What is it?
This is the new Bentley Continental GT, here to offer the same brazen attitude as its hugely popular predecessor, but with some of the less appealing qualities polished out.
Actually a very significant facelift, the highlights of the 2011 Conti GT include a new six-speed ZF auto gearbox that is claimed to reduce shift times by up to 50 per cent, an uprated version of the 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 that now puts out 567bhp, wider tracks, new chassis settings and a 40:60 power split rather than the previous model’s 50:50.
What’s it like?
It’s just what was needed for this most popular of Crewe’s models. The active air suspension now offers excellent bump absorption (even on the optional 21-inch wheels) when in either of the two more forgiving of the four settings, even if body control becomes a tad too loose when settled into the softest mode.
Crucially, this more pliant ride quality (and the improved and now excellent cabin refinement) has enhanced the GT’s touring ability noticeably. It isolates the driver thoroughly and generally provides every-day road manners that are exactly what you would hope of such an over-indulgent coupe.
Initially the steering can feel a little synthetic and weighty for town-use, but push into slightly higher speeds and the weighting evens out nicely, the optional £11,020 carbon-ceramic brakes start to offer a delicacy of feel as well as outrageous stopping power and there is a general cohesion to the whole driving experience.
Best news of all is that the new GT remains well-resolved even if you choose to get a bit raucous. Yes, you are always aware of the 2.3-tonne weight, it still understeers a little too eagerly, and as soon as you stiffen up the suspension you’ll get sharp jolts regularly going through the dampers directly to your leather sports-seat ensconced buttocks. But it’s fun and it’s nimble in a way that it wasn’t previously, with the nose more willing to turn and the rear-bias power split bringing a more precise and encouraging response.
So it’s champagne all round for Bentley? Well, no, not quite. There are some irritations, the first of which is the gearbox, which does an excellent job much of the time – particularly in Sport or normal auto modes. But it can be a bit slow to respond to prods of the right pedal, and occasionally it will jump more cogs than you expected.
Also, for all that the 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbo’d engine is delightfully epic, it’s feeling a little left behind by the best out there in terms of drama if not in performance. And finally, though the list price is impressively competitive the standard equipment falls short of what you would expect.
Should I buy one?
Truthfully, these niggles are unlikely to stop anyone with the inclination and means to buy a Bentley from doing exactly that. As well they shouldn’t. This is now not only a truly great GT, it’s actually a pretty meaningful sports car, too.