What is it?
It's an important and interesting car, this revised edition of the Bentley Continental GT. It's the first of the VW generation of models, produced since the Wolfsburg giant acquired Bentley, to have come around for rejuvenation.
Given that the GT was very well received at launch in 2003 and has become the best-selling Bentley in history in the intervening years, it’s fascinating to see what Bentley’s accomplished team believes needs changing.
The revisions have been thorough: nearly every exterior panel changes to modernise and re-balance the exterior, and there's an all-new interior which strikes again for the best quality levels in the £100k-plus class. It also includes a much better infotainment system and new-design seats that look sportier, save space and bring a weight saving of 35kg.
There are also wider tracks and suspension refinements (mostly from existing go-faster Contis), and the adoption of the Supersports’ 40:60 torque split (it used to be 50:50) and a new level of 6.0-litre W12 engine which produces an extra 15bhp and will run on petrol, E85 (85 per cent ethanol) or any biofuel mix in between).
What's it like?
It’s a very successful revision of a great car. Bentley builds its cars beautifully, and this new interior only improves the standard. The car looks good, too, though it’ll take you a few views to appreciate the improvements fully. The lengthened nose and ‘prouder’ grille make a big difference, and the stance is improved by the wider tracks, too.
But it’s the driving that’s different. Bentley claims refinement improvements - lowered bump and road noise; controlled wind noise courtesy of double-glazing - as the big issues, but there are other benefits. Great efforts have been made to reduce steering friction, and refine the car’s geometry so that it has brilliant high-speed stability, yet excellent near-centre steering sensitivity.
There was always great cornering grip, and it's made better because the tracks are wider, but this heavy car will now throttle-steer much better than previously, something that belies its 2.3-tonne mass.
The combination of 15bhp more from the flex-fuel engine and a reduction of 65kg overall improves the power-to-weight ratio by a useful six per cent. The car now sprints from 0-60 mph in just 4.6sec, and to 100mph in just over 10sec, even though it’s geared to do 198mph flat out.
If the car now has a foible, it’s the heavy fuel consumption and faint signs of age from its mighty W12 engine, which isn’t quite as good, and doesn’t sound quite as nice, as the very best modern engines in this price bracket.
Should I buy one?
Definitely. The Continental GT is more than a sports car, but far more rakish and agile than a saloon. And its price (boosted to £135,760 by the advent of 20 per cent VAT) still seems pretty decent value against cars that go no faster and are less well equipped and made.
The W12-engined GT’s main rival may turn out to be the still-secret 4.0-litre turbo V8 iteration to be revealed in a year’s time, since it offers a 40 per cent cut in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. For now, though, the W12 rules the roost.