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2016 Bentley Continental GT review: First drive

The Good

  • Ludicrously fast
  • Easy to drive
  • luxurious

The Bad

  • Very similar to previous model
  • Thirsty
4.5

Rory reviews the new 2016 Bentley Continental GT; a grand tourer to end them all?

It’s difficult to recall a time when the Bentley Continental GT wasn’t a feature on the automotive landscape. In truth, the supercar for the discerning footballer’s mistress has only been with us since 2003.

Since its arrival, Bentley has barely touched it. Such was its success, and indeed its quality, it took the firm until 2011 before it began tinkering. Fast forward to 2015 and Bentley feels the time is once again right to dust off what few cobwebs have accumulated. This latest car features mild aesthetic changes inside and out, optional Wi-Fi in the cabin, plus more power, torque and fancy new fuel-saving technology on one of its engines.

We headed out to Norway to put this new spin on an old classic through its paces on some quite incredible roads.

Design

“The differences are so minute that even Bentley’s own employees would have trouble identifying them.”If you can’t spot the changes to the new Continental GT, don’t worry you won’t be alone. Bentley has avoided the temptation to festoon the thing with a million new lines, scoops and swages, as tends to be the norm with new car models.

Only a handful of tweaks have been applied, including a reworked front wing, a new, sharper front bumper, a smaller grille and a stylised “B”-shaped vent behind the front wheel. At the rear, it has a more pronounced spoiler lip and a wider rear bumper giving it a sportier aesthetic.

Inside, Bentley has taken the same ‘less is more’ approach. The biggest new addition is the option of an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, which allows passengers to connect to the same internet connection whilst on the move, bolstering the Continental GT’s credentials as an epic long distance cruiser.

All versions get new graphics on the dials and clock, a new steering wheel comes as standard in the V8 S and Speed models (it’s an option on other versions) while the diamond quilted leather, which is standard on the Speed, features smaller diamonds. The remainder of the differences are so minute that even Bentley’s own employees would have trouble identifying them.

Practicality

“Taller folk in the rear will want to call ‘shotgun’ for the return trip.”We drove the new Bentley Continental GT for several hundred miles, and not once did it feel like a chore. Its front seats are comfortable and supportive, with good adjustability ensuring it’s easy to find a driving position that suits you, whatever your physical proportions.

Seating in the rear is limited at best. The GT is best treated as a 2+2, able to carry two passengers in the rear, but they’ll be slumming it in comparison to those lucky enough to ride up front. Shorter passengers (those approximately 5 feet 5 inches and below) should be fine, but taller folk will want to call ‘shotgun’ for the return trip.

The GT V8 or V8 S benefit from a new storage space between the two rear seats, with two USB ports available for charging phones. The 6.0 litre W12 Continental GT and GT Speed have full-length consoles by default, but the rear seat storage compartment is available as a free option.

Boot space is very reasonable; enough for a set of golf clubs or a couple of Fendi suitcases, we presume.

Performance & handling

The Continental GT is available in several forms, each with its own personality. These include the entry-level GT V8, a sportier GT V8 S, the GT, which features a 6.0-litre W12, and the bonkers GT Speed.

We managed to grab time in GT, GT Speed and V8 S models, and each one was a treat. The pick of the bunch by a long way is the GT Speed. During normal, everyday driving it’s a quiet, comfortable, unassuming thing; butter wouldn’t melt. The first inch or so of the throttle pedal’s travel seems as if it’s reserved for normal pootling about, with little aggression shown.

“The 6.0 litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine howls into life, channeling 626bhp and a quite staggering 820Nm of torque.”Push it any further, however, and the beast awakens. The 6.0 litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine howls into life, channeling 626bhp and a quite staggering 820Nm of torque. Thankfully, all of that is sent via a 8-speed ZF automatic transmission to all four wheels, so traction is mighty.

It rained for nearly the entire duration of our test, but even with the heavens pouring forth, we never once felt unsafe mathcing it with a deluge of power. Where ordinary rear-wheel-drive sports cars would have struggled to put their power down on the wet stuff, the Continental GT Speed has zero difficulty launching itself towards the horizon with full gusto.

0-60mph? 4 seconds dead. Top speed? North of 200mph.

The ‘ordinary’ Continental GT felt slightly more sedate by comparison. Never slow, of course; it too uses a 6.0 litre twin-turbocharged W12, but it ‘only’ produces 582bhp with 720Nm. You can feel that 44bhp and 100Nm deficit, but that’s more testament to the GT Speed’s sheer brutality. Put the GT against most other cars and it’ll embarrass them in a straight line, with 0-60mph polished off in 4.3 seconds on the way to 198mph.

Its soundtrack isn’t quite as blood-curdling, either. It’s loud when on full song, certainly, but the GT Speed’s baritone banshee howl has a greater sense of urgency about it.

Hopping into the GT V8 S, we expected to be disappointed, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Its 4.0 litre V8 creates 521bhp and 680Nm — respectable by any measure — facilitates the same 0-60 time as the W12, and is one solitary mile per hour down on top speed.

“The V8 is spectacularly noisy on song, roaring, popping, snarling with abandon.”Its in-gear acceleration feels similar, too, and it even trumps the W12 where engine noise is concerned. It’s spectacularly noisy on song, roaring, popping, snarling with abandon. At one point in our test drive, we located a tunnel several miles long and if the cacophony from its exhaust and engine was the last sound we’d heard on planet earth, we’d have died happy.

All versions of the Continental GT handle exquisitely. At low speeds, the air suspension is supple, ironing out bumps in a way no 200mph motor has a right to, and at speed it’s every bit the sports car.

You have to try extremely hard to get it out of shape, and when you do, you’ll encounter a touch of understeer. The GT, with its heavier engine resting in the nose, is less inclined to tuck into corners than the more agile V8 S. All models have adequate feedback through their steering wheels, which is just as well – they grip almost forever, but when they begin to break traction you’ll want to know about it.

Get it all wrong and powerful brakes help scrub off speed at an alarming rate.

Economy & environment

“You can get 19.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 330g/km – but only if you try very very hard.”If you’re worried about economy and Mother Earth, you’re probably reading about the wrong car. But Bentley has made an effort to reduce running costs. The W12 in the Continental GT has a variable-displacement system, which can deactivate half of its 12 cylinders when on partial throttle, leading to a five-percent boost in fuel economy. Don’t expect a lot, though, that works out as 19.9mpg with CO2 emissions of 330g/km – but only if you try very very hard.

The faster GT Speed manages 19.3mpg with 338g/km. If economy and emissions do matter, then the V8 or V8 S are the pick of the bunch, thanks to 26.8mpg and 246g/km.

Equipment & value

There’s plenty on offer for those who want to make a Continental GT their own. Want a colour from the extended paint range? That’s £4,285. Extra stitching on the steering wheel? £1,485. Front and rear ashtrays? Of course not, but if you did, they’d be £310. The Wi-Fi hotspot feature is a hefty £845, while the bonkers brilliant carbon ceramic brakes are a hefty £10,825.

You’ll need to be careful with the options list. The Continental GT Speed we tested had a base price of £168,300, but options pushed its price to a mammoth £205,515.

Safety

“It’s the most sure-footed luxury vehicle we’ve ever stepped foot in.”Driving a 200mph sports car should be a terrifying experience, but the truth is you never feel unsafe in a Continental GT. It’s the most sure-footed luxury vehicle we’ve ever stepped foot in. The incredible four-wheel-drive helps it channel its power accurately rather than recklessly as is sometimes the case in rear-wheel-drive cars, its grip levels are absurdly good, and its brakes are phenomenal.

An assortment of airbags protecting your face, head, side and knees all help should the worst occur, and the sheer mass of the thing means you’re unlikely to come off worse than any object you hit in an accident.

Conclusion

“Perfection, if you can call it that, is difficult to improve upon.”The 2016 Bentley Continental GT range isn’t particularly different from the generation that came before it. They’ve tweaked the looks ever so slightly inside and out, certainly, but only motoring enthusiasts are likely to be able to recognise those differences. Likewise, most models in the range offer exactly the same performance.

Some may see this as a problem, but it almost feels churlish to complain when the previous car was so damn good, with so little direct competition. Perfection, if you can call it that, is difficult to improve upon.

The Continental GT is still ludicrously fast, still incredibly comfortable, still looks fantastic and still makes you feel special when you step inside. There’s very little else on the market that can help you join the 200mph club in such splendour. We absolutely love it.

Specification

EngineGT Speed: 6.0-litre W12 Twin-Turbo
Power626bhp
Torque820Nm
Acceleration0-60mph in 4.0 seconds
Emissions338g/km of CO2
Economy19.3mpg
Price168,300

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