- Sensational performance
- Great levels of comfort and refinement
- Beautiful cabin
- Much improved agility over previous model
- Pricey options
- Rather thirsty
- Not much room in the back for a 'four-seater'
The Continental GT revolutionised the Bentley business. At a stroke, a company that served only the super rich suddenly had a ‘cheaper’ car for the merely ‘very affluent’. Just over a year after its 2003 launch, the Continental GT single-handedly quintupled Bentley’s global sales.
Now there’s a new one. The goal was to broaden the car’s appeal, by expanding its breadth of abilities. In particular, to ramp up driver appeal – the key area where it lagged behind rivals such as the Aston Martin DB11 and Ferrari GTC4 Lusso. Yet, crucially, Bentley didn’t want to sacrifice luxury and comfort, where the old Conti was always strong.
Developed as a Bentley from the beginning
The old Continental GT rode on a platform borrowed from a big Volkswagen saloon, the Phaeton. The new one uses an architecture co-developed with Porsche (for its new Panamera). This time, the Bentley engineers were involved from the beginning. ‘We got exactly what we wanted,’ notes Andy Unsworth, head of chassis dynamics.
The body is nearly all aluminum and uses four big air springs – 60% bigger than before – to cushion the car from road imperfections. Ride quality is outstanding. It also uses the same 48-volt electronic anti-roll control as the big Bentayga SUV. This not only reduces roll, it improves overall body control and ride comfort.
Revised W12 engine
The 6.0-litre capacity and unusual W configuration may be carried over, but the engine is essentially new. It’s lighter than before, 7.5% more powerful, and has 25% more torque. With 630hp, it’s a hugely powerful unit, and performance is supercar sensational: 0-62 in 3.7 seconds, and 207mph top speed.
The gearbox is new to Bentley. The old car had a conventional automatic, while the new one gets a modified version of the Porsche-developed twin-clutch eight-speed PDK transmission. In the Sport driving mode, paddle shifts are lightning fast. In Comfort the shifts are automatic, and seamless.
As before, four-wheel drive ensures extra grip and stability. However, more of the drive is now sent to the back wheels, to give a rear-drive sports car feel, and to boost agility.
A much sportier drive
The biggest dynamic change over the old car is its precision and driving engagement. Select Sport and feedback is sharp, the steering precise, and the gearshifts swift – and you get dramatic burble and bark from the bellowing exhaust. It is a thrilling car, and feels like a good two-door sports coupé.
Body control, at high speed, is superb. It is still not as agile as the best supercars, or as the rival (and lighter) Aston Martin DB11. But it’s way better than the old Continental GT.
And it’s also more comfortable and pampering than a Ferrari or Aston when you just want to waft along, enjoying the scenery. The cabin is eerily quiet and superbly luxurious, featuring 10 square metres of beautifully varnished wood and 15 leather hides, all exquisitely stitched.
The downside of all this luxury, and the vast 12-cylinder engine, is mass. At 2,244kg, it's a very heavy car, though 80kg lighter than before.
Buying your Bentley Continental GT coupe
Unsurprisingly, it is also far from cheap. It’s a Bentley, after all. Tick a few worthwhile options and you can easily spend another £40,000. The price of our test car ballooned from a standard £159,100 to £201,260.
It included superb Naim sound system (£6,500) and the new three-sided ‘Rotating Display’ that allows you twirl from a touchscreen to a traditional bank of instruments to a nice plank of varnished wood for the upper centre console display (£4700).
Bentley states it's likely to sit in insurance group 50, which isn't a huge surprise, and finance costs are likely to be relatively high too.
The Parkers Verdict
This is a superb new high-speed luxury GT. It is faster, more comfortable, more fun to drive and more luxurious than before. Performance is sensational. Its trump card, though, is the way it can combine super-sports performance, and supreme luxury. No two-door car has a greater breadth of ability.
A cheaper V8 version, a hybrid, higher performance iterations, and a convertible, will all follow.