One excellent way of defining a vehicle is to observe its presence in the real world and the Continental GT has proved that this is one of its strong points. You can encounter this grand tourer at events that range from charity balls to drag races and the coupe feels at home while attending each and every one of them.
Perhaps this is why Bentley chose not to modify the core of the Continental GT W12 with the 2011 revamp. Despite the company marketing the vehicle as a new generation, we are actually dealing with something placed halfway between this and a facelift.
The more muscular body conceals the same platform and a powertrain that, in W12 form, has only received small upgrades. The same can be said about the cabin, which is a more refined incarnation of the old model’s interior. Bentley also released a V8 model with a sporty character - this opens new territories for the company and can be regarded as a rather bold move taking into account how conservative this area of the market is.
The Crewe-based manufacturer felt that there was no need for too many changes when it came to the W12 version, since this already delivered what customers wanted, as shown by the positive sales figures.
Saying that the Continental GT is a modern Bentley is just as true as stating that the modern Bentley is a Continental GT.
When this car appeared in 2003, it saw the company rise to an unprecedented level. Under Volkswagen's wing, Bentley started making full use of its potential, something that had never been achieved before.
A similar situation also took place in Lamborghini's case, but while the acquisition of the Raging Bull didn't bring too many problems for VW, buying Bentley was a business-class flight that encountered severe turbulence coming from BMW.
Back in 1998, Bentley belonged to Rolls Royce, which was owned by Vickers. Volkswagen and BMW both aimed to buy Rolls Royce and the British sold the company to... both.
Each of the two German automakers received certain parts of both Rolls Royce and Bentley and it quickly became obvious that neither part could function without assets that belonged to the other side.
The two finally reached an agreement, with Volkswagen gaining control of Bentley and BMW taking over Rolls Royce.
Volkswagen had recently created their most upmarket model ever, the Phaeton luxury sedan, so a fresh platform (D1) and a monumental new engine that used a W12 configuration were on hand. These served as an excellent base for the first modern Bentley not based on a Rolls Royce, the Continental GT. The German hardware was surrounded with plenty of British flavor that came in three forms: body, cabin and personality.
Rolls Royce had assured the survival of the Bentley brand after buying it under a false identity in 1931 to keep it from competing with its own models. However, the fact that the vehicles were so closely related meant that Bentley could only appeal to a limited part of the luxury market.
The Continental GT broke that pattern and was subsequently joined by a saloon version, the Continental Flying Spur
and a convertible one, the Continental GTC, as well as by a few sportier editions for the three. Led by the Coupe, the Continental range transformed Bentley into the world’s largest producer of twelve-cylinder engines in less than a decade.
Now that Bentley has a refreshed range, we set out to see how the model that deserves most of the credit for the company’s surge can cater to one’s refined transportation needs. As we start the W12 unit barely contained by the otherwise generous engine compartment, tales of the Blower Bentley from the original Bond novels come to mind. But there’s no time for that - this engine likes to be given the occasion to pull and we wouldn’t want to disappoint it.Continue reading