The new Bentley Continental GT might just be the best grand tourer on the market…Verdict4.5The new Bentley Continental GT covers ground effortlessly, and its sumptuously finished cabin puts rivals to shame. It’s better to drive than before, and the engine is silky smooth; feeling fast and refined in equal measure. True, there’s not much space in the back, but if you’re lucky enough to sit up front then there’s no denying the latest Conti is one of the finest GT cars in the world.
We first drove the all-new Bentley Continental GT in Wales late last year. But despite the rave reviews, the pre-production model we tried wasn’t quite ready.
Now though, we’ve been given the keys to the car you’ll soon see in showrooms across the globe. We’re told certain aspects have been tweaked and refined, and the result is what Bentley now refers to as the “best GT car in the world”.
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Under the skin, this new Continental has much in common with the latest Porsche Panamera. But – as Bentley’s team of experienced engineers continually reiterates – almost every part has been honed to suit the latest British bruiser.
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The three-chamber air suspension is unique to the GT, for example. In its softest setting this provides 60 per cent more air volume than before, which along with the new 48-volt electric active roll control, allows previously unachievable levels of comfort and agility. The brakes are the biggest of any current production car, too, measuring 420mm at the front and 380mm at the rear.
Under the bonnet, the GT is still powered by a huge 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12. But by shifting it rearwards by 150mm, the big Bentley feels sharper and much better balanced. Bury your right foot and the four-seat coupe will rocket forward with unrelenting purpose, demolishing straight roads with ease.
The new Continental sprints from 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds and will keep accelerating to 207mph. Yet in some instances, those figures seem conservative. In fact, the way with which this car builds momentum is quite extraordinary; it’ll comfort and cosset through three-figure speeds without the driver even noticing.
Part of the reason for this is the car’s incredible refinement. It feels as quiet at 70mph as the firm’s flagship Mulsanne EWB, while the sumptuous leather seats are just as plush and luxurious. If you go for the bespoke Mulliner specification, the cabin comes covered in 310,675 stitches – crafted using an eye-watering 2.8km of thread.
But as previously mentioned, that clever air suspension system not only makes this new GT more comfortable, but sportier, too. The Bentley is perfectly at home through a set of sweeping bends; its squat stance ensuring unflappable traction and impressive body control. Just as we found last year, there’s a delicious sense of serenity with which the GT glides across the landscape.
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It feels much smaller than the sizeable footprint would suggest, as well. The light but direct steering allows you to place the car with deft accuracy, and decent forward visibility means you’ll find few issues on tight roads or windy back routes. It certainly bodes well for the inevitable V8 version, which should be lighter and even more fun to drive.
The Conti isn’t without its faults, however. The dual-clutch gearbox was an area Bentley has worked especially hard to get right since we drove the car in November, yet it still gets caught out when you ask for sudden bursts of acceleration. Things improve in manual mode, but the system doesn’t feel as clever as we’d like.
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The car’s Sport setting feels compromised, too. It upsets the ride and doesn’t offer enough in the way of improved response or increased agility. We ended up leaving the car in its standard drive mode, occasionally flicking round to Comfort on particularly smooth and straight tarmac.
But a car like this is as much about how it drives, as it is about how it makes you feel. And from behind the wheel the new GT is as purposeful and relaxing as you’d hope. The cabin comes trimmed in the finest materials, and the fully digital dials bring the car bang up to date alongside more modern rivals. Of course, customers can personalise cars to their taste, too.
While the rotating high-definition central screen is a bit of a novelty, it makes the Aston Martin DB11’s cabin feel almost archaic. Functionality is good, too, with real-time traffic info and Apple CarPlay included across the range. The centre console is a bit button-heavy, but by avoiding the temptation to use the Audi A8’s dual touchscreen set-up, most of the controls are easy enough to locate.
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Space up front is very generous, and the electric seats adjust in every direction – making it easy to find the perfect driving position. Take a seat in the back, however, and even shorter adults will find it a bit cramped. A Mercedes S-Class Coupe is far more accommodating if you regularly carry passengers.
Many might consider running costs irrelevant on a car like this, but Bentley tells us 70 per cent of its customers now buy their cars on monthly finance. To those people, the 16 per cent improvement in fuel economy and emissions will be music to their ears. If the W12’s 23.2mpg is still too much to bear, there’s a plug-in hybrid model on the way.
- Model: Bentley Continental GT
- Price: £159,100
- Engine: 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbo
- Power/torque: 626bhp/900Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto, four-wheel drive
- 0-60mph: 3.6 seconds
- Top speed: 207mph
- Economy: 23.2mpg
- CO2: 278g/km
- On sale: Now
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