Bentley Continental GT 6.0 W12 Speed 2dr Auto
In an example of function following form, the more athletically styled second-gen Conti GT is also more athletic to drive. The 48v electrics are the making of this car. The system is impressive enough at keeping the Bentayga under control but using them to underpin the Conti gives it a dynamism it hasn’t had before.
The old Continental could heave and struggle to keep its mass in order if you were too hasty with it. Not now. In fact, the way it goes round corners is uncanny. Open the bonnet and you’ll see the engine is still a long way forward, still mostly ahead of the front axle, but the front-end grip, the lack of roll, the fact it actually changes direction astutely… well, that’s all new. It really will carry and maintain speed across country and this is very welcome.
Also welcome is the body control. Keeping two-and-a-quarter tonnes of the coupe in check is no easy task, and yet the new GT retains its composure way beyond the point where high expectations collide with physics-defying mysticism.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s still a heavyweight, but the tendons and ligaments of the double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension are better able to keep control of the masses involved.
You can affect things too: a rotary controller on the console switches between Comfort, Bentley, Sport and Custom modes. In the first two, up to 38 per cent of power can be directed to the front wheels, while in Sport that drops to 17 per cent. The ride firms up and the engine and transmission sharpen their wits. The default Bentley mode covers most requirements ably, but this car’s ability to sharpen up and perform at its best in Sport is too beguiling to ignore when the road ahead is more inviting.
It is monstrously fast. All that torque arrives at the road with a newfound suddenness and aggression. Customers wanted their cars to pack a bigger punch, so there’s an immediacy here that takes some getting used to. In fact the whole thing is just a bit less wafty than before; there’s a bit of wind noise, the optional 22in wheels noticeably noisy on some surfaces, and the steering perhaps doesn't glide through your hands as effortlessly as it used to.
In short, the Conti GT has become sportier, and in doing so has lost some of the steamroller ability to crush distance that it used to have. Yet it says so much about the breadth of ability on display that it'll still do that better than just about another car on the planet.
The W12 is undoubtedly the one if you're buying a Bentley to revel in excess: it's the quieter of the two engines, comfortably the most powerful, and perhaps the one that suits the Conti's swagger best. It’s also soon to be retired and only be talked about in hushed, reverent tones, so buy one while you still can. Given how ludicrously competitive this sector now is – Aston, McLaren, Porsche, Polestar, Audi, BMW and Mercedes make just some of its potential rivals – then why not let the big, comfy
Bentley perform its big, comfy best?
There’s also the slight absurdity of it being linked to four-wheel steering and a much more mischievous handling balance in the latest Conti GT Speed. For all its drifty boasts, you won’t be throwing in opposite lock at the mere sight of a mini roundabout. It’s as placid and pulse-lowering as Contis ever were, just with tangible extra sharpness when you go looking for it.
The four-wheel steering helps virtually shed weight and length in corners while the engine is more reactive – and keener to hold the eight-speed gearbox’s lower ratios – as you propel out of them. The ride quality has suffered a mite in Bentley’s search for precision, but we imagine the dealer will have led you down the Speed’s path for a reason.
The cheaper, cleaner V8 offers its own take on dynamism, however, especially if you go for the optional S variant with darkened trim, more contemporary interior trim and a sillier sports exhaust to really accentuate its character. After the W12 it feels lighter at the front end, defter in corners and brings more aural bluster under heavy throttle loads. The Continental GT does just as good a sports car impression with its cheaper, less hefty set-up, however senior the specification of the Speed appears.
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