Dynamically the best and most technologically advanced Bentley Continental GT yet.
By: Brian Makse
May 26, 2019
THE PROS & CONS
What’s Good: The interior is stunning.
What’s Bad: The shifter needs more positive, mechanical feedback.
This Continental is all new and while there are some carryovers – like the W12 engine, as well as Bentley’s inimitable design language – much has changed from the previous model. It’s not a simple revision but rather a comprehensive revolution.
The Continental GT has a platform that is entirely new, more luxurious features, lighter construction, a tranquil interior, a much larger performance envelope, and even though this Continental GT is a brilliant example of hand-finished materials, it’s thoroughly modern and filled with the latest technologies.
As soon as you open the door, your nose is overcome with Bentley’s unique brand of new car smell and it’s clearly designed to be opulent. The scent of the natural hides is clear and pleasant, but it’s not overwhelming, and enhances the occasion when you’re motoring along.
Everything you touch inside this car makes you feel that you’re driving a special automobile. From the leather, to the metals, to the feel of the buttons, dials, and switches; each surface feels like the finest material you’ve ever experienced in an automobile.
The depth of the infotainment system is impressive and it works flawlessly and seamlessly. Yes, there’s Apple CarPlay and it all works wonderfully. What is impressive is the infrared night vision function and it’s a useful system if you are driving in the countryside at night.
The multi-function dashboard is almost unbelievable for a modern road car. Realistically, you’ll be living with the big screen most of the time, but when you tire of the display, press the button and it’ll rotate over to the gauges. Aesthetically, the veneered portion that rolls out when you switch off the Continental GT fully highlights the detail that Bentley designers paid to this new car’s interior.
The Naim sound system is the top one offered in the Continental GT and it’s exceptional. It’s an eighteen-speaker, twenty-two hundred watt system with a host of sound modes. Plus, the tranquility of the cabin enhances the quality of the Naim system. The interior is said to be nine decibels quieter than the previous model, due to the use of laminated glass, among other changes. If you enjoy music as you drive, you won’t regret specifying this system on your Continental.
The previous Continental GT’s interior was pleasing and traditional Bentley, but this design is gorgeous and feels more spacious. The sweeping lines, from one door, across the dash, through to the opposite door are pleasing to the eye, and help make this one of the best cabins in the modern age. The veneers and brightwork are perfectly restrained and beautifully finished.
Although it’s new from the ground up, this coupe is instantly recognizable as a Bentley with is traditional chrome grill, distinctive headlamps, and muscular bodywork. The British marque has long been about the details and it makes a smashing first impression. The headlamps are like jewelry and constructed with detail not seen anywhere else.
The heart of any modern grand tourer is its engine and this W12 is exclusive to Bentley and manufactured by Bentley in England.
Briefly, the reason it’s called a W12 is because it resembles two narrow angle V6s mated to a common crankshaft and each of the narrow angle V6s share a common cylinder head. The W12 totals six litres of displacement and has a little help from a pair of turbochargers, which means output is staggering.
It produces an earth-shaking 626 horsepower and 664 pounds-feet of torque, with peak torque arriving just off idle at 1,350 rpm and carrying through all the way to 4,500 rpm. This gives the Continental GT the ability to cruise along effortlessly, and when asked, it will accelerate with casual nonchalance.
If you dare, you can bury the throttle pedal into the wool carpet and the resulting thrust is similar to that of a space-bound rocket. Acceleration is seemingly endless and capable of throwing everyone into their seatbacks – and perhaps, on occasion, it’s the kind of performance feature you can use to quiet a talkative passenger.
In terms of numbers, zero to 100 kilometres per hour is accomplished in just 3.7 seconds. The available launch control function combined with the advanced all wheel drive system and dual clutch transmission means that just about anyone can do this. No professional driver required, but it’s so quick that one might be recommended.
If you let the Continental GT run wild, it will reach a top speed of 333 kilometres per hour. At higher speeds, the decklid’s subtle spoiler extends and adds a helping hand of downforce.
Exterior sound is very restrained and the lack of exhaust rumble is out of step with the GT’s power and performance. Bentley has you covered, however, because if you want something that sounds like it has some attitude, then you’ll want to order the V8. If outright power is more important than sound, then the W12 is your only choice.
Another revolutionary update is dropping the tried and true eight-speed automatic transmission for a sophisticated eight-speed dual clutch gearbox. Most buyers won’t care and if you’re one of those drivers, all you need to appreciate is that it’s as smooth shifting as the outgoing automatic gearbox, but it’ll shift much quicker, particularly when you’re giving it the beans.
Instead of a fixed 40 percent front / 60 percent rear torque split, the new all-wheel drive system has a variable torque split and, in all modes, it optimizes torque distribution for a more rear-drive biased split, giving this GT a more neutral feeling in the corners.
The brakes are massive 420-millimetre rotors at the front and are clamped by ten-piston calipers. The rear rotors are 380 millimetres in diameter with four-piston calipers. The Continental’s rear brakes are larger than most cars’ fronts. Stopping power is exceptional and they offer grand tourer levels of modulation and feel. Not scalpel precise, but you’ll never be embarrassed by a clumsy stop at the valet stand.
Dynamically, it’s markedly better than the old one in a number of ways and with its entirely new construction Bentley’s been able to lighten the Continental GT by about 80 kilograms.
The air suspension itself is another revolution and Bentley’s adaptive dampers have always been exceptional, but there’s another trick up this Continental’s sleeve. It now has active anti-roll bars, which free up on straight roads for a very comfortable ride, but then firm up to control body roll when cornering. It’s all calibrated to optimize ride comfort and control and all conditions in between with instantaneous response, and it is indeed the finest suspension that could ever be placed under a grand tourer like this. Ride, comfort, and handling are simply sublime for such a robust coupe.
With the amount of performance the Continental GT promises, you could pretend that you can explore its limits like a sports car, but it’s not that kind of automobile. It honours the tradition of grand touring in every sense and makes an occasion out of every drive.