Bentley Continental GT review
Bentley's sumptoius two-door coupe remains a great cruiser, but is now even faster and more capable to drive
Bentley's Continental GT may look very similar to the first one, launched back in 2003, but under the skin there's been a raft of improvements to keep it competitive with the best in the luxury car class. The most recent minor facelift was in 2015, which saw light tweaks to the styling, an improved cabin and increased efficiency.
The hand-built two-door four-seater coupe is made to the highest standards, with a sumptous cabin that offers supreme comfort. Two engines are offered: an updated version of the 6.0-litre W12 from the original Conti GT (available with either 567bhp as standard, or 626bhp in the GT Speed) and a new 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 available with 500bhp as standard or an extra 21bhp in S spec.
We’d go for the latter, as it offers similar performance to the basic W12, has better handling and much better fuel economy, plus a great V8 soundtrack. If you want a luxurious grand tourer that can pamper four passengers (at a push) and still be an entertaining driver’s car, the Continental GT remains a great choice.
Our choice: Continental GT V8 S
The second Bentley Continental GT is an evolution of the original, with a low and wide stance and a big mesh grille up front, leaving no doubt about this car’s origins.
The V8 S and Speed models get subtle but sporty bodykits that don’t detract from the classy style. Mulliner Driving Spec (which is standard on the Speed) also gives you a few more bits and pieces, bigger 21-inch alloys for example and a plusher, sportier cabin with quilted hand-stitched leather on the seats.
The 2015 facelift brought along lightly restyled looks, with revised bumpers and altered badging. You'll have to be a diehard fan to tell them apart, but new paint colours and alloy wheel designs help lift the exterior.
Inside, Bentley’s usual high standards have been maintained, with luxurious leather trim, deep pile carpets and a distinctive dashboard finished with leather and turned aluminium. 2015 saw extra chrome and gloss black trim added, as well as new leather choices, LED ambient lighting and tech such as a WiFi hotspot.
The Bentley Continental GT is a big car, and it shows in corners. Four-wheel drive means there’s lots of grip, but the W12 Continental GT rolls a bit in bends – and always feel more at home as a long-distance cruiser than anywhere near a racetrack. As for the new V8 S, it provides the best blend of handling (superb for such a big car), but still with the ability to waft along.
In terms of real world performance, the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 in S trim is as fast as the more expensive W12, offering huge acceleration and fantastic mid-range overtaking pace. However, the GT Speed is the fastest Bentley yet, boasting a top speed of 206mph (or 203mph for the convertible), along with suspension that's lowered by 10mm and around 45 per cent stiffer. As a result the handling is remarkably precise for a 2.3-tonne car.
It's the V8 that delivers a sportier soundtrack, too. While the W12's booming full throttle exhaust note is imposing, it never sounds particularly exciting for such an outrageously-powerful car.
The V8 gets cylinder deactivation as standard from the 2011 facelift, but in 2015 the W12 was also given the ability to run on six cylinders when power demands are low. Power is also boosted from 567bhp to 582bhp, while torque increases by 20Nm to 720Nm. The slight power jump might not be noticed, but the efficiency tweaks are useful.
The Continental GT is new, but it uses tried and tested parts from the VW Group. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is all-new, but is going to be used in top-of-the-range cars from Audi and Porsche, too, so has been tested thoroughly before its introduction. The W12 engine is hand-built by highly skilled workers at the factory in Crewe, which also supplies the engine to the rest of the VW Group.As a result, Bentley produces more 12-cylinder engines than any other manufacturer in the world, and is a centre of excellent for 12-cylinder engine for the entire VW Group. For peace of mind, it also offers a unlimited mileage, three-year warranty, while pre-paid servicing packs are available through dealers.
There’s plenty of room for two up front in the Continental GT, but those in the back seats will find there’s not much legroom - which is a surprise considering how big the Conti GT is on the outside. The low roofline and small rear windows don’t help matters, either. At least the 358-litre boot is well-shaped. And while the rear bench doesn’t fold flat, few people will buy a Conti for its practicality.
You don’t buy a Bentley if you’re worried about running costs. Even so, we’d still choose the V8 S version over the W12. Cylinder-deactivation tech and an eight-speed gearbox helps it return 26.9mpg, but it’s pretty much as quick as the bigger-engined models and it still has an incredible 192mph top speed, so in everyday driving you’re not missing out in the way of performance.
In 2015 cylinder deactivation technology was brought in on the W12, meaning the car can run as a six cylinder when power demands are relatively low. It improves fuel economy by 4-5 per cent officially (at 20.9mpg), but Bentley claims it can be as much as 20 per cent better in the real world. Emissions also improve, but even so it's hardly going to be on any company car list.