The grand tourer segments includes many entries that are basically supercars or sports cars that have been tamed to master the art of comfort, but the Bentley Continental GT uses an opposite philosophy. It does provide podium-level performance, but it delivers it in a way that’s best suited for completing long journeys in a perfect state of relaxation.
Mentioning the 1,700 rpm point where the peak torque is achieved and the generous double-sheet laminated side windows is enough to provide one with a deep understanding of the car’s nature. The rest is just pure elegance that serves the purpose of traveling.
You notice this finesse from the moment you roll away, as the soundproofing and the seats not only provide a monumental level of coziness, but this is delivered in an abundance of style.
The W12 engine has endless resources, tricking you into believing that it’s got the ability to defy the laws of physics and provide the same pulling power up to the Continental GT’s top speed of 318 km/h (198 mph).
We rarely felt the need to use the gear shift paddles, as the smooth power delivery doesn’t bring such a mood. We have to explain that the upgraded ZF six-speed automatic works fine in the manual mode, especially since it can now cope with double downshift.
While inside the city you do feel a slight lack of shifting refinement compared to the eight-speed auto on the V8 model, this vanishes out on the open road. The engine is so potent that you could even do with less than six gears, let alone feel the need for more.
All this straight line capability is not there to make you exploit the full potential, but rather to simplify the driving experience - you know that the power is always there when you need it, so you have less things to worry about.
The steering is a tad on the light side for the same reason, but it offers decent levels of communication and its weight is well-spread across the turning circle.
Bentley’s Continental GT couldn’t have achieved the same level of comfort and pace with a fixed suspension setup, so the car uses adaptive dampers and an air suspension.
The first do a great job at constantly changing their state according to the driving conditions and allow you to choose between four firmness settings. As for the air suspension, the feature automatically lowers the car at high speeds, but also allows the driver to do so at the touch of the button. This also comes in handy when you need extra ground clearance, as you can lift the car past the standard ride height, which is already generous at 125 mm (5 inches).
The ground clearance, together with the AWD make sure that you can use the Continental GT in all kinds of weather and road conditions. This ability brings a serious contribution to the peace of mind provided by the vehicle. The same can be said about the brakes, which, even in the standard iron configuration, display a reassuring manner of dealing with the car’s weight and speed.
Alas, in to provide all the aforementioned benefits, a vehicle needs a hefty amounts of assets, all of which take their toll once you place the car on the scales. Since the Continental GT doesn’t go too far with using exotic materials for the body and chassis, this translates into a real world mass that can reach 2.5 tons (5,500 lbs).
While the weight doesn’t sacrifice the comfort, it brings penalties for the dynamics, city driving and efficiency departments - during our test drive, the W12 model returned an efficiency of 18.2 l/100 km or 12.9 mpg.
None of the aforementioned are considered deal breakers for a car like the Bentley Continental GT, but they do waste a lot of its potential.
For example, the vehicle displays interesting sporty characteristics that make sure you stay connected during the drive, an important achievement for a car designed to deliver comfort. However, you don’t get to feel any of the vehicle’s impressive performance numbers.
You’ve got 575 hp and 700 Nm, capable of taking you from 0 to 62 mph in 4.6 seconds and offering even more impressive in-gear acceleration, but not for a second are you fully aware of this.
You can also use this car through the canyons, but it will neither fail nor invite you to do so and you’ll receive a polite reply.
An important part of this behavior is actually not an issue, it’s something that was intended to be this way. The character of the car means that, aside from generous throttle applications, the engine is extremely silent and you don’t get to feel the speed. Nevertheless, had the car been lighter, it wouldn’t have sacrificed any of the noblesse, but it would’ve provided a much more special feeling.
This is where the absence of a reengineering job after one decade of market presence can truly be felt. Bentley didn’t had to turn to expensive materials like carbon fiber - using an all-aluminum construction would’ve been enough. Engineers in Crewe made it slightly more powerful and a tad lighter, but this only improves the power-to weight-ratio by 6 percent.
Driving the Continental GT hard also exposes a weakness of the six-speed transmission, as you notice a certain gearbox lag that doesn’t always allow you to make full use of the W12’s impressive torque curve.
There’s also one aspect of the car that’s difficult to understand: the adaptive suspension has four modes, but it still doesn’t include one setup that favors handling.
One can be forgiven for aiming to occasionally exploit the Continental GT in this manner, since Bentley itself offers hints towards this. For example, it was the carmaker who chose to use the Continental GTC for setting a new Ice Speed Record. The ISR was even offered as a limited edition subsequently. Another example would be position of the ignition, which stays on the left - a reminder of Bentley’s successful pre-War Le Mans era.
In the end, we’ll stick with the conclusion that this grand tourer displays a bouquet of elegance that outshines the last few paragraphs. The Bentley Continental GT combines the best of both the luxury and the sports car worlds, with a pleasing bias towards the first part of the equation.Continue reading
Hold on, Mary would like to say something...
So you’re telling me that the drive that just ended made you happy because you got to “enjoy the resources of the W12 engine”? I can’t believe that! I mean I did feel a bit shaken on that twisty road, but apart from that I was more than spoiled for the rest of the journey. I think I’ve never been more relaxed inside a car in my life!
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