Bentley Continental GT The world shrinks a little more
The motor car replaced the horse, just as the horse had been less effort than walking. And now there’s a new Conti GT, to make miles easier still. By
NOW THAT THE problematic SUV launch is out of the way, Bentley can get on with what it does best. Grand tourers. And what a fine car the new Continental GT is.
It’s blisteringly fast, superbly comfortable and beautifully appointed. As this is the first new Bentley after the Bentayga, it’s also a relief to see that it’s a handsome beast, too.
There is surely no more complete GT car, especially if grand touring is your mission. Its supposed calling in life – cross-continental high-speed touring – may be whimsical ’30s nostalgia, as relevant to modern travel as the Bentley Boys are to 21st century motorsport. (Bentley customers nowadays go to Nice by BA Club World, or private jet.) Yet, given the choice of any car for a London-to-Nice dash, I can’t think of a better choice. Nor could there have been too many better cars for my all-day drive across the mountains (including the Grossglockner Pass) from Austria to Italy.
But don’t go thinking it’s just a big soft high-speed cruiser, all muscle and mass, like the old charmer. That old Bentley had character and comfort in spades, but when the road got tight and speeds got high, it always felt more luxury limo than two-door coupe. This new one can entertain, as well as pamper. It’s a luxury GT that can play the high-speed sports car.
It may look rather like its long-hooded predecessor, but underneath it’s allnew. Even the W12 engine is different, though the capacity (a whopping 6.0 litres), the compact W configuration, and the twin turbocharging, may be familiar. Power is a massive 626bhp, up 7.5 per cent on before. Torque is inflated by 25 per cent and, what’s more, its meaty maximum of 664lb ft is developed all the way from 1350rpm (barely above idle) to 4500rpm.
It can hit 60 from rest in 3.6 seconds. If the gendarmes aren’t looking, you can do 207mph on the Autoroute du Soleil, on your way south to the sun. Fuel economy isn’t great – what do you expect? – but at least six of the 12 cylinders can rest when not needed. A V8 comes later. (In fact, on the previous generation, it powered the better car.)
Out goes the old VW Phaeton-carryover platform, and in comes a new one, co-developed with Porsche (some underpinnings are shared with the latest Panamera). While the Phaeton platform was a hand-me-down, the Bentley engineers helped create this architecture. They got what they wanted, not what was available. The difference is manifest. Though an improved car in every way – from looks, to levels of luxury, to liveliness – it’s the new chassis, and its extra agility, that really transform this car.
Of particular note is the new four-wheel air spring suspension and 48-volt electronic anti-roll control – which reduces body roll and boosts suppleness. Ride quality and body control are outstanding. We find an engine sited 150mm further back and a new eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, crisp shifting and satisfying. It’s the excellent Porsche PDK system, customised by Bentley for more torque. The body is aluminium and its panels are ‘super formed’ – heated to 500°C before being shaped. This allows for more complex and sharply defined body lines. Inside, we find an exquisitely crafted cabin, with 10 square metres of varnished wood and 15 leather hides. A new central rotating display can serve up a minimalist plank of varnished wood, three trad instruments, or a large touchscreen, as you please. This is a nice piece of drama, never mind it costs an extra £4700. The rear seats, though beautifully finished, are best avoided. It’s a 2+2, at best.
At 2244kg – about 80kg or so less than the old bruiser – it’s still no featherweight. Yet it doesn’t feel anything like this heavy, especially on winding mountain roads. It may not dance over the tarmac, light-footed like a supercar, or even like the (less weighty) DB11. Rather, it powers seamlessly forward, firmly planted and sure-footed.
We find three driving modes: Comfort (two-door limo mode; sit back and relax); Bentley mode (recommended by the engineers; fast and majestic); and Sport (elevates the Conti into a whole new dimension of entertainment: just 17 per cent of drive goes to the front wheels, the exhaust note now barks and burbles and, if you’re so inclined and brave enough, you can even do powerslides).
So it can play the comfy GT sophisticate, the luxury limo and also the thrilling two-door sports coupe. Does any other GT have quite this bandwidth? I don’t think so. What’s more, a cheaper, lighter and almost certainly more nimble V8 version (engine courtesy of Porsche) is on its way. And that will probably be even better.
And the screen’s… gone! The trad ambience versus tech con lict resolved
Not for Gavin the tiresome glare of an infotainment screen Actually relishes mountain roads, thanks in part to 48-volt anti-roll control