Luxury cars bring glitz to auto show

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq is an intern for Automotive News
There is no doubt that luxury has returned to the Detroit auto show. The glamour that surrounds Cobo Center extended to the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino Sunday night with the Gallery Event -- an up-close and personal look at some of the world's finest automobiles.

When these vehicles make an appearance at Cobo, they are the ones that sit on pedestals behind glass partitions. They are the “look-but-don't-touch” dream cars of the Detroit auto show. The ones we all want, but few can afford.

But not here.

Featuring the finest from Jaguar, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Maserati, Porsche and more, the Gallery Event brought together auto executives, luxury dealers and 50 high rollers invited by American Express.

Although almost everyone had a camera, it was easy to distinguish invited guests from journalists.

The invited guests opened doors and sat in cars, ran a hand or two along shiny fenders and inspected carbon fiber curves. Members of the media stood watching -- trying not to drool as we calculated how many articles we would have to write to afford that cherry red Ferrari-458 Italia or that Audi R8 Spyder. Or maybe that Aston Martin Rapide.

Bentley staged a private preview of the redesigned 2011 Continental GT a day before its official North American debut at Cobo today. Photo credit: Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
Without a doubt, the star of the show was Bentley, the exemplar of fine British motoring owned by Germany's Volkswagen Group. The company staged a private preview of the redesigned 2012 Continental GT a day before its official North American debut at Cobo.

With dimmed lights and runway show music, Christophe Georges, Bentley's president and chief operating officer, pulled back the tarp covering the company's newest model. Nestled between a black Mulsanne and a black Continental Supersports, the Pearl-white GT stood out deliberately.

Georges touted the GT as the company's renaissance car, the epitome of sportiness, acceleration and technology wrapped up together with craftsmanship.

“This car has transformed the luxury segment and this car has transformed our company,” he said before making a quip about his French accent that caused the crowd to laugh.

With a 567-hp engine that propels it from 0-to-60 in 4.4 seconds, the GT is a sleek and powerful machine. It also comes with a $189,900 price tag. Although Bentley says the car is a new model, it is more of a redesign.

Nobody was complaining, though. One person said it looked like a race car driver's Bentley, but the most common description was simply, “sharp.”