Thursday 3rd December 2020
Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page

 



First drive: Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.

First drive: Bentley Continental GT
Bentley revisions its long-serving Continental GT for an all-new model, and it is really rather splendid.

 



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> Bentley reviews

Bentley Continental GT

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Bentley finally gets around to giving us an all-new Continental - and no, we've not lost our marbles and conveniently forgotten that the Crewe concern says there were two generations between the launch of the Mk1 Conti in 2003 and this 2018 version. But, in reality, the old car soldiered on for 15 years, constantly being evolved, tweaked and uprated - and 15 years is a long time in the automotive world. Traditional competitors move on. Technologies change. Fickle, HNWIs can be tempted to try out new challengers from marques formerly deemed to be 'inferior' to Bentley. So, the crucial question is: how does this fresh Conti perform in the rarefied atmosphere of the world of mega-luxury GTs?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Bentley Continental GT First Edition
Pricing: range from 159,100; First Edition as tested 209,005
Engine: 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, 2+2 coupe
CO2 emissions: 278g/km* (VED Band over 255: 2,070 in year one, then 450 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 23.2mpg*
Top speed: 207mph
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Power: 635hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 900Nm at 1,350-4,500rpm
Boot space: 358 litres
* figures quoted are NEDC

What's this?

A genuinely new Bentley Continental GT, one which - anecdotally - those working within the halls of power at Pyms Lane refer to as the 'Mk2'. This is because it sits on the Volkswagen Group's 'MSB' platform, which underpins the latest Porsche Panamera. That very association might give you a hint that Bentley is targeting slightly sportier dynamics for its all-conquering GT, although we'll come onto that in more detail shortly.

For now, the new Conti comes just as a coupe with the monster 6.0-litre W12 engine that has served it so well, in various guises, for 15 years so far, and which is also - albeit in an ever-so-slightly detuned state - currently powering the flagship model of the Bentayga SUV. But all manner of previously-seen Continental models should follow this pioneering car, such as a 4.0-litre V8, a more potent version of the same eight-pot in the form of a V8 S, faster versions of the W12 motor, such as a GT Speed and maybe even an evolution of the 209mph Supersports v2.0, and then also GTC convertible derivatives, a saloon spin-off sold under the Flying Spur badge and possibly even a... deep breaths, now... derv-drinking version using the fancy tri-turbo V8 from the Bentayga Diesel. Outrageous, we know.

Potentially lots to come, then, in the Continental's esteemed lineage - and that's making no mention of another focused, mad example like the GT3-R of 2014. Which means this 635hp/900Nm W12 has to be good. And 'good' is almost certainly underselling what it has to achieve.

Much of what the Mk2 does is familiar from the older Contis: there's active four-wheel drive, which'll send up to 62 per cent of torque rearwards in the car's gentler Comfort and Bentley driving modes, and then a maximum of 83 per cent to the back axle in Sport; there's a swoopy, muscular body that houses a 2+2 cabin of magnificent opulence; there's an eight-speed automatic transmission to play with, albeit this is now a ZF dual-clutch 'box, rather than a proper 'slush-shifting' torque converter; and there's a price tag that'll make you gulp. The Bentley kicks off at 159,100, but a well-stocked First Edition (a specification that's on the options list of the W12, rather than a standalone model, it costs 34,800 alone) like our test car is easily beyond the 200k mark.

Not that this matters much to the well-heeled sorts who have snapped up the Continental Mk1 in their droves since 2003. Never has a Bentley sold as well as the original Conti. To that end, the British brand had to get it spot-on this time around, lest its loyal customers wander away to the temptations of a Maserati GranTurismo, Mercedes-AMG S-Class Coupe or, heaven forbid, the unspoken rival down at Goodwood and its Wraith.

So the Bentley's styling is familiar, and yet different. Much of what makes a Conti a Conti remains, like the round headlights, dominant mesh grille, smoothed-off rear, sensuous haunches and broad-shouldered stance, but the car looks lower, lighter and leaner. It's a really handsome thing, especially in rich Sequin Blue, and we particularly like the oval rear light clusters framing a boot lid with a 'BENTLEY' script legend. Also, the car doesn't just look trimmer, it actually is lighter than the old one; albeit, it's still not what you'd call slender, clocking 2,244kg at the kerb.

Inside, while the previous Continental was hardly shabby, the latest version is a huge step on. It's no longer blatantly obvious that the Bentley is scavenging the Volkswagen parts bin for bits of switchgear, the fit and finish of everything is simply exemplary, front-seat comfort is sensational and - on models equipped with the grandiose and James Bond-esque Bentley Rotating Display - a huge, prismatic section of the dash can swivel around to present either a gorgeous, crisp and thoroughly up-to-date 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display, three beautiful dials (including a proper, analogue compass) or a blanking face that's finished in splendid bits of the Bentley's trim. As a piece of grandiose in-car theatre, it's unsurpassed by anything we can think of right now.

How does it drive?

Remember we made the Panamera link up top and said it appeared as if the Bentley was going slightly sportier? Well, that's exactly what's happened. It still has three-chamber air suspension and enough sound-deadening to sink a small battleship, and its seats are still heated, ventilated and capable of massaging your back from coccyx to scapula, and there's still an autobox and AWD and great, galumphing wodges of torque to make driving the Bentley an entirely stress-free affair... but there's also just the nagging belief that its ultimate vestiges of waftiness have gone, in favour of keener turn-in, flatter cornering manners and a sensation that you're no longer asking a steakhouse to handle like a bistro.

Is this a good or a bad thing? Should Bentley have kept the 'firmer ride/sharper handling' schtick reserved to one side for any GT Speed/Supersports models that are on the way, instead keeping the W12 GT at the forefront of supple luxury motoring? Has the Continental lost the very continent-crushing ability it once had, which lends the car its own name?

No. No, it hasn't. If we're talking about the Bentley being slightly less elegant in its Comfort-mode ride quality, we're talking about a slide from something like 100 per cent to 99.95 per cent. And it's a most worthwhile sacrifice, because the Continental GT is a far more engaging steer than it ever has been before. With its 6.0-litre mill mounted further back and lower down, and being able to employ 48-volt anti-roll technology in its chassis, the Bentley feels like a much smaller, more compact car than it actually is. Yup, we nearly said the classic old yawner 'shrinks itself around you' there, but managed to dodge that bullet... oh. Wait. Hang on. Sorry.

But it does shrink, figuratively speaking. And so threading the Conti at pace along a challenging, twisting road is no longer like trying to swiftly manoeuvre a baby grand piano down a staircase that's just a little too narrow. In fact, the Conti positively revels in a bit of a thrashing, which is nice because then you can then stun yourself silly with the sheer, monstrous pace of this thing. Honestly, the only reason for which you could possibly criticise this 635hp contained nuclear explosion of an engine is that it lacks for a distinct voice - at best, it sounds like what it is, a couple of gravelly V6s conjoined at the hip (crank, actually...) as it passes 4,500rpm - but other than that, the W12 is mesmeric. Plant the throttle in Bentley or Comfort and there's an amusing, momentary pause as the twin turbos spool up and the pair of clutches ready the correct cog for the job, and then you're catapulted at the middle distance in a surreal, contradictory rush of acceleration, which doesn't seem that dramatic at first thanks to the sound-deadening and the general plushness of the Conti, but then... WOAH! GOOD GRIEF! LOOK AT THE FRANKLY RIDICULOUS SPEED WE'RE DOING!

Fast? And then some. Fully 2.25 tonnes of leather-lined luxo-GT should not fire at the horizon with such comically underplayed violence as the Conti presents, and if you click the Bentley into Sport, then the hesitance outlined above is eradicated - you'll simply be in one location on the road at a given moment, and then quite some considerable metres down the tarmac, clinging on for dear life, in what seems like a heartbeat or two later. The easily sub-four-second 0-62mph time really does tell only half the story here.

Thankfully, for those times you're not toying with the throttle pedal that doubles as a warp drive, the Continental is remarkably civil and easy to use. Bentley must be commended for mapping that accelerator to perfection in the car's softer modes, because you can feather it around for the first 30 per cent of its travel and mete out the whopping reserves of power/torque in such a calm fashion that it's a wonder you're not in an old 90hp Golf TDI. Light but accurate and feel-rich steering couples with superb visibility out, lending the Bentley the sort of precision road-placement abilities that bely its sheer bulk. In Comfort, the ride on 21-inch wheels is still a long way biased to the smoother side of 'firm', and you'll hear precisely nothing of tyre roar nor wind noise as the Conti is rolling along. It is, in short, one of the best expensive big GTs you could wish to encounter. And a marked improvement on its predecessor, a car we always rated very highly indeed. Top work, Crewe.

Verdict

The all-new Bentley Continental Mk2 was a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait. Here's a grand tourer in an elegant suit that nevertheless has an edge of sharpened steel when it comes to its handling prowess. We've withheld full marks from the latest Conti here, if only because of two things - one, it's not the most capacious vehicle in the rear seats, for all its claims to genuine four-seater-hood; and two, we think the sporty new Bentley's ethos will reach its apogee with a blood-and-thunder V8 S model, that must surely already be in development. But this W12 is a glorious car, it really is. And, rather incredibly, it makes its 210,000 asking price seem almost reasonable, because this sort of all-round, coruscating excellence never comes cheap. As is right and proper, eh?

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 25 Sep 2018









  www.bentley.co.uk    - Bentley road tests
- Bentley videos
- Bentley news
- Continental GT images

2018 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.

2018 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.2018 Bentley Continental GT. Image by Bentley.








 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2020 ©