New found athleticism, design inside and out
Has it perhaps lost a little of its… waftability?
What is it?
There’s a key point in Bentley’s timeline that we can call BC: Before Continental. So vital was the first Conti GT – not only for sales, but setting a template and tone for the whole brand – that you could easily argue that were it not for the two-door coupe Bentley might very well not be with us today. The most successful luxury car of modern times? Quite probably.
And now it's into its second generation. It must sell well, and it must still be the focal point for the whole brand, to embody what a Bentley is while the Bentayga SUV makes the big bucks elsewhere in the range. It’s a handsome thing, the new Conti GT, at least in profile, where the front wheels have been shifted forward to improve the weight distribution and drop the engine lower and further back in the chassis.
In fact 55 per cent of the weight still sits on those front wheels, but there’s less of it than before – the body alone is 80kg lighter, helping the new Conti GT weigh ‘only’ 2,244kg. But Bentley has made no secret of the fact that a heavy kerb weight actually helps deliver the road-crushing stability and momentum that characterises the way its cars drive. They're knowingly hefty things.
Powerful 48v electrics from the Bentayga are used – among other things – to manage the suspension, with actuators on front and rear anti-roll bars combating body roll. The set 40:60 power split is now fully variable and actually sends 100 per cent of torque to the rear wheels as often as possible to the benefit of fuel efficiency and emissions.
There are two engines to choose from. Cheapest is the V8, a 4.0-litre twin turbo offering up 550bhp, a 4.0sec 0-62mph time and 198mph top speed. Another eleven grand upgrades you to the big-boy 6.0-litre W12 engine. Basically two V6s on a common crank, it's carried over from the old Conti albeit modified enough for Bentley to declare it the ‘most advanced 12-cylinder engine in the world’.
It features cylinder shut off under light loads, while also producing 626bhp and a thumping 664lb ft of torque from a mere 1,350rpm, maintaining that through to 4,500rpm. Performance is better: 0-62mph takes 3.7sec and its top speed is 207mph. Both versions powering all four wheels through an eight-speed gearbox and, should be feel like behaving uncouthly, via a launch control system.
Standard specification includes full Matrix LED lights, a 12.3in central touchscreen, wifi, head-up display, night vision, a 650w stereo and 21in wheels. Pricing starts at around £150,000, putting this in direct competition with the likes of the Aston Martin DB11, Mercedes S63 Coupe and Ferrari Portofino.
But you won't be spending that. You'll be spending much more, getting the stitching to match your shoes, the wood to match the office in your third home, and so on. This is a car made for the bespoke treatment. We know. We did it for our long-term test car…
What's the verdict?
Bentley has given customers what they demanded: a more athletic, sporting, rapid, capable Continental GT. In the areas owners obviously care most about – performance and handling - it’s night-and-day better than the old one. The 48v electronics, longer wheelbase and air suspension have brought crispness to the dynamics and allowed the car to cope admirably with the huge increase in straight-line performance.
However, it’s also lost a little of what gave the Conti its grand touring reputation in the first place. The waft, surge and cosset is slightly diminished, it’s lost a little of its single-minded individuality.
But this is a small thing, almost a matter of calibration. Comfort and relaxation may have slipped maybe five per cent, but dynamism is up 50 per cent. And most importantly, that ability and behaviour suits the Bentley Continental GT well. It has a dozen (or more) rivals in the weirdly busy £150-200k coupe sector. But not one of them swallows distance with the charming swagger of a Bentley.