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Car Review

Bentley Continental GT review

£152,820 - £257,700
910
Published: 11 Apr 2024
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Sporty and cosseting, traditional yet modern. True duality means this does the GT thing better than any rival

Good stuff

New found athleticism, design inside and out

Bad stuff

Has it perhaps lost a little of its… waftability?

Overview

What is it?

There’s a key point in Bentley’s timeline that we can call BC: Before Continental. So vital was the first Continental 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.

Certainly not with anything like the swagger with which it’s leading the luxury car segment into a whole new era. Consider this: the release of the first W12-engined Continental GT and its 552bhp boosted Bentley sales by a factor of ten.

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Few brands talk as loudly about sustainability, diversity and all that other good stuff as well as Bentley, and it’s all the more believable with a convincing core model to underpin it all. The most successful luxury car of modern times? Quite probably.

It’s now several years into its third generation and continues to be the focal point for the whole brand, embodying what a Bentley is while the Bentayga SUV makes the big bucks elsewhere in the range and hand-built specials like the Bacalar and Batur work Instagram into a lather. Trim levels and special editions have broadened the Conti range since its 2018 launch; S and Speed versions cover performance while Azure and Mulliner iterations are all about the poshness.

It looks good, no?

It’s a handsome thing, the latest Conti GT, especially 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 than its predecessor’s, helping the new Conti GT weigh ‘only’ 2.2 tonnes.

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.

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I'm guessing there's tech on hand to help...

Powerful 48v electrics which debuted on 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 100 per cent of torque goes to the rear wheels as often as possible to the benefit of fuel efficiency and emissions.

As of April 2024, there's now just one engine to choose from, powering all four wheels through an eight-speed gearbox and, should you feel like behaving uncouthly, via a launch control system.

That'll be the V8, a 4.0-litre twin-turbo offering up 542bhp, 0-62mph in 4.0 seconds and a 198mph top speed. Alongside the (now discontinued) W12, it nominates itself as the sportiest choice by virtue of its rortier soundtrack and reduction of weight over the front axle.

Wait, discontinued?

Yup. Farewell, ya' big lug: Bentley is no longer taking orders for W12-engined Continental GTs, closing a chapter on an engine that, as explained above, was absolutely fundamental to its modern success.

What an engine it was. Once described by Bentley as "the most advanced 12-cylinder engine in the world", it was a bit of an engineering marvel. In the second-generation unit - a significant redesign from the sump up of the 2003 Conti GT's W12 - it got things like high- and low-pressure injection; variable displacement to shut off half of it when required; three separate coolant circuits; huge power.

And huge heft. Each W12 weighed around 250kg, and Bentley said that over the past two decades of its life, it increased the W12’s power by 34 per cent, torque by 54 per cent, and reduced its CO2 emissions by 25 per cent.

So yes, on the one hand it featured cylinder shut-off tech under light loads, while on the other it delivered a thunderous 626bhp and 664lb ft of torque from 1,350rpm right through to 4,500rpm in its punchiest guise. Performance? Very: 0-62mph took 3.7 seconds and its top speed was 207mph.

When Bentley wraps up production of this leviathan, this colossus of the motoring world, it'll have built more than 105,000 W12s across its range since 2003.

Punchiest guise, you say?

That'll be the cosseting arms of the Continental GT Speed. This model existed in the Conti's previous life, and it served up – no surprise – a bit more briskness. Only this time Bentley gave it a whole character of its own. The addition of four-wheel steering, a new electronic limited-slip differential and a much greater rear torque bias for the AWD system made this the sportiest – and supposedly driftiest – GT yet.

Elsewhere you get full Matrix LED lights, a 12.3in central touchscreen, WiFi, head-up display, night vision, a 650W stereo and 21in wheels. Pricing starts at just over £180,000, putting this in direct competition with the likes of the Aston Martin DB12, Ferrari Roma and Porsche 911 Turbo.

What's the verdict?

It’s night-and-day better than the old one, and does the GT thing better than any rival

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 original. 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.

Comfort and relaxation may have slipped perhaps 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 plentiful rivals in the weirdly busy GT car sector (so much for a cost of living crisis) but not one of them swallows distance with the charming swagger of a Bentley.

The Rivals

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