Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
With the 6.0-litre W12 engine in its nose, the Bentley Continental GT develops 626bhp, driving all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
That combination makes the car feel massively and effortlessly fast, but it’s not the most emotive engine, lacking the delicious bark of the Aston Martin DB11 AMR’s soulful V12. Combined with a long accelerator pedal and a gearbox that tends to shift up earlier than you’d expect, the W12 feels designed to relax the driver on a long stretch of Autostrada, rather than provide excitement 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, with Bentley claiming it will do 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds, just 0.3 seconds down on 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 Continentals, 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 of course. At 2165kg, the V8 Continental weighs just 79kg less than the W12. Most of those kilos are over the nose of the car, though, so the V8 GT does feel more nimble than its big brother in the bends.
During quick changes of direction, the nose of the V8 is much keener to turn in, which helps you rotate the car mid-corner. The clever 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 lighter, rear-wheel drive DB11 is sharper still, but we reckon the Bentley 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.
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