What Car? says...
The Bentley Continental GT name may be reminiscent of what driving used to be like, when the idle rich would blast through Europe to the Riviera, but this was actually the British brand's first truly modern car.
When the Continental GT was launched in the early Noughties (shortly after Volkswagen bought the car maker), the performance coupé's technology was cutting edge. Indeed, it was such a hit with buyers that it single-handedly increased Bentley sales five-fold.
After such early success, it’s perhaps not surprising that the designers were happy to tweak and fettle the model they had for a while. More recently, though, rival luxury coupés such as the Aston Martin DB11 and Mercedes S-Class Coupé have moved things on dramatically – and Bentley has responded with the car you see here.
It might look similar to its predecessor, but the latest Continental GT is based on an all-new platform that was developed with Porsche (it's also used for the Porsche Panamera). That means it's lighter than ever before, has better weight distribution and comes packed with all the latest tech.
For example, like the Bentley Bentayga it now has a 48v anti-roll bar system that operates by firing actuators on the front and rear bars to keep the body upright in corners. It’s clever stuff and should, in theory, make this two-tonne-plus coupé feel more nimble than it has any right to.
Under the bonnet you can have either a 542bhp twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine or a 650bhp 6.0-litre W12. There have been strong rumours that a Continental GT with a plug-in hybrid engine will follow.
So, does the Bentley Continental GT still have what it takes to stand out among the best coupés out there? That's what we'll be exploring over the next few pages of this review, where we'll tell you all about its performance, interior quality, passenger comfort and more.
By the way, Bentley also sells a drop-top version, available with the same V8 and V12 engines. To read all about that, see our Bentley Continental GT Convertible review.
Remember, once you’ve decided which luxury car is for you – or if you decide to buy a new vehicle of any make and model – you could save thousands of pounds without any haggling by checking the best prices with the free What Car? New Car Buying service. It's a good place to look for new Bentley deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Bentley Continental GT is the perfect fit for the indulgent lifestyle of the super-rich, so we should probably start with its most extravagant version: the Speed, with its 650bhp 6.0-litre W12.
That might sound like too much power, but it’s all efficiently put down to the ground through its four-wheel-drive system and eight-speed automatic gearbox. Speed models have a locking differential to make sure the power is evenly distributed between both rear wheels, preventing any loss of traction.
That combination makes the car feel massively and effortlessly fast, but it’s not the most emotive engine, even with a more tuneful exhaust fitted. It lacks the delicious bark of the Aston Martin DB11 AMR’s soulful V12, for example.
In Bentley and Comfort driving modes, the long accelerator pedal and the way the gearbox tends to shift up earlier than you might expect could lead you to think that the W12 is a bit docile. In Sport mode, it responds far more eagerly, but it still feels designed to relax the driver on a long stretch of Autostrada, rather than excite them on a switchback mountain road.
For that reason, we'd choose the ‘entry-level’ V8. It has four fewer cylinders and 84bhp less than the W12, but still feels face-bendingly quick in a straight line. Bentley claims it will do 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds, just 0.4 seconds slower than the W12. You don’t really feel those extra tenths of a second, perhaps because you’re too busy enjoying the deep, bassy bellow coming from the quad exhaust pipes (the W12 gets oval apertures, if you’re wondering).
The V8, unlike the W12, loves to rev, giving it an alluring versatility. Sure, it can do the long-legged GT thing, but it also rewards you when you knock the gear lever over to manual mode and start to press on. Although maximum torque comes at just 2000rpm, the engine feels at its best between 3000 and 4000rpm, with impressive accelerator response and very little lag.
Clever three-chamber air suspension is standard on all Continental GTs, providing a wafty ride in its softest setting. The default Bentley driving mode strikes the best balance between comfort and body control on most roads, disguising the two-tonne bulk while taking the sting out of nearly all lumps and bumps.
Over particularly rough sections of road, sharp-edged abrasions occasionally send small shudders through the base of your seat, although that's much less noticeable in the lighter V8. When we say lighter, we’re talking about small margins. At 2165kg, the V8 Continental weighs 108kg less than the W12.
Most of those kilos will be over the nose of the car, so during quick changes of direction, the front of the V8 is pretty keen to turn in, which helps you rotate the car mid-corner. The 48v active anti-roll bars (optional with the V8) keep the car flat through the bends, giving the V8 surprisingly high limits that you'll struggle to breach on a public road.
The heavier Speed still has some tricks up its sleeve, though, because it has four-wheel steering to make it feel more nimble, both during low-speed manoeuvres and quick changes of direction when you up the pace. The lighter, rear-wheel drive DB11 is sharper still, but we reckon the Continental GT would be quicker point to point.
Inevitably, the wide tyres generate road noise over grainier surfaces, but both engines run at just above tick-over at motorway speeds and the double-glazed side windows block wind noise very well.
The interior layout, fit and finish
You’d expect a Bentley to be luxurious, and the Continental GT doesn’t disappoint. Just about everything is trimmed with polished wood or soft leather and the quality of the fixtures and fittings is exemplary.
There's a wide range of electric adjustments so drivers of different shapes and sizes can get comfortable. You sit quite high up by coupé standards, but the window line is high too, creating a cocooned feel. The dashboard is styled to echo the wings of the Bentley badge and is reasonably user-friendly, with most functions controlled through a responsive 12.3in touchscreen that has well-ordered menus.
The touchscreen set-up looks impressive, but if you’d prefer a more traditional interior, you might want to tick the 'rotating display' options box. It allows the driver to press a button to choose between the main touchscreen, a set of three analogue gauges (outside air temperature, a compass and a chronometer) and a piece of veneer. The way it rotates through its three positions is very James Bond and adds to the sense of occasion.
Mere mortals will probably find the standard 650w, 10-speaker sound system to be sufficient, but audiophiles can opt for either a 1500w, 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen, or the range-topping 2200w Naim for Bentley premium audio sound system. The latter consists of 18 speakers, two shakers and a 20-channel amplifier, and while it is eye-wateringly expensive, it also happens to be one of the best sounding audio systems we’ve ever tested.
In terms of visibility, the steeply angled windscreen pillars are quite restrictive and create sizeable blind-spots at roundabouts and angled junctions. Fortunately, the City Specification safety pack is included as standard, and comes with a top-view camera, a pedestrian warning function and a reversing traffic warning system designed to stop you backing into cars approaching from the side.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Space isn’t a problem if you’re sitting in the front of the Bentley Continental GT, where head, leg and shoulder room are in generous supply.
True, the news isn’t quite so good for those in the back, but it's still more practical than most coupés. Anyone under six feet tall will be fine and you can fit a large rear-facing child seat behind the front passenger seat. If you have friends who are taller than six feet, we’d recommend taking a look at a Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo or a Ferrari GTC4 Lusso.
At 358 litres, the boot is smaller than the GTC4 Lusso’s (450 litre). However, it’s bigger than that of the Aston Martin DB11 (270 litres) and will easily take a set of golf clubs or a few carry-on suitcases.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Even in V8 specification, the Bentley Continental GT is far from cheap – and the day-to-day running costs of a car with eight or 12 cylinders are no less intimidating than the asking price. Considering the size of the engines, CO2 emissions are comparatively low, but it sits in the top road tax (VED) band.
That said, the tax bill will pale into insignificance when you see the insurance premiums and annual service costs, especially when you need a new set of tyres. The same is true of any of its rivals, though. The Continental GT will cost a small fortune in depreciation, but it will holds its value better than the Aston Martin DB11.
You also get a lot of equipment for your money, including 20in (21 on the W12) alloy wheels, full matrix LED headlights, a 10-speaker, 650-watt audio system, wifi and a digital radio. In typical Bentley style, customers can also specify virtually any other luxury item they might desire.
Safety experts Euro NCAP haven’t crash-tested the Continental GT, but it has all the regular electronic stability control systems you’d expect, plus traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic alert that come bundled in the City pack. Automatic emergency braking (AEB) only comes as part of the optional Touring Specification pack, which is a bit mean considering it's standard on most small cars these days. The pack also includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assistance, and blind-spot monitoring.
|RRP price range||£186,160 - £273,360|
|Number of trims (see all)||5|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||20.6 - 23.3|
|Available doors options||2|
|Warranty||3 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£13,579 / £20,032|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£27,158 / £40,064|