It’s no easy task to reinvent an icon, but the third-generation Bentley Continental GT is perhaps the best attempt we’ve seen for some time.
Bentley has a formidable reputation for creating some of the world’s best Grand Tourers, and the new Continental takes what was already arguably a class-leader to new heights.
It was all the way back in 2003 that Bentley unveiled the first Continental. If you go back and look at the photos of that car now, you can see just how beautifully it has aged – even today it’s an elegant, classy powerhouse.
The second generation launched with a more refined design in 2011, but it’s the third generation we’re reviewing here that takes the best elements of previous-generation cars and adds a much-needed splash of modernity.
Although the 2020 Bentley Continental GT has a fair history to fall back on, it also has some seriously tough competition from the Aston Martin DB11 and DBS Superleggera, as well as the super-modern Ferrari Roma.
Buyers have a lot of choice when it comes to handing over buckets of cash, so brands like Bentley have to be constantly innovating and moving the benchmark forward to stay relevant.
Perhaps more importantly, the Continental offers the difficult choice between a Bentley-exclusive W12 engine or the twin-turbo V8 engine on test here, shared with the Audi RSQ8, Lamborghini Urus, and numerous Porsche vehicles.
It’s a hard choice because the price difference between the two is no more than $15,000 with all specs being equal. Why should you pick the Bentley over its competitors – and why should you choose the V8?
The Bentley Continental V8 pricing starts from $400,900 before on-road costs, but you need to tick a few boxes to get it to look and drive like the car we have tested here, which came in at $497,158.60 before on-roads, which in QLD would add roughly another $3-40,000 and bring total price to about $530,000 on the road.
The options fitted to our vehicle included:
- Extended range, solid and metallic paint: $11,969.10
- Blackline Specification: $8515.65
- 21-inch five tri-spoke alloy wheels, black painted and bright machined: $11,668
- City Specification with top-view camera, auto-dimming mirrors, hands-free boot, pedestrian and reverse traffic warning, City Assist: $10,539.10
- Touring Specification with head-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, night vision, Bentley Safe Guard Plus: $16,487.90
- Red brake calipers: $3253.25
- Bentley Dynamic Ride (48V anti-roll): $10,603
- Single finish, high-gloss carbon fibre: $6921.20
- Heated, duo-tone, three-spoke, hide-trimmed steering wheel: $1994.85
- Front seat comfort specification, with massaging, heated, vented front seats: $8251.10
- Contrast stitching: $4576
- Battery charger: $264.55
- Inductive charger: $743
- Embroidered Bentley emblems: $471.90
As is the case with all Bentleys, the Continental GT is mostly hand-built by a team of engineers and craftsmen in Crewe, Great Britain. The design of the car and the badge are, naturally, a great part of the ownership experience.
The reasons you’d want a Bentley are extensive, but for us the brand has always represented unwavering opulence. The definition of luxury in a motor vehicle has for many years been a fight between Rolls-Royce and Bentley, but the Continental is about as classy and sophisticated as you can look while driving yourself.
It has the power, style, and a perfect blend of elegance and dynamism to be regarded one of the best daily drivers money can buy. Put simply, the Bentley Continental is the sort of car where you look forward to getting stuck in traffic.
What you get with a Bentley is an extreme level of attention to detail. From the stitching, the paintwork, the feel of all the switchgear to the way it all feels, looks and turns with precision, the way the doors stay open regardless of how wide they’re cracked. Lots of little things add up to make the new Continental feel special.
We were genuinely surprised by the amount of attention we got in the Continental. Usually a Bentley blends better than cars like an Aston Martin, Ferrari, or Lamborghini, but the new GT was anything but shy. We got plenty of looks, comments, and a barrage of positive responses about how beautiful the car looked in its ‘ice’ paint with the Linen and Beluga interior.
In terms of standard features, the Continental is packed with more than you would expect from cars of this calibre, which are often highly reliant on options.
Stock standard are 10-spoke, 20-inch alloy wheels (ours had 21-inch options), LED matrix headlights, a gorgeous leather-wrapped interior and a powertrain that will blow you away, but no doubt connoisseurs will very much customise their order from the myriad options available.
The Bentley Continental has not been crash tested because of its low volume. Nonetheless, it scores highly in our books due to the availability of City Specification that brings autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian warning, and reverse traffic warning.
This is on top of the Touring Specification that brings adaptive cruise, a head-up display, lane-keeping and traffic assist, as well as our favourite feature, night vision.
During our time with the car in Brisbane we actually had a cyclist run a red light very late at night, and the Continental picked it up and sounded the alarm well and truly before we even had a chance to react.
It’s fair to say we were pretty impressed with how quickly it acted in complete darkness.
The only downside is all these features are optional, where they really should be standard on a car like this.
The interior of this Bentley is superb. We’re suckers for the finer details in cars, and the Continental is littered with little gems.
From the tactile sensation of the indicator stalk to the satisfying feeling of how the air-con vents move, like they have been perfectly weighted, to the fact the air-conditioning controls themselves feel like jewels under your fingertips.
The front seats are reminiscent of expensive lounge chairs, in how they feel to sit in and touch. In saying that, the leather wasn’t as soft as we anticipated – though it did smell amazing. Yes, we smelled the leather.
The black and white look of our test car was a huge standout, specially as it was so elegantly mixed with carbon fibre finishes on the doors and dashboard. The piano black centre console also worked well with the colour scheme.
The infotainment system with optional wireless phone charging and Apple CarPlay worked a treat. We love the way the infotainment screen rotates to showcase the crisp, clear 12.3-inch touchscreen, and the fact it can rotate again to display three analogue dials with polished chrome bezels, hinting at Bentley’s heritage and classic design, is achingly cool.
Our only gripe with the interior was the gear shift lever. There’s a nice Bentley ‘B’ at the top you press to move the gearstick, but the position of the Park button at the front of the lever means you need to be really gentle with how you hold it, as we found ourselves constantly putting the car in park without meaning to.
You’ll get used to it, but it would seem logical to put the Park button somewhere else on the lever, perhaps on the right side.
Oh, and if you had any thoughts about using the back seats, forget them. Bentley claims this is a 2+2 but in reality it’s a more like a 2+0.5 – there’s next to no room in the back seats for grown humans.
My five-year-old child barely fit in a simple booster base seat. It’s fanciful to think you’ll ever be able to make use of the rear seats for any practical purpose, bar perhaps the shortest of trips from one meeting to another.
This actually raises the question of why you need them at all. The biggest appeal of cars like the Continental, Aston Martin DB11, Porsche 911, and Ferrari Roma is that they can – if needed – transport four passengers, but the reality is the rear seats can’t be relied upon.
If you remove that characteristic, you open yourself up to a raft of two-seat options in the same price range. Something to really consider if your primary purchase decision hinges on rear-seat usability
As we said earlier, the Continental can be had with a W12 engine but our tester came with the Volkswagen Group’s 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine with 404kW of power and 770 Nm of torque.
Bentley claims it will do 0-100km/h in four seconds flat, with a top speed of 318km/h. As a comparison, the W12 has 467kW of power and 900Nm of torque, which sees the 0-100km/h time drop to just 3.7 seconds despite weighing 79 kg more.
The V8 motor makes use of dual twin-scroll turbochargers located inside the ‘V’ of the engine, and the result is a very lag-free experience. It also has the capability switch between eight and four cylinders in just 20ms to save fuel, not that you would probably care much for fuel savings if you own one. For the record, we managed around 16.4L/100km on our test.
Bentley makes use of an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that transfers power to all four wheels.
It’s hard to choose between the W12 and the V8. W12 models come with more standard features that drive the price up further than just the engine itself but, costs aside, the V8 is a super responsive, rapid engine that sounds far more aggressive and inspires a fair bit of emotion.
On the other hand, the W12 is far more refined – and while for many it will come down to cost and emotion, in our humble opinion, the larger motor is better suited to the character of the Bentley.
After all, part of the ownership experience is having something unique and there is nothing more unique than a W12 motor. But you will have no regrets going for the V8 either.
For a car that has a kerb weight of about 2.2 tonnes, the Continental drives with a great deal of poise and confidence.
Weighing about 80kg less than the W12 doesn’t make an awful lot of difference to the driving characteristics of the V8, but we’re truly impressed by just how much acceleration and torque this motor puts out.
The 0-100km/h times don’t do the Continental justice, because in-gear acceleration between 40 and 100km/h feels blisteringly quick, and you’ll seldom ever ask for more grunt.
We took it for a drive up through some tight, twisty turns and found the steering is best suited to being what this car actually is, which is a Grand Tourer. It doesn’t provide an awful lot of feedback, but still gets the job done.
It’s the sort of car you need to brake early and hard, to get it to turn in, before easing onto the right pedal and letting the torque do most of the work for you.
Even so, the optional Bentley Dynamic Ride package is a delight, and a must-have if you intend to do some spirited driving with your V8 (it’s standard on the W12).
The system adds an active 48V electronic roll control system working to allow for better dynamics and more comfortable driving. It rapidly changes and adjusts the roll bars to reduce body movement when pushed hard into a corner, but also mitigates any serious bumps one particular corner might feel by decoupling the bar.
But all the fancy suspension systems in the world cannot defy basic laws of physics, and that means the Bentley is just too heavy to be driven hard without bouts of understeer and a general sensation of weight transfer. It’s certainly the sort of car where an above-average driver will find the limits far quicker than the typical mid-engined machines from the Italians.
We did appreciate the ability to switch between Sport, Bentley, Comfort, and Custom modes, and often found ourselves just leaving the car in comfort.
The all-wheel drive system will send up to 38 per cent of the torque to the front wheels in Comfort so there’s a lower chance of oversteer, giving it a more even feel with active torque vectoring. Put it in Sport though, and you’ll send a maximum of 17 per cent torque to the front wheels, making the Continental a bit more tail happy.
Besides, you’ll really get to hear a rather dirty V8 turbo noise that will crackle and pop on downshifts and when you lift off the right pedal. It’s a nice note, but lacks a definitive character on acceleration.
It’s not meant to be outrageous and loud and in that sense, the V8 does a terrific job keeping you interested without going overboard.
The Bentley Continental will need a service every 16,000 km or 12 months, whichever comes first. Despite being a somewhat pricey vehicle, the servicing costs are not that out of the ordinary with the first year $1600, second year $1900, third year $2300, fourth year $1900 and fifth year $3000. The factory backed Bentley warranty is three years and unlimited kilometres and can be extended up to 10 years at around $5500 a year.
Not many cars in the world will bless you with a nicer interior
The question is not whether the Bentley Continental is a great Grand Tourer, because it’s one of the best money can buy right now. The real question is whether you should buy the V8 or the W12 – and our take is to go with the bigger motor and live a little.
Not for the extra power or torque, or the 0.3 seconds faster you’ll arrive at a speeding ticket. It’s more about character and soul, and we feel a Bentley’s heart should beat in 12s.
Of course, the Continental won’t disappoint regardless of which spec you pick, with the V8 delivering humongous performance for a GT while maintaining an incredible array of creature comforts.
The true test to the Bentley will come from the twin-turbo V8 Ferrari Roma, which promises Bentley levels of sophistication and luxury with a Prancing Horse badge.
But you know what the Italian doesn’t have as an option? A W12 engine.