Review: The 2019 Bentley Continental GT is beautiful, excessive and totally worth it

The Bentley Continental GT is iconic. The vehicle has long stood for excess and opulence, and I knew that going in. I expected the Continental GT to be over-engineered and capable of high-speed thrills. And it is, but there’s more.

The tester I’m driving costs $ 279,000. Of course it’s beautiful and fast and dripping with technology. It’s a Bentley. Inside and out, at high speed or low speed, the latest Continental GT exceeded all my expectations.

The machine glides over the road, powered by a mechanical symphony performing under the hood. The W12 engine is a dying breed, and it’s a shame. It’s stunning in its performance here. This is a 200 mph vehicle, but I didn’t hit those speeds. What surprised me the most is that I didn’t need to go fast. The new Continental GT is thrilling in a way that doesn’t require speed. It’s like a great set of speakers or exclusive liquor. Quality over quantity, and in this mechanical form, the quality is stunning.

Review

Bentley debuted the Continental GT in 2003 and retained a familiar form over the years. Its mission has remained constant: To be the very best grand touring car available. It’s held that crown on and off since 2003 as other cars entered the game. But with this latest revision, the crown has returned to Bentley. This is an astounding vehicle to take on a road trip. It’s like a private jet on the highway.

Under the long hood sits a massive W12 engine with twin turbos. The setup results in over 620 HP and 664-foot pounds of torque. And it knows how to translate those numbers to the payment. The engine pounds not like a stack of Marshall amps at a Motorhead concert, but pounds like a symphony playing Beethoven’s 5th with intensity.

The Bentley Continental GT performance is where it stands apart.

It glides as speeds reach illegal levels. There’s no drama from the transmission or argument from the engine. When the accelerator drops to the floor, a gateway opens in front of the Bentley, allowing it to transcend space and time as it exceeds posted speed limits.

The Bentley Continental GT lays out its power with the precision of an electric vehicle but the intensity of a street racer. The power delivery is unreal. Under normal driving modes, the transmission is hardly noticeable, and under strain of chasing a quarter mile, the shifts are barely noticeable as it arm wrestles the massive W12.

Driving the Bentley Continental GT is an exercise in restraint. At times, say, when coming’s out of a gnarly curve, you feel the need to slam the pedal to the floor and launch the car off the apex. But that would land you in jail. This is a car that could live its best life on a track, but it doesn’t need the track to be happy. Even driving the Continental GT to the golf course or office park is nearly a thrill.

The GT is just excellent. It inspires confidence and regal intrigue that’s often missing in many of its contemporaries.

Entering the latest Continental is like sinking behind the controls of a fantasy rocket ship. Brushed metal adorns the center stack and handcrafted wood and leather wrap the cabin. Adorable metal pulls control the vents, and machined knobs perform various functions.

The leather is soft and metal real. It’s the little things, too. The lume on the analog clock is fantastic and the wood grain matches throughout. The seats feature a lovely diamond pattern with multiple layers of embroidered detail. Don’t want to look at an LCD screen? Hit a button, and it rotates away, revealing a set of three analog gauges in its place.

However, throughout the Continental GT, there are odd choices of material. Example: The gear shift is plastic and creaks like a well-used toy. It’s an odd choice for a substantial touchpoint. It feels cheap in comparison to gear shifters in other vehicles. BMW, for instance, is using manufactured crystal in its new large SUV and it conveys a sense of stoutness missing in the Bentley’s.

Other plastic bits feel out of place. When sitting down, a bar extends from behind the seats, pushing the seatbelt within reach of the driver. It’s flimsy plastic. The handle on the outside feels loose. Even the key fob is underwhelming; I think the fob for my F-150 is more substantial.

I’m nitpicking, but the Bentley Continental GT costs north of $ 279,000.

The controls are familiar. The Bentley uses a lot of switch plates and instruments from Audi’s part’s bin though, in the Bentley, they’re chrome. The Audi theme continues to the digital instrument cluster where the shares the same design as the one found in most Audi’s. Expect a similar experience throughout. This isn’t a bad thing. Audi has one of the best interfaces available throughout the industry.

The 2019 Bentley Continental GT is unforgettable. It’s a beautiful combination of obscene power and luxury materials.

I took delivery of this tester on the eve of a long weekend and spent as much time in it as I could. It’s more comfortable than my house. The seats are supple and supportive. The dash impressive with its woodwork and analog dials. The power is intoxicating.

Cars like the Continental GT will likely continue to exist after electric vehicles become the norm. At least until the Earth runs out of oil. They have to. Cars like this will always be a luxury item. They have a soul missing from electric vehicles. There’s nothing like putting your foot down on a Bentley W12 and feeling the world come alive around you.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

How Juul made vaping viral to become worth a dirty $38 billion

A Juul is not a cigarette. It’s much easier than that. Through devilishly slick product design I’ll discuss here, the startup has massively lowered the barrier to getting hooked on nicotine. Juul has dismantled every deterrent to taking a puff.

The result is both a new $ 38 billion valuation thanks to a $ 12.8 billion investment from Marlboro Cigarettes-maker Altria this week, and an explosion in popularity of vaping amongst teenagers and the rest of the population. Game recognize game, and Altria’s game is nicotine addiction. It knows it’s been one-upped by Juul’s tactics, so it’s hedged its own success by handing the startup over a tenth of the public corporation’s market cap in cash.

Juul argues it can help people switch from obviously dangerous smoking to supposedly healthier vaping. But in reality, the tiny aluminum device helps people switch from nothing to vaping…which can lead some to start smoking the real thing. A study found it causes more people to pick up cigarettes than put them down.

Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

How fast has Juul swept the nation? Nielsen says it controls 75 percent of the U.S. e-cigarette market up from 27 percent in September last year. In the year since then, the CDC says the percentage of high school students who’ve used an e-cigarette in the last 30 days has grown 75 percent. That’s 3 million teens or roughly 20 percent of all high school kids. CNBC reports that Juul 2018 revenue could be around $ 1.5 billion.

The health consequences aside, Juul makes it radically simple to pick up a lifelong vice. Parents, regulators, and potential vapers need to understand why Juul works so well if they’ll have any hope of suppressing its temptations.

Shareable

It’s tough to try a cigarette for the first time. The heat and smoke burn your throat. The taste is harsh and overwhelming. The smell coats your fingers and clothes, marking you as smoker. There’s pressure to smoke a whole one lest you waste the tobacco. Even if you want to try a friend’s, they have to ignite one first. And unlike bigger box mod vaporizers where you customize the temperature and e-juice, Juul doesn’t make you look like some dorky hardcore vapelord.

Juul is much more gentle on your throat. The taste is more mild and can be masked with flavors. The vapor doesn’t stain you with a smell as quickly. You can try just a single puff from a friend’s at a bar or during a smoking break with no pressure to inhale more. The elegant, discrete form factor doesn’t brand you as a serious vape users. It’s casual. Yet the public gesture and clouds people exhale are still eye catching to trigger the questions, “Whats that? Can I try?”

And perhaps most insidiously, vaping seems healthier. A lifetime of anti-smoking ads and warning labels drilled the dangers into our heads. But how much harm could a little vapor do?

A friend who had never smoked tells me they burn through a full Juul pod per day now. Someone got him to try a single puff at a nightclub. Soon he was asking for drag off of strangers’ Juuls. Then he bought one and never looked back. He’d been around cigarettes at parties his whole life but never got into them. Juul made it too effortless to resist.

Concealable

Lighting up a cigarette is a garish activity prohibited in many places. Not so with discretely sipping from a Juul.

Cigarettes often aren’t allowed to be smoked inside. Hiding it is no easy feat and can get you kicked out. You need to have a lighter and play with fire to get one started. They can get crushed or damp in your pocket. The burning tip makes them unruly in tight quarters, and the bud or falling ash can damage clothing and make a mess. You smoke a cigarette because you really want to smoke a cigarette.

Public establishments are still figuring out how to handle Juuls and other vaporizers. Many places that ban smoking don’t explicitly do the same for vaping. The less stinky vapor and more discrete motion makes it easy to hide. Beyond airplanes, you could probably play dumb and say you didn’t know the rules if you did get caught. The metal stick is hard to break. You won’t singe anyone. There’s no mess, need for an ashtray, or holes in your jackets or couches.

As long as your battery is charged, there’s no need for extra equipment and you won’t draw attention like with a lighter. Battery life is a major concern for heavy Juulers that smokers don’t have worry about, but I know people who now carry a giant portable charger just to keep their Juul alive. But there’s also a network effect that’s developing. Similar to iPhone cords, Juuls are becoming common enough that you can often conveniently borrow a battery stick or charger from another user. 

And again, the modular ability to take as few or as many puffs as you want lets you absent-mindedly Juul at any moment. At your desk, on the dance floor, as you drive, or even in bed. A friend’s nieces and nephews say that they see fellow teens Juul in class by concealing it in the cuff of their sleeve. No kid would be so brazen as to try smoke in cigarette in the middle of a math lesson.

Distributable

Gillette pioneered the brilliant razor and blade business model. Buy the sometimes-discounted razor, and you’re compelled to keep buying the expensive proprietary blades. Dollar Shave Club leveled up the strategy by offering a subscription that delivers the consumable blades to your door. Juul combines both with a product that’s physically addictive.

When you finish a pack of cigarettes, you could be done smoking. There’s nothing left. But with Juul you’ve still got the $ 35 battery pack when you finish vaping a pod. There’s a sunk cost fallacy goading you to keep buying the pods to get the most out of your investment and stay locked into the Juul ecosystem.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

One of Juul’s sole virality disadvantages compared to cigarettes is that they’re not as ubiquitously available. Some stores that sells cigs just don’t carry them yet. But more and more shops are picking them up, which will continue with Altria’s help. And Juul offers an “auto-ship” delivery option that knocks $ 2 off the $ 16 pack of four pods so you don’t even have to think about buying more. Catch the urge to quit? Well you’ve got pods on the way so you might as well use them. Whether due to regulation or a lack of innovation, I couldn’t find subscription delivery options for traditional cigarettes.

And for minors that want to buy Juuls or Juul pods illegally, their tiny size makes them easy to smuggle and resell. A recent South Park episode featured warring syndicates of fourth-graders selling Juul pods to even younger kids.

Dishonorable

Juul co-founder James Monsees told the San Jose Mercury News that “The first phase is proving the value and creating a product that makes cigarettes obsolete.” But notice he didn’t say Juul wants to make nicotine obsolete or reduce the number of people addicted to it.

Juul co-founder James Monsees

If Juul actually cared about fighting addiction, it’d offer a regimen for weaning yourself off of nicotine. Yet it doesn’t sell low-dose or no-dose pods that could help people quit entirely. In the US it only sells 5% and 3% nicotine versions. It does make 1.7% pods for foreign markets like Israel where that’s the maximum legal strengths, though refuses to sell them in the States. Along with taking over $ 12 billion from one of the largest cigarette companies, that makes the mission statement ring hollow.

Juul is the death stick business as usual, but strengthened by the product design and virality typically reserved for Apple and Facebook.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

California cops bust crime ring that nabbed $1M worth of devices from Apple Stores

Fear not, citizens — the law enforcement apparatus of California has apprehended or is hot on the trail of more than a dozen hardened criminals who boldly stole from the state’s favorite local business: Apple . Their unconscionable larceny amounted to more than a million dollars worth of devices stolen from Apple Stores — the equivalent of hundreds of iPhones.

The alleged thieves would wear hoodies into Apple stores — already suspicious, I know — and there they would snatch products on display and hide them in the ample pockets of those garments. Truly cunning.

These crimes took place in 19 different counties in California, the police forces of which all collaborated to bring the perpetrators to justice, though the San Luis Obispo and Oakland departments led the charge. So far seven of the thieves have been arrested, and nine more have warrants out.

In a press release, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra harangued his state regarding the dangers of the criminal element.

Organized retail thefts cost California business owners millions and expose them to copycat criminals. Ultimately, consumers pay the cost of this merchandise hijacking. We will continue our work with local law enforcement authorities to extinguish this mob mentality and prosecute these criminals to hold them accountable.

You hear that, would-be copycats? You hear that, assembling mob? Xavier’s gonna give it to you… if you don’t fly straight and stop trying to stick ordinary consumers with the costs of your crimes. Not to mention California businesses. With Apple paying that $ 15 billion in back taxes, it doesn’t have a lot of cash to spare for these shenanigans.

Well, I suppose it’s doing okay.

I’ve asked Apple for comment on this case and whether they participated or cooperated in it. Perhaps Face ID helped.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Anker puts Alexa in the car with the Roav Viva, but it’s not worth your time

 Anker’s mobile division Roav is today announcing an in-vehicle Alexa device. Called Viva, the device plugs into a 12-volt cigarette lighter outlet and turns Alexa into a co-pilot of sorts. After using it on a 4 hour road trip, though, I found the device adequate but left much to be desired. For one, it doesn’t support Spotify and occasionally it requires the user to interact with… Read More

Gadgets – TechCrunch