Why The New Bentley Continental GT Ruined Cars For Me
Bentley Emirates recently unleashed a gaggle of journalists on its newest vehicles, the Bentayga and Continental GT.
The launch event included a drive up to the highest mountain in the UAE: Jebal Al Jais in Ras Al Khaimah. We could choose to drive either the Bentayga or the Continental GT up the mountain, swap cars, and drive the other back down.
I received a bit of advice from a motoring journalist the night prior to the drive. “Make sure you pick the Continental GT for the drive back,” he said, “there’s no convoy on the return trip, you can peel off and drive at your own pace.”
My own pace being crazy KM/H.
I knew that. He knew that. Bentley Emirates did not.
D-day arrived and I picked the Bentayga for the drive up the mountain, filed into the convoy and drove like you would if you were taking mum to the garden centre to pick out something for a table centrepiece.
But this story isn’t about a relaxed drive up the mountain in the Bentayga. Nor is it about chrysanthemums that pop against your wooden table.
It’s about the speedy, breathless, hairpin-munching, swirl down the mountain in the Bentley Continental GT.
Keeping in mind that the last vehicle to endure my madness (and responded with its own) was the Lamborghini Huracan Performante. While my trusty Veloster served as a suitable palate-cleanser, I was a bit nervous about the GT.
The Bentley Continental GT is, without a doubt, one of the most recognisable cars on the road today – if not the most recognisable.
While the Grand Tourer has been around since 2003, we’ve just begun to experience the third generation of the Bentley Continental GT. Making its debut at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, the new version has been significantly improved.
The new edition has stayed true to its iconic styling, with its almost doe-eyed dual circular headlamps. However it’s also dropped about 80kgs and features a new 6.0 litre W12 engine paired with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. We’ll get to its speed shortly.
Bentley Continental GT: At first glance
You don’t simply jump into the Continental GT. Even long-time owners of this splendid hunk of metal, sculpted like a Rodin masterpiece, would spend a few seconds (or minutes) appreciating the car before they get in. The car is beyond beautiful: everything the iconic Continental GT is and more. The Bentley design team sure had a fun time designing this vehicle.
While it does scream Continental GT – the redesign is extensive yet subtle. The famous front grill is now slightly larger and wider, while the secondary pair of lights is moulded into the curves of the car.
The major changes can be seen on the rear. The new taillights are a lot slimmer, mimicking the shape of the exhausts. And the exhausts themselves are wider than previous models.
Spend a few minutes looking at the pictures below – notice the clean lines, the artistic brushstrokes, and the lower wider body. Bentley has effectively relaunched an iconic car with a new attitude, while somehow finding a way to keep it the same as its classy former self.
The last line does sound confusing, so allow me to explain.
In conversation with other motoring journalists (eavesdropping), we raised a good point. While Bentley offers up the new Continental GT as the ‘next generation’ of the iconic tourer, it feels like it’s a few generations ahead of its time. It is incredibly different, futuristic and kitted out with every digital and mechanical luxury available in the industry today.
If you think the car is gorgeous on the outside, step in. Every single thing you lay your eyes on within the car’s interior has been crafted, painstakingly, by hand. The insides are wrapped in hand-cut and hand-stitched leather hides.
The personalisations are endless as well. If you’re springing for a new Continental GT, you can truly personalise this vehicle so it’s one of a kind. Potential buyers can choose from 15 interior hides and choose to cover everything from the seats to the dash and the door trimmings and headliner.
Why stop there Gary? I hear you ask. Well, don’t. If you’re just that bit extra – opt for the contrast stitching in Centenary Gold thread and the gold embroidered Bentley Wings on the headrests.
One of my favourite features is the Bentley Rotating Display smack in the middle of the dash. Drivers switch between three different panels to suit their mood during that particular drive. The default is a 12.3-inch high-resolution touchscreen, the second panel features three handcrafted analogue dials, and the third pleases the minimalist within, with a clean, veneer-only face.
Now that I’m done fan-girling over the aesthetics, let’s get to the engine that powers this sublime beast.
Under the hood is a new six-litre, W12 twin-turbo engine that can crank out 626bhp.
Bentley Continental GT: First drive
While you do feel the power within this car, you’re not tempted to unleash it. The car is more enjoyable when you’re cruising and wrapped in its abundant luxury.
However it’s not just eye-candy and a butt-rest for wealthy elitists. This Bentley’s got wings!
This car is fast. Crazy fast. I truly underestimated its speed.
While at first glance this seems like a suited gentleman, a slight dip of your ankle transforms it into a bareknuckle alleyway boxer: Jekyll and Hyde, if you will. The Continental GT can fly from 0 – 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, and hit a top speed of 333 km/h.
And the beauty of it is that you don’t feel like you’re travelling that fast. It is stable. It is wholesome. And it drives at breakneck speeds like it’s no big deal.
While I have not driven previous Continental GT models, allow me to paraphrase (plagiarize) the aforementioned conversation (eavesdropping session) from veteran motoring journalists where they claim, “a relaunch was well overdue, the Continental GT needed an upgrade to compete with the likes of the S Classes, Panameras and GranTourismos.”
However, there is another rival a little closer to home for Bentley. And that’s Aston Martin’s DB11 AMR that always finds a way to pop up in every conversation related to the Bentley Continental GT.
Luckily, I can comment on the ‘Continental GT Vs. DB11 AMR’ argument. However that’s an entirely different article for another week on the similarities, the differences, the drive, the design, etc. Long story short: I would personally choose the Bentley. Sorry DB11.
Back to the Bentley, while this vehicle absolutely owns cruising and straight lines, the question you should be asking is: how does it fair on the corners? Since it is quite stocky, you wouldn’t expect it to be a nimble as a gazelle.
But it fairs better than you would imagine. Quick overtakes, and flowing corners are magical in the Continental GT, however don’t expect this to prance around hairpins and tight bends at high speeds, because it wasn’t made for nutters who plan on screeching around hairpins and tight bends at high speeds. (Trust me on that).
I’m glad I chose the unsupervised and unchaperoned drive back to Dubai in the Continental GT.
And while I did enjoy blasting through the curvaceous mountain roads, I enjoyed the peaceful open roads a lot more.
I never thought I would ever say this, but: driving the Continental GT on a boring two-hour drive back home on straight highways was a lot more enjoyable than the 30 minutes of mountain carving.
Maybe the Bentley soothes the savage speed beast within?
Or perhaps it was the amazing 650-watt Bentley sound system, or the massage seats, or the 1-hour nap, or the adaptive cruise control and active lane assist thanks to its autonomous self-driving technology.
It’s a sheer pleasure to drive, and thank you Bentley for ruining cars for me.
(I was kidding about the 1-hour nap BTW)