Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Choice of two vast powertrains
  • Smooth W12 is sublime as always
  • V8 offers more sporting character

Powering the Bentley Continental GT is a pair of suitably vast petrol engines – both offer huge performance but with slightly differing characters, as we shall now explain.

W12

The flagship Continental GT powerplant displaces 6.0-litres and is arranged in a ‘W’ shape rather than the more usual V in order to make it more compact under the bonnet, for better weight distribution and cabin space.

Its figures are far from compact though – with 635hp and 900Nm on tap this version sprints from 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and can comfortably breach 200mph where conditions allow. Sport Launch primes the drivetrain for maximum punch off the line and is a deeply satisfying inclusion, enabling sensationally fast acceleration from a standstill.

This is a hilariously, shockingly fast car when called upon, but it’s more satisfying to use as little of that power as possible, wafting along in refined silence all the while with that effectively bottomless well of performance under your right foot and in the back of you mind.

New for this generation is an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox for much faster shifting, and paired with this anvil of an engine the GT gathers pace with incredibly seamless fluidity. Only the first seven ratios are really needed – eighth serves as an overdrive gear for long-legged and peaceful cruising.

A new dual-mass flywheel smooths out the power delivery for super relaxed gear changes in Comfort mode, which become suitably sharper in Sport or when you take control for yourself with the column mounted shifters.

V8

Smaller but only marginally slower, the ‘entry-level’ Continental GT features a 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 with 550hp and 770Nm of torque, good for a four-second 0-62mph time and 198mph top speed.

Losing four cylinders means shedding weight to the tune of 50kg and around £11,000 from the asking price. In practice the V8 is actually a faster, more enjoyable car to drive in real-world conditions.

While it has less power, it plays a larger part in the driving experience than the W12. It burbles away and rocks the car on idle, with a much more lively soundtrack than the often silent, refined 12-cylinder.

As such It’s hard to notice any performance deficit in practice – the performance is still ample, allowing you to drag the two-plus tonne kerbweight out of hairpins, or effortlessly accumulate speed on slip roads.

The main differences are the sound and the 6,800rpm redline – the highest in a Bentley – which encourages you to use the paddles to hold onto gears for a little longer, and generally drive in a style that’s outrageous in a Bentley this large and heavy.

The V8 Continental GT is arguably a more rounded car, with a significantly larger operating window. The lighter, noisier V8 gives you much of the effortless power of the W12, but combines it with character and greatly improved driving dynamics. Simply put, this Continental is almost as refined as the W12 when you want it to be, but significantly more fun when you don’t.

Bentley Continental GT 2019 wheel

Handling

  • Sophisticated anti-roll system
  • Adaptive dampers and air suspension
  • V8 offers more all-out attack

Unsurprisingly there’s quite a lot at work here to ensure this two-tonne coupe handles like a car with a much lower kerbweight.

Chief among which is the Dynamic Ride System – essentially enabling chassis witchcraft that allows a strong resistance to body movement in corners without sacrificing comfort in a straight line. And because it’s powered by a 48-volt sub-system, all of this happens instantaneously.

Active all-wheel drive replaces the former car’s permanent 40:60 power split, which provided strong grip up until a point, and then washed wide via the front wheels. Now the Continental GT is largely rear driven until more traction is needed, at which point more power is sent to the front wheels.

Helping to keep the tyres pressed into the road is the latest generation of Bentley’s Continuous Damping Control, which works with the standard air suspension to find a happy medium between handling and ride comfort, regardless of the surface.

All of this – the suspension, engine, gearbox and other chassis systems - can be tweaked by the Drive Dynamics Control switch, giving you a choice of Comfort, Sport, or Bentley mode, which is a mixture of the two.

V8 model offers slightly different handling

Unlike the W12, the V8 Continental GT comes with traditional anti-roll bars as standard with the option to upgrade to the 48v Dynamic Ride System.

Otherwise it’s - technically at least - the same car, but it’s worth bearing in mind the weight loss over the front wheels and the effect that has on the handling as a whole.

That diet reveals a much more capable chassis than the heavier car - in every driving mode it feels pointier and more responsive.

We soon found ourselves feeding the V8 into corners and generally driving with far greater confidence than the W12, where it was more sensible to tiptoe into turns before tapping into the power. The V8 is more of an all-out attack.

We’ve so far only driven cars with the 48v-powered anti-roll system and it felt more intuitive and predictable on the V8, with minimal worrying weight transfer allowing you to draw tighter lines. It’s a squat, stately rollercoaster on a twisting B road.