Bentley has now racked up 50,000 examples of its modern Continental. And it has been less than a decade coming. You wonder whether ‘Walter Owen’ would have envisaged such popularity for the marque that bears his name, 90-odd years ago – either in his wildest or even most troubling dreams.

Remember that the ‘Continental’ moniker used to be applied internally to any model that had been taken to mainland Europe by WO himself, and tested at high speed there. The first official Continental was the 1952 R-type coupé. The name was used on updated versions of that car through the later 1950s and 1960s, and subsequently applied to Rolls Corniche-based coupés and convertibles of the late 1980s and 1990s.

There’s no doubt, though, that the most recent incarnation has done more for Bentley’s bank accounts than any of its predecessors. So 2011 was about time that the Continental GT coupé, bedrock of the company’s sales figures, had a facelift.

The 2011 model wasn't an all-new car, although Crewe would like you to believe it is. The generously proportioned two-plus-two has been put on a diet, given a styling massage inside and out, and had some telling mechanical updates, chief among which was the introduction of a V8 option as an alternative to the continuing W12 variant.

Top 5 Grand Tourers

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  • The Bentley Continental GT is now available as a W12 or a V8

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    2
  • Mercedes-Benz SL

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  • The Jag XK is equally capable of crossing continents or shredding its tyres on track

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  • The 6-series shares its plaform with models as diverse as the 5-series and Rolls-Royce Ghost

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