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Bentley Continental GT coupe (2003 – ) expert review

By Andy Goodwin, 28th August 2012

The verdict

The Bentley Continental GT coupe can do exactly what its name suggests, thanks to comfort, luxury, practicality and speed. It’s hand-finished interior is a special place to be.

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Expert rating:

4.1

Pros

  • Attention to detail inside and out
  • Wave of torque from its engine
  • It’s surprisingly practical

Cons

  • You will be the tax man’s favourite customer
  • It can feel heavy
  • It is a tight squeeze in some car parks

Full Review

1. Exterior

New manufacturing techniques have allowed Bentley to give the new Continental GT a crisp design, with sharper lines than before. Aluminium heated to 500 degrees is moulded into shape by air pressure, giving much more artistic freedom. The front wheel arches have stronger shoulders, while the swage lines pass right through the centre of the door handles. New headlights sit in recessed openings and have in-built washers to reduce clutter. There are as few visible shut-lines – where each panel meets the next – as possible, making the car looks as strong and clean as possible. Perhaps the most obvious change is the grille, which now sits more upright and exudes even more confidence.

Our rating: 4

2. Interior

The Continental GT is built to cover continents without making its occupants break into a sweat and has easily the most sumptuous interior of any sports coupe. Every material is the best possible quality and many will be surprised how much of the car is still hand crafted by proud workers in Crewe. Each leather steering wheel takes between four and six hours to hand stitch and the wooden veneer is selected by hand for the quality of its markings and takes 13 days to craft into the finished pieces you see in the car. What let the previous model down was its ageing sat-nav. This has been replaced by an all-new system, with better graphics and enhanced connectivity for your mobile phone.

Our rating: 5

3. Practicality

The front seatbelts now emerge from the side of the car instead of a unit mounted on the front seats. This makes it easier to get in and out of the rear of the car and even improves legroom thanks to a redesign of the front seat backs. It’s cosy back there, but adequate for most adults on short trips. The boot is plenty big enough, with 358-litres of space and a powered tailgate as standard. This compares with 186 litres in the Aston Martin DB9 and 330 litres in the Jaguar XK Coupe.

Our rating: 5

4. Ride and handling

Considering it’s such an expensive and powerful car, the Continental GT is remarkably easy to drive. The only thing you have to watch out for is its considerable width, which makes it better suited to sweeping A-roads than hedgerowed-lined rat runs and will make you think twice about entering some multi-storey car parks. The ride quality is excellent, shrugging off most imperfections without flinching. Those huge tyres can transmit some tyre roar on particularly rough roads, but most of the time the cabin is calm and quiet. There’s not too much feel through the steering, but it’s perfectly weighted and grip is so strong you quickly trust the car to stay glued to your chosen line through each bend. Despite weighing as much as a big 4×4, the GT is remarkably composed and fun. Few Continentals will ever be seen at a trackday though – it would be like doing a barrel role in a private jet. If that’s your thing, stick with a Porsche.

Our rating: 3

5. Performance

The 6-litre, W12 configuration engine has been given a 37lb/ft increase in torque and 15bhp increase in power, adding up to 567bhp overall. Zero to 60mph takes a scant 4.4 seconds, helped by four-wheel drive traction. A top speed of 198mph is more supercar than Grand Tourer too. The way it delivers its power has been carefully calibrated to fit the Bentley brand, with a swell of torque as soon as you press the throttle. It’s a very different experience to the crescendo of power in a Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano, which might not be quite as exciting, but can be tapped into more often and can’t fail to raise a smile. There’s also a new 4-litre twin-turbocharged V8, with 500bhp and 487lb/ft of torque. Like the W12, it has been tuned to deliver a great thump in the back from 1,500rpm, and despite having less power its NASCAR-given-finishing-lessons soundtrack is actually more addictive. Acceleration to 60mph takes 4.6 seconds, and its top speed is 188mph.

Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

The latest model might weigh 65kg less than its predecessor, but it still has quite eye watering running costs. Its average consumption is 17.1mpg, while it emits 384g/km of CO2, placing it n the highest tax band. A Jaguar XKR averages 23mpg, while the Porsche 911 Turbo S manages 24.8mpg and emits 268g/km of CO2. Choose the Continental V8 and things get much better. With cylinder deactivation, it’s effectively a V4 under light loads (not that you’d ever be able to tell), and it averages 26.7mpg while emitting 246g/km of CO2.

Our rating: 2

7. Reliability

Bentley aftercare is legendary, so if something should go wrong you should be impeccably well looked after. The previous generation Continental GT was subject to one recall in 2008 to replace a fuel filter which could potentially corrode and leak in extreme conditions. Build quality and craftsmanship is second to none and each Bentley is built to stay on the road until it’s a classic car.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

Each passenger gets side airbag protection while there are knee airbags for the driver. Stopping power is immense thanks to front brake discs bigger than the wheels of many superminis. For even more braking ability, optional 420mm Carbon Silicon Carbide brakes can be specified. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely the Continental GT will ever be tested by Euro NCAP, owing to its low production volume.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

The big news for drivers is an all-new infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen and 30GB hard drive. It features navigation, in-car audio and mobile phone connectivity connected to eight flat-panel speakers. An optional 11-speaker Naim stereo uses new technology to deliver perfect sound reproduction wherever you are sitting in the car.

Our rating: 5

10. Why buy?

The love and craftsmanship imbued into every car built in Crewe is certainly evident in the new Continental GT. The performance and refinement are exceptional. Hopefully the forthcoming V8 engine can reduce its carbon footprint as well.

Our rating: 5

Expert review 4.1stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior5
  • Practicality5
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance4
  • Running costs2
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment5
  • Why buy?5

The Continental GT is built to cover continents without making its occupants break into a sweat and has easily the most sumptuous interior of any sports coupe