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Road test: Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.

Road test: Bentley Continental GTC V8
Nearing the end of its life it may be, but there are few finer GTs than Bentley's Continental.

 



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Bentley Continental GTC V8

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: still looks the bomb, still goes like stink, still makes every drive feel special.

Not so good: it's the least sporty Continental of the lot.

Key Facts

Model tested: Bentley Continental GTC V8
Price: from 154,400; car as tested 180,560
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: two-door, four-seat convertible
CO2 emissions: 254g/km (Band L, 885 VED first 12 months, 500 annually thereafter, if registered before April 1, 2017; 1,700 first 12 months, 450 per annum next five years, 140 per annum after that, if registered after April 1, 2017)
Combined economy: 25.9mpg
Top speed: 187mph
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Power: 507hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 660Nm at 1,700- to 5,000rpm

Our view:

If there was a Grim Reaper for cars, standing there with an ethereal scrapyard 'claw' crane in place of the traditional scythe, then this anthropomorphic automotive Death would surely be standing at the curvaceous shoulder of the Bentley Continental, beckoning to it the afterlife with a bony finger. The British marque's big GT has been around, largely unchanged, since 2003. In the car world, such an epoch on sale is akin to immortality; most models last six, maybe seven years, tops.

Sure, Bentley will say it heftily overhauled the car in 2011 and created the modern-day MkII in the process, but in truth very little has changed on the car during the 13 years it has been on sale in Bentley's Volkswagen-owned era. So, presumably, by this point it feels like a relic, an archaic slab of British GT that's outmanoeuvred and outthought by pretty much every competitor on sale, right?

Wrong. OK, there's still the issue of Bentley's satnav system being mediocre, as it's old Volkswagen software that is about the only thing on the car truly is starting to show its age. And yes, like a lot of Volkswagen Group products, the manual shift gate on the eight-speed automatic gearbox is the wrong bloody way around - STILL! - despite the fact that the giant conglomerate clearly knows keen drivers prefer the opposite set-up, as that's what you'll find on the more involving Porsche 911s with the PDK gearbox.

But the Conti GTC, the extra letter simply signifying it's an open-top version, isn't a car aimed at keen drivers. It's a cruiser primarily, comfort being its chief focus, and judged on that score the Continental feels like it could go on for another 13 years and yet still remain relevant. It is an epic grand tourer.

That's because it still looks a million dollars outside, especially with the new styling features of the strakes in the front air intakes, a revised rear bumper and the 'Flying B' badges in the side wings doing just enough to keep a familiar design fresh. It still has an interior that wows anyone not accustomed to such fixtures and fittings, with touches like the Breitling dash clock, the knurled aluminium dials, the quilted two-tone leather seats, the proper wood veneer dash trims, its phenomenal Naim sound system and the organ-stop air vent controls ensuring it feels suitably grandiose. It still has an absolutely magnificent ride, courtesy of four-stage adjustable, self-levelling air suspension and its goliath kerb weight of 2,470kg in this specification tying the four-seater body down beautifully, no matter the road conditions underneath its tyres. It still goes like the absolute clappers, despite the fact this V8, non-S GTC is the slowest Conti you can buy - press that right-hand pedal and this small, sumptuous house-on-wheels charges forward with an alacrity completely at odds with its otherwise calm demeanour, the gigantic 660Nm midrange making short work of nearly three tonnes of metal, rubber, finest leather hide and some squishy human occupants.

And it still has some clever tricks up its sleeve to make it a fabulous all-rounder, such as feelsome and direct steering, almighty brakes (405mm front discs!), permanent four-wheel drive traction with a 40:60 standard rear bias, a V8 engine that can run on four cylinders when it needs to in order to save a modicum of fuel (we did 372 miles across 11-and-a-half hours in it at an average 32mph, with a 23.2mpg return; astonishing for something so heavy, powerful and an open-top to boot, and we did all of those miles on one tank of fuel with some still in reserve as well) and that wonderful, wonderful ZF transmission, which is a peach no matter which mode you use it in. The succinct verdict on the dynamics of the Bentley is as follows: it remains a first-rate GT that turns every single journey, no matter how mundane, into a genuinely exciting event.

Which makes its 180,560 asking price, with options (some four-figure highlights fitted to our test car: Mulliner Driving Specification, 7,260; Premier Specification, 6,895; Extended Paint range finish, 4,285; Adaptive Cruise Control, 2,125; All Seasons Specification, 1,430; and a vehicle tracking system, 1,400), seem... well, completely fine, actually. Sure, this is an incredible amount of money for any car, never mind one that's been around about twice as long as it really should have, but we still reckon the Continental is one of the leaders of this particular, rarefied class. And while Automotive Death will still take the Conti from us sooner rather than later, at least we know it was in the rudest of health right up until the final moments. Because Bentley's Continental GTC V8 is a sublime vehicle in every respect.

Alternatives:

Mercedes-Benz S 500 Cabriolet: difficult one to call. Merc, like the Conti, is at its best in full wafting S 500 form, where its ride eclipses even the Bentley's. It's also 40 grand cheaper... but is it as special?

Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet: the Porsche is, unbelievably, 214 more expensive than the basic GTC V8, but it's sporty instead of being a GT and its rear seats are utterly unusable.

Rolls-Royce Dawn: starts at 265k; typically has 60k of options added; only comes in V12 biturbo form... it's hard to imagine a Bentley Continental being outclassed, but the Dawn is the car to do it.


Matt Robinson - 9 Aug 2016









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2016 Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.2016 Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.2016 Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.2016 Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.2016 Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.

2016 Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.2016 Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.2016 Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.2016 Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.2016 Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Matt Robinson.








 

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