The brand-new 2018 Bentley Continental GT is faster, more powerful, more luxurious and loaded with more tech than ever before – and just like its predecessor, it handles everything with an understated gracefulness that makes for a truly unique driving experience.
If you want to be bathed in complete luxury and enveloped in sumptuous leather, you go for a Rolls Royce. If you want speed and racing heritage, you go for a McLaren. If you want a bit of both, you go for a Bentley: and the new GT is everything you would expect and so much more.
Bentley aficionados will be familiar with the slightly raised driving position and silky-smooth air cushioned ride paired with an almighty 6.0l W12 power plant. But now with new components and ancillaries, the twin-turbo 12-cylinder engine is more refined and more powerful. With a host of new technology, including a direct-injection system, the car generates 626bhp – not a huge step up from its forbearer, but the really impressive part is the way it pulls. Producing 664lb ft torque from just 1350rpm, this 2.2-tonne heavyweight accelerates like an Aston Martin DB11. It’s that good.
This time, the British manufacturer decided to drop the previous torque-converter unit and paired the engine with an all-new, smooth eight-speed PDK gearbox, linked with a more sporty ZF dual-clutch, all set on a Porsche Panamera chassis. There are more components borrowed from Porsche, including the wishbone setup. The power distribution has also been tweaked to give more balance to the all-wheel drive system by transferring more of the power to the rear wheels.
Bentley’s aim was to produce the best grand tourer ever made. And taking inspiration from the 1952 Continental Type-R, it has achieved the impossible: creating a cheaper car than the historical masterpieces equivalent. It was sold in the 50s for £7,500, which in today’s money equates to about £210,000 – and the 2018 comes in at very reasonable £159,100.
This car was built for touring, and it’s most at home on the motorway. It’s quite possibly the smoothest ride you will ever experience: the super high-tech, algorithmically-controlled air suspension irons out every single imperfection in the road – no matter how big or small – and makes you feel like you’re effortlessly gliding over the road, whilst still instilling confidence in the driver that they are in complete control.
The huge amount of torque is instantly accessible at any speed, in any gear, and the intuitive gearbox will seamlessly change down when you put your foot down, giving you mind-blowing acceleration from the incredibly responsive engine. The raw power propels the car forward – and you into the back of the butter-soft Nappa leather seats – with unparalleled force.
The supremely luxurious interior is awash with technology, gadgetry and enough buttons to keep even the most focused driver distracted, with an array of massage settings to keep you relaxed on a long cruise. Every detail has been considered, and our favourite feature is the way the graphics on the centre console digitally continue the lines of the dashboard and anthropometrically designed buttons – it’s these small things that make a huge difference. The sound system has been given some serious attention: the collaboration with Bang & Olufsen means the 16 speakers powered by a touchscreen equaliser produce the best sound quality you could imagine.
This is by no means a track-bred race car, but the sports mode stiffens up the suspension, hunkers down the ride height and increases the throttle response (like it needs it!), and overall provides a great driving experience with a throatier engine note. But the GT is much more at home cruising across the continent, soaking up the miles and helping you arrive anywhere in ultimate style.