The Bentley Continental GT doesn’t so much drive over tarmac as consume it. This is not a car for a quick run to the shops – although it could easily be driven every day. It’s a car to spend hours in as you drive from one side of the country to the other. This is because the Continental lives up to its ‘Grand Tourer’ moniker in every way. It’s effortless, stylish and, thanks to a complicated four-wheel drive system, will handle virtually every terrain and weather warning you’ll throw at it. The original car, debuted in 2003, is widely thought to have saved Bentley from the brink of collapse, so where does this all-new model fit in, and will it have a similar impact on the famed British marque?
What Is It?
Bentley’s first-generation Continental was in production (including a facelift in 2011), for 15 years. In a world of annual iPhone releases and dwindling attention spans, this is quite a mean feat. Of course, there were no iPhones in 2003, but this longevity is testament to the car’s immense appeal. It quickly became Bentley’s best selling car ever and has continued to be the cornerstone of the brand. Cars simply don’t have that kind of a shelf life, not any more.
So, understandably there’s was quite a bit of pressure when it came to unveiling an all-new one. Bentley needn’t have worried. What the Crewe-based team dreamt up is arguably the most luxurious car on sale today, with the looks to match. It’s a W12-powered 5-star hotel on wheels that’ll charm you if not with its outright pace, then with its elegance – both on the road and in your driveway.
The Continental GT is a big car. It’s nearly two feet longer than a Ford Focus and a whole foot wider, so think twice before you attempt that parallel park. It’s a friendly giant though, and any pent up anxiety dissipates the moment you get behind the wheel and drift away. The smooth steering feel and the sweet hum of the engine fill you with immediate confidence – as does the 360 degree top-down camera that can be deployed anytime to see just how far you are from scraping those diamond-cut alloys. But the Bentley does beg for wider, emptier roads, away from the automotive hoi polloi of a built-up city.
Regardless of where you are though, people will look. The GT has a whiff of a concept car about it with its gaping, beautifully finished grille which more closely resembles jewellery than a functioning part of a car. It’s hard to imagine a car looking more elegant and poised – the sleek side profile alludes to the speed achievable but also has a certain class to it that was missing from the previous generation model. The exterior is an amuse bouche to the interior’s main course, though. Sit behind the wheel and your perception of what ‘luxury’ is will shift. It reduces you to a small child: you’ll want to touch, twist and prod everything out of curiosity, such is the tactile quality Bentley has executed here. Massaging leather seats, beautiful knurled metal and even a rotating James Bond-style dashboard will keep you occupied, long after you’ve turned the engine off.
The Bentley is quick, but you already knew that. The twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 propels it from standstill to 60mph in 3.6 seconds, and won’t stop until it maxes out at 207mph. Accelerating in this car is not a surprise though; in fact, it’s a strangely familiar feeling. When you press hard on the right peddle the GT surges forward in the same way a Boeing 747 does during takeoff. It’s a constant, effortless pull that continues through every gear change. Where it does surprise is with the brakes, which boast the largest diameter disks in production, and slow the car in a way that belies its mass. Which comes in handy when if you accidentally slip into triple digits on the motorway.
Few cars are more desirable than the new Continental GT. And there are few cars that can challenge it. The Aston Martin DB11 springs to mind, as does the Rolls Royce Dawn, but the Bentley boasts a combination of speed, cornering ability and luxurious comfort that’s unmatched by the two. Yes, it’s expensive, ludicrously big and won’t win any prizes for efficiency any time soon, but if you care about any of these things this likely isn’t a car for you. If instead you’re after a 626bhp floating mattress that you’ll want to spend more time in than your actual home, your search is over.
Top Speed: 207mph
Acceleration (0-60mph): 3.6 seconds
Engine: 6-litre, twin-turbo W12
Price: From £159,100