Centenary celebrations are underway for the iconic British car manufacturer, and we happily agreed to join the party, and in doing so, we got to drive the third-generation Bentley Continental GT.
The Continental GT is single handedly responsible for bringing Bentley back to life. After a rough and patchy history with many highs and lows, VW finally gained control and decided to pump in an absurd amount of money – half a million euros – to develop this particular model that would change the concept of luxury grand touring forever.
With its huge success, the first-generation Continental GT quickly became a car that was driven by royalty and football superstars. Quite simply, if you had the money, and if you wanted something cool, stylish, uber luxurious and fast, the GT became the obvious choice for many. Bentley even prides itself in the fact that many Italian celebrities would much rather prefer this classy and unique sports car over their own local exotics.
Almost a century since the brand came into existence, they are now doing better than ever. To celebrate their upcoming 100th anniversary I was lucky enough to be invited to visit their global headquarters and factory in Crewe, and then I was handed the keys to a brand-new third generation Continental GT, which is now better than ever before.
Love at first sight
I simply love the design of this car, and I would think anyone else crazy if they didn’t at least find it appealing. The aluminium body is quite a spectacle, and the long creases along the body, and the detailing, as well as the wide haunches at the rear make it look like a body builder dressed in a three-piece governor’s suit. The front section of the car is long and it gets a beautiful large grill. The headlights also look like diamonds sparkling through a vortex of some sort. The taillights match the exhaust in terms of its elongated oval design and the rear section is wide but smooth flowing. The large wheels add even more definition and give it a proper sports car look.
While the exterior design, quality and detailing is otherworldly, the interiors of this car are from a different universe. The seats had a smooth leather diamond quilting at the front and the rear. The roof and other panels also featured this fine leather. The air vents were diamond finished and so where some of the switches and knobs, and the door handles and panels were made of solid metal. The wood is genuine and customizable, and everything is handstitched, including the beautiful steering wheel with the large Bentley logo, that really looked classy. During our factory visit we got to see just how much work and effort goes into the detailing of the cabin such as the stitching and veneer work. The levels of quality control are also mind blowing.
For the first time the instrument cluster is now fully digital, and it also has great functionality, for example, putting the sat nav on there. The centre dash features an ultra-wide digital touch-screen. The user interface does feel a lot like that from Audi, and other areas where you can tell that VW is somewhat involved with this car is the buttons on the steering wheel. If you find the wide digital screen to modern for your liking though, you can turn back time and flip the screen and three -analog dials will take centre stage. The car we were driving came with a few options including the brilliant orchestra hall sounding Naim sound system and speakers.
The rear seats also get some fancy detailing along with their own rear windows and power sockets, but it is still pretty cramped back there. Because the GT is meant to be practical, the boot can fit a set of golf clubs easily. It can also fit two fairly large suitcases if you decide to go on a long trip.
Luxury Yacht or Speed Boat?
So, how fast can a car that weighs 2.2 tonnes actually be? Well, it does naught to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds. That is amazing considering how big and girthy the car is. It pulls forward very well, and it almost feels like there is an over-abundance of power, as I found out while overtaking other fast vehicles on the highway. It can do a quarter mile run in just 11.7 seconds, which is close to supercar performance. But, how is it able to go so fast?
That’s because under the massive hood, as you would expect from Bentley, is an even more massive 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbocharged petrol engine. The behemoth unit, which seems like it could power a line of locomotives, can produce 635bhp and 900Nm of torque. Does it need this much power? No. But, should it have this much power? Yes. This is exactly what the Continental GT is best known for. It’s a long and heavy, and super luxurious car that is practical and yet it can hang out with supercars on the weekend. It is essentially a luxury yacht that can also go like a speed boat. A big yacht also requires big anchors, and the Continental GT gets the largest iron disc brakes on any production car model. The massive 420mm discs do a phenomenal job at not allowing all that power to get the best of you.
Can you handle it?
Okay! It’s got the look’s and the power, but if it really wants to impress me, then it needs to handle itself well too. After driving the car on mostly straight highways across the northern UK, we did manage to find a few twisty sections of road to carve out with the Continental GT. While, they were not the most exciting roads, we still did manage to get a good feel of the car.
The bottom line is that the Continental GT is a heavy lady. It feels like a heavy car no matter what driving mode you are in. Bentley mode is the ideal driving mode to be in. Here the air suspension is setup for both comfort and sport, and power is distributed evenly to all four tyres. In comfort mode you would be happiest on the highway because the suspension is soft, the steering is lightened and the throttle response is dulled. Sport mode, which is always my go-to mode no matter what road I am driving on, definitely brings Bentley’s sporty spirit to life. The steering is much more direct, the air suspension is stiffened up, and the throttle inputs are obeyed instantaneously. The car also becomes a lot more rear-wheel drive biased.
In Sport mode the Continental GT handles very nicely indeed. If you turn it into a corner the car somehow grips itself very well and it goes round the corner and holds its line perfectly. Not bad for a heavy car and its surprisingly good. The car can certainly be good fun if you get the opportunity, unfortunately we didn’t have the right roads. Still, the four-wheel drive system is impressive and when in sport mode you will be amazed at just how well this heavy piece of machinery can dance. It is certainly not as agile as a Ferrari, but it’s much nicer inside the cabin.
Grand touring is where the car will certainly excel. With its fuel chugging engine you can’t expect good mileage, but it’s got a big belly to carry gas, and you can travel almost 450 miles (720km) on a single tank. That also means you wouldn’t have to stop at a gas station to often and rub shoulders with the commoners. Also, if you get tired on a long drive you have your own personal masseuse to sort out those back pains. You can choose between six different massage patterns and you can melt right into the seat as you cruise cross-country in unmatched style and sophistication.
Ultimately, it all comes down to what you are looking for in a Rs 5 crore car. The Continental GT is now more up to date, and with a sportier and lustful design. Its biggest competitors are the Aston Martin DB9, Ferrari GTC4 Lusso, Porsche Panamera, Maserati GranTurismo Sport and BMW M6 Gran Coupe. While all of these cars certainly might be more dynamic and better driver cars, and undoubtedly ostentatious to own, it’s still the Bentley that sets itself apart in terms of luxury, class, comfort, refinement and quality. It has the performance to if you need it, and that’s why it has been Bentleys most successful car of all time.
So, if you are looking for a luxury sports coupe, the Bentley is unmatched, but if you want something that is much more exciting to drive, and you don’t mind compromising comfort and class for performance, then there are plenty of other cars out there for you. Me personally, if I had the money, I would probably buy the Continental GT mainly because its cabin is unlike anything I have ever sat in, and also because I’ve never been able to fit into any Ferrari or Aston Martin quite as good.