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Bentley Continental GT review - Engines, performance and drive

Bentley’s superb powertrains sync perfectly with its chassis to create an experience that’s every bit as indulgent as you’d hope

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

5.0 out of 5

Price
£186,255 to £273,455
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What defines the current Continental GT compared to its predecessors is the chassis layout. Rather than sourcing its underpinnings from large VW Group saloons or SUVs, Bentley has instead designed the latest Continental GT on a bespoke platform that was co-developed with Porsche. This has significantly changed the Conti’s proportions, mounting the engine further back in the chassis and completely changing its all-wheel drive system.

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Previous Continental GTs had a fixed torque split, as you might find in an Audi, but this time around the system is both more flexible and predominantly rear-driven. It means that as well as having a remarkable level of grip and security, the car gains a more athletic driving experience which is especially prevalent on the V8 S and Speed models. 

The torque-split of the four-wheel drive system varies depending on the selected driver mode, and makes a considerable difference to how the GT drives. In Comfort mode up to 38 per cent of available drive can be directed to the front wheels, providing the reassuring stability and security you’d expect from a four-wheel-drive car. The more sporting Bentley drive mode provides a middle ground with more torque directed to the rear plus a dash of extra damping control and more urgent throttle and gearbox responses. Select Sport mode and around 85 per cent of the engine’s torque is directed to the rear wheels, while the suspension, engine, gearbox mapping and exhaust note are dialled up.

The new chassis also features a whole toolkit of high-end toys that further improve the driving experience. This includes a trick double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension design paired with an adjustable three-chamber air suspension system, continuously variable dampers and (on V8 S and W12 models) active anti-roll bars. The Speed features yet more high-end hardware, with an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential fitted to the rear axle and a set of huge 440mm carbon ceramic discs on the front axle gripped by 10-piston calipers – the biggest fitted to any production car. 

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Of course, the reason to incorporate all of this chassis hardware is to try and offset the Continental's quite astounding weight figure. Fully loaded, a Continental GT Speed hits the scales at 2,425kg, and V8 models aren’t much lighter.

An advantage of all this mass shows when it comes to ride comfort, though. On the road the Comfort setting provides a pillowy ride that improves on its already impressive predecessor, but it’s the Bentley drive mode that delivers an even better combination of comfort and body control that allows you to devour tarmac in total relaxation. This is particularly impressive in the convertible model, with only the really worst potholes sending the structure shuddering. Given how big the void is with the roof folded down, there’s very limited shake through the chassis, and no trim rattles in the cabin.

Selecting Sport mode brings an added dimension of vitality and dynamism, and means you can throw the car around in a way that belies its considerable size. The new-found precision from both the steering and the chassis, plus the prodigious performance, provide an intoxicating mix of agility and fun.

V8 models weigh around 50kg less than its W12 sibling, with much of that being removed from the engine bay. This means there's less weight over the front wheels; turn-in is keener, making the Continental an even more entertaining proposition on a twisty road. It’s not quite as dynamic as a Ferrari Roma, but counters with a much wider operational bandwidth, and the ability to fit two actual humans in the back seats. 

0-62mph acceleration and top speed 

A constant partner to the Continental GT’s package over the years is its twin-turbocharged W12 engine. This complex, tightly packaged twelve-cylinder has long been noted for its impressive power and torque figures, smoothness and regal nature – all qualities it still possesses today. 

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In 2016 the current W12 engine was largely redesigned for its application in the Bentayga luxury SUV, integrating cutting-edge engine tech like cylinder deactivation and a clever port and direct injection system yielding impressive upswings in thermal efficiency. The engine was then upgraded further with the release of this generation of Continental GT, but is now available only in its top-spec Speed tune, producing a phenomenal 650bhp and 900Nm of torque – 24bhp more than previously. This helps the Continental GT Speed fly to 62mph in just 3.6s and continue onto a 207mph top speed. 

Power is then sent to the aforementioned all-wheel drive system via a bespoke eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that’s also found in the Porsche Panamera. It has a dual-mass flywheel to dampen any transmission shunt, and offers superbly fast and crisp shifts when in its most aggressive setting.

Unfortunately, modern emissions regulations have made an impact on the W12’s economics, forcing Bentley to end production of its iconic twelve-cylinder engine in 2024. Before it goes, there will be one more ultimate iteration for use in the multi-million pound Mulliner Batur, but moving forward the Continental GT will soon adopt plug-in hybrid powertrains alongside the existing V8.

The twin-turbocharged V8 option might sound a little less exotic on account of its shared use in Porsches, Audis and even the occasional Lamborghini, but it’s a superb unit with a completely distinctive character from the W12. Bentley uses a mid-range specification producing 542bhp and 770nm, which is good for a 4 second 0-62mph time and 197mph top speed. It’s an engine that fundamentally suits the Continental GT’s character, too, with a slightly more vocal exhaust note and typical V8 burble offering a sinister edge compared to the more imperious W12.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    4.0 V8 2dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £157,900

Most Economical

  • Name
    4.0 V8 2dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £157,900

Fastest

  • Name
    6.0 W12 Speed 2dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £230,500
Senior staff writer

Senior staff writer at Auto Express, Jordan joined the team after six years at evo magazine where he specialised in news and reviews of cars at the high performance end of the car market. 

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