clock included on the center console, as it perfectly represents just how detail-oriented the Bentley designers are. Breitling is not exactly an economy brand of timepiece, and to include one as the small clock that hardly anyone pays attention to on the car's dash is just absurd -- in the best way.

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Passenger And Cargo Space
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Passenger And Cargo Space

Because the GTC has a convertible top to account for, cargo space is not great. Rated at 7 cubic feet, you're not going to have issues fitting in a couple suitcases or grocery bags, but this is not a vehicle that you're going to take to Home Depot. I seriously doubt any Bentley buyers have plans to do that, though.

Up front, interior space is great, with ample leg, shoulder and headroom. In the back, however, things get cramped. I sat in the backseat for a few minutes and it was not pleasant. I'm slightly taller than the average bear and was very, very cramped. I would actually rather sit in the back of my girlfriend's MINI Cooper. But this car isn't intended for family outings. It's all about the driver and passenger. And those seats are fantastic.

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Driving Dynamics
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Driving Dynamics

This is a big car with a smaller engine. But it simply doesn't feel that way.

The fact that Bentley greatly reduced the size of the engine is hardly noticeable. While driving, pickup is great, turbo lag is minimal and the car elicits a stellar roar when you step on the gas, which you have to fully experience with the top down. Although the car is big and heavy -- being loaded with so many luxury appointments, of course -- the 500 horsepower and 487 lb-ft can certainly get the heart racing, if you're so inclined.

The GTC is undoubtedly better at accelerating in a straight line than carving up a curvy canyon road, but that doesn't make its handling terrible. It has a low center of gravity, stiff chassis and solid brakes. But all in all, handling is simply good, not great. Enthusiast drivers looking for a wild ride in the countryside will probably come away unfulfilled. It simply isn't designed to be that kind of vehicle.

The GTC truly excels at average around the town cruising. Its Continuous Damping Control (CDC) air suspension makes it feel like you're driving on a cloud and, with the top up, its insulated walls keep almost every single sound out of the cabin. It's relaxing – if you can put aside your fear of damaging such an expensive piece of metal, that is.

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Tech And Infotainment
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Tech And Infotainment

It's inherently tough to find things not to like about a car that costs over $200k, but the GTC suffers from the same flaw as so many other vehicles: laggy infotainment. While the system is aesthetic and mostly user friendly, it's painfully slow. The buttons on the capacitive touchscreen take almost a full second to react when touched and the back-up camera's feed, despite being otherwise excellent, takes forever to load onto the screen. I often found myself frustrated waiting for the picture and just backed up without it.

Bentley needs to tune this feature up, considering that it takes away from the otherwise flawless luxe experience.

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Fuel Economy
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Fuel Economy

Not only does the new V8 supply the driver with power and sensory stimulation, it has also allowed for a big improvement in fuel economy: 14 mpg city and 24 mpg highway might not sound great in our era of 30-plus or bust, but it's a pretty big increase over the old 6.0L W12's 11 city and 19 highway. Unfortunately, the GTC is still subject to the "gas-guzzler" tax, but people who buy this car probably use $10 bills as bookmarks, so what do they care? But the new engine is still a step towards becoming more environmentally friendly.

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Bottom Line
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Bottom Line

Downgrading the Continental GTC to a 4.0L V8 appears to be a strong move on Bentley's part. The car still drives great, with more than adequate horsepower and torque and has received a solid boost in fuel economy.

The infotainment is still a fairly big flaw, but otherwise, this car is nothing short of an utter delight to drive. It's lavishness, distinctiveness and utter refinement all in one package. Whether you're slow-rolling down the street, soaking up the stares from the proletariat, or opening it up to smoke some foolish twerp off of the line, the Bentley Continental GTC is undoubtedly one of the best cars to be in.

Sure, it's gotten smaller, but it will continue to remain the star of big dreams everywhere.

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