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REVIEW – Bentley Continental GT W12

Editor-in-chief, Senior Reviewer


Bentley Continental GT 6.0 W12 TSI
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
4.5

Summary

Despite looking more slender than its predecessor the new Bentley Continental GT is still a sizeable, and heavy, car. Yet the space inside – especially the rear seats and boot – are relatively cramped. But the rear seats are fine for kids, and that makes this car instantly more practical than all the 2-seater sports and super cars. The 6.0 W12 engine is superb: powerful and refined, and from behind the wheel few cars offer this level of luxury.


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Exterior Styling

Although this is a new Bentley Continental GT, you can instantly recognise it, because it has the same basic styling cues as its predecessor. But the new car looks more slender, like it’s been hitting the gym. Hard.

At the front, the twin crystal-effect headlight design is very ‘Bentley’. And although the chrome grille is now smaller – in keeping with the new, slender look – but is still big enough to loudly announce the Continental GT’s arrival.

With big, broad arches the Bentley Continental GT need big wheels to fill them. The 22-inch alloys on our test car were more than up to the job. Just behind the front wheels is a small air vent which, on the W12 model, proudly displays the number ‘12’.

Around the back, the lines are sleek and soft, with no sharp edges to be found anywhere. Even the taillights and exhaust tips are ovals to maintain this softness. The rear only rises once you go above certain speeds. For the rest of the time it keeps itself tucked out of the way, so as to not clutter up the appearance.

You may not have noticed, but our test car had special badging. You see 2019 was Bentley’s centenary year. All cars built in 2019 – our test car included – were finished with black and gold centenary badges. The flying ‘B’ on the front also has the years ‘1919’ and ‘2019’ on it.

Colour wise there are seemingly endless choices – silvers, purples, blues, reds, whites, greens and more – so you can find the perfect shade for you. You can go for the more reserved silvers – like our test car – or something more bold, like Monaco Yellow…

Interior Finish

Open one of the big, solid doors and step into the wonderful world of Bentley. The first thing you notice is the distinct smell of fine leather; only the highest-grade hides are used for crafting the interior of the Continental GT.

And if you thought picking an exterior colour was hard, the interior choices will cause an even larger headache. There are many, many different colours of hide to choose from, and that’s before you get to the two-tone design options.

The front seats are big and comfortable, perfect in a grand tourer like the Bentley. The rear seats are similar in shape, and surprisingly bucketed for a 2+2. Our test car had a ‘Cricket Ball’ interior – a single shade of deep red with contrast grey stitching. The coordination extends throughout the cabin, from the seatbelts to the carpets.

With a ‘liquid amber’ and piano black veneer and plenty of aluminium throughout the cabin, there is a level of robustness and quality that is to be admired. And, remarkably for a hand-assembled car, there was not one single bit of trim out of place, or any rattles to be heard.

Bentley Motors may be owned by the Volkswagen-Audi Group, and therefore utilises group technology but, for the most part at least, you wouldn’t know looking at the switchgear.

The only exception to that is the steering wheel buttons, which are identical to those in an Audi A5. Considering the levels Bentley has gone to in ensuring a high-quality and unique feel, this was somewhat disappointing.

That being said, you soon forget about it when you see the optional rotating centre display. At the push of a button the entire multimedia screen swivels to reveal a classical-style instrument cluster. It brings a sense of occasion to the Continental GT cabin.

Engine/Performance

The Bentley Continental GT is a large car, with a large bonnet. That means there’s plenty of room for a large engine. You have two choices in that regard: a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 or – as was found in our test car – a 6.0 twin-turbo W12.

‘W’ is not exactly a common engine configuration; think of it as a pair of 3.0-litre V6s mounted side-by-side. Common it may not be, but powerful it most certainly is. With 635PS and a mammoth 900nm of torque it is more than capable of hauling the Continental GT’s mass around.

It may weigh a hefty 2,244kg but the 6.0 W12 can haul it from 0-62mph in a brisk 3.7 seconds, and keep hauling it to a top speed of a truly GT-worthy 207mph.

What is perhaps most impressive about this engine is the versatility it offers. There are four drive modes, including a ‘Custom’ which allows you to find your optimal settings. The other three drive modes are ‘Bentley’, ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’.

In Comfort mode, the 6.0-litre might as well be a 1.0-litre for how vocal it is. You simply waft along – at considerable speeds should you require it – but with little-to-no intrusion from the W12.

In ‘Sport’ mode the Continental GT is a bit more raucous. There’s some serious rumbling from under the bonnet, and satisfying rasps, pops and crackles from the exhausts. Forward progression is much sharper and more aggressive, showing the Bentley’s performance prowess.

And then we come to ‘Bentley’ mode; a well-balanced setup somewhere in between Comfort and Sport. And it’s perfect for a grand tourer. Essentially the car adopts a balanced approach; happy to cruise along but still willing to get a shift on at a stab of your right foot.

Ride/Handling

The aforementioned drive modes also have a profound impact on handling, by controlling the Continental GT’s three-chamber air suspension and continuous damping setup.

That setup means the Bentley is able to adjust its ride height and damping to suit the road conditions and drive mode selected. Comfort mode does what it says on the tin. With a soft and forgiving ride the Continental GT is able to absorb imperfections in the road with ease.

Sport mode stiffens the car up. It’s by no means harsh or uncomfortable, but it does ensure the Continental GT’s bulk can be kept in check. Throwing a car this heavy into corners can sometimes be unsettling, but there are no complaints with the Bentley.

The Continental GT has an active all-wheel drive system. It is predominantly rear-wheel drive but can send up to 38 percent of the torque to the front axle in Comfort mode. When you’re in Sport mode, that figure drops to 17 percent, but that’s still enough to ensure that all 900Nm of torque can be put to best use.

Then we come to the brakes. And some brakes they are, too. A 207mph, 2,244kg car takes some stopping, and that’s why the Continental GT has the largest steel brake setup on a road-going car. 420mm front discs with truly enormous 10-piston calipers, and 380mm rear discs with 4-piston calipers.

From behind the wheel you have confidence in bringing the Bentley to a stop. This, combined with the blistering performance, means that from behind the wheel the Continental GT doesn’t feel like a big, heavy GT car at all. It feels like a nimble sports car, and that’s a credit to Bentley’s engineering team.

Economy

A car with a 6.0-litre engine, that weighs the same as a small detached house, is never going to be the most economical of choices. But at the end of the day, nobody in the market for a Bentley Continental GT will be concerned with spending time – and money – at the fuel pumps.

Nonetheless we are nothing if not thorough with our vehicle reviews, so we will provide the answers to the questions you didn’t ask…

Combined fuel consumption under WLTP testing is 20.8mpg which, all things considered, isn’t half bad. The Bentley is quite clever when it comes to fuel-saving technology.

In addition to the common stop/start system, the W12 can actually shut down six of its cylinders under gentle acceleration to improve efficiency. Clever stuff.

CO2 emissions, as an NEDC-equivalent figure, are 278g/km. That equates to VED of £2,135 when the vehicle is first registered and £145 thereafter. With a price over £40,000 (stating the obvious there) you’ll have to pay the VED surcharge, currently £320, in years 2 to 6 of ownership.

For a car of this stature, there’s nothing here that will be an unwelcome surprise. The VED costs will be comparable with any similar grand tourers, as will the 20.8mpg fuel economy. But at least with a 90 litre fuel tank you can go further between fill-ups; the Continental GT having a theoretical range of 412 miles.

Practicality

A grand tourer is designed to be the perfect companion on a drive to Monaco. With that there is an inherent expectation of a degree of practicality.

Let’s get the not-so-good points out of the way first. For a car that is, unquestionably, enormous the interior dimensions are a little on the small side. It’s not so bad in the front, but the rear seats wouldn’t be the comfiest on a long drive.

It’s not for a lack of headroom either. Well, not for me at 5ft7in at least. Once you settle down into the deeply bucketed rear seat there’s plenty of space. Except for your legs. There was virtually no legroom behind my driving seat, and the situation would only be worse with a taller driver.

That being said, it is a major plus point simply to have the rear seats. My wife and I have just one child, but in a car like the Audi R8 I tested last year I had to leave either my wife or the car at home. In the Bentley, we could all go out as a family.

The boot space is a reasonable 358 litres, which is more than enough for the couple of bags required for your weekend jaunt. You could probably just about squeeze a set of golf clubs in there too, if you are that way inclined.

The Continental GT is a great car to live with. It’s good at pretty much everything. Admittedly, parking is a challenge if the spaces are on the smaller side. The large doors don’t help matters either. But the Bentley has a clever check-strap system which holds the doors firmly at whichever position you open them too. In tighter spaces this is a godsend.

Equipment

As you would hope for a car of this stature, the standard specification of the Bentley Continental GT brings a lot of luxury and some impressive technology.

In terms of luxury, there are 15 standard hide choices. Trust me when I say that the quality of hide in the Continental GT is truly top-notch. And given that everything – from the seats to the dashboard and the headlining – is finished in the stuff, it makes for an incredibly luxurious-feeling cabin.

A fully-digital instrument cluster is standard, which can be customised to show dials, a map, media or trip information. Whether you select the optional Rotating Display or not, you get an impressive infotainment system which includes navigation, Bluetooth, CD/DVD slot, Apple CarPlay and DAB digital radio. There’s even a 60GB solid-state drive so you can pre-load the Continental GT with your favourite driving music.

Next we come to convenience features, all of which are standard on the Continental GT. You get keyless entry and go, dual-zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, automatic lights, automatic wipers, heated seats and a heated steering wheel.

The driver assistance offering is bolstered by the ‘Touring Specification’ option pack – priced at £6,195 – which encompasses the latest technology. It includes head-up display, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, night vision and Bentley Safeguard Plus: which includes emergency lane change assist and autonomous emergency braking system.

None of the performance features we mentioned earlier – active exhaust, three-chamber air suspension, enormous brakes – are extras. So the Bentley Continental GT is a performance masterpiece, right out of the box.

Value For Money

As we’ve clearly established, the Bentley Continental GT is a lot of car. So you probably won’t be surprised at all to find that it costs a lot of money. The price for a 6.0 W12 Coupe starts at the princely sum of £159,100.

It doesn’t stop there though, because there are still quite a few options to be chosen. In fact, our test car had several option packs which brought the price up to £184,595. Whether that represents good value for money is a question for any potential buyer, but do bear in mind that this is a car that is unlikely to appreciate.

Furthermore, some of the option prices are rather hard to stomach. Our test car featured “Mood Lighting Specification” which includes configurable mood lighting throughout the cabin, and illuminated treadplates. Stunning though this may be, £1,490 seems a little on the steep side.

It’s also a little frustrating that the Continental GT’s piece de resistance – that amazing Rotating Display – isn’t standard: it costs £4,700.

Premium audio systems are everywhere these days – Bang & Olufsen, Bowers and Wilkins and similar. In the Bentley you can opt for a ‘Naim for Bentley’ system which has been specifically designed for the acoustic environment of the Continental GT. There is no doubt it sounds amazing but – at £6,500 – so it should.

Our favourite option pack was the ‘Front Seat Comfort Specification’ which comprises adjustable headrests, adjustable cushion length, adjustable side bolsters, and ventilation and massage functions. In a grand tourer, where you could be driving hundreds of miles at a time, this is worth every last penny to ensure you are as comfortable and relaxed as possible.

The Bentley Continental GT is an unquestionably expensive car, but few cars can match the sense of occasion you feel driving it.

Facts and Figures

Engine 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged W12 petrol
Max power 635PS at 6,000rpm
Max torque 900Nm at 1,350-4,500rpm
Drivetrain 8-speed automatic transmission, active all-wheel drive
0-62mph 3.7 seconds
Top speed 207mph
Fuel tank size 90 litres
Fuel consumption 20.8 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 278 g/km NEDC equivalent
Kerb weight 2,244kg
Towing capacity N/A braked / N/A unbraked
Luggage capacity 358 litres
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £159,100
Price as tested £184,595
Company website www.bentleymotors.com/en/models/new-continental/new-continental-gt.html

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