If you think owning a Mercedes S Class coupe is a sign of your personal success you’re wrong. As nice as the S Class Coupe is, it is still a sign of how poorly your business is doing. To show real success you should be looking at the Bentley Continental GT because it is simply a cut above the S Class Coupe in every conceivable way. The Continental GT began life in 2003, now in its third generation, it’s looking better than ever. That’s the history lesson over with, oh and prices start at £160,000 GBP. OK, so the new design language isn’t… new. It’s evolutionary yes but it is an example of how to make evolution look swaggeringly good.
The new Continental GT exterior design appears as though it was hewn from rock and chiseled and refined by hand. On first impressions, it belongs in an art gallery. You can not say that about a Dacia… any Dacia. When you first glance upon it, an eternity seems to pass… you can’t say that about a Dacia. It really does look even better in person than the pictures can convey and the pictures convey it really well. OK, so Bentley absolutely nailed the exterior, but the interior is where owners are expected to spend most of their time in what is an ultra-luxury car. And again Bentley doesn’t disappoint.
This is the point where the Continental GT goes beyond the realm of an S Class Coupe and into a different league altogether. The build quality is peerless. The interior is simply resplendent, leather metal and wood craftsmanship opulently bath the occupant. It feels like a luxury speed boat inside as the wood, metal and leather trim seemingly wraps around you. The quality of the leather is the finest you can get, the finishing of the wood surfaces is finer still, high-end bespoke furniture quality finishing.
And overall the interior design is easy on the eye and a joy to sit in as much as it is a joy to admire. Some have criticised the over-reliance of chrome, but leather, wood, chrome is still a classic combination that works well in any interior design. That said there still a few plastic buttons that could be replaced with glass buttons. It just looks a bit cheap arse, and I am pretty sure rich clients won’t notice being billed the extra (minimal) cost.
The Bentley Continental GT is a big grand tourer, space upfront is generous as much as it is cosseting. And the luxury element is just as good for rear passengers, although cramped if you over 177cm tall. The rear boot is lined with the same plush carpet that lines the cabin floor. Bentley says the boot is wide enough to accommodate a set of golf clubs… which is slightly off-putting and concerning, to say the least. It’s a boot, it’s not overly big, but it’s big enough.
Back to the interior, it’s fully loaded and connected and the standard equipment is relatively generous. Why is mood lighting an optional extra? Nevertheless, the main features you will mostly use are the steering wheel and accelerator. And occasionally the brake. However, the interior is now fully digital. The driver’s instrument binnacle is a technology borrowed from Audi’s virtual cockpit. And that’s one of the best digital drivers display you can get. It’s also got this 3D effect that works effectively well and the graphics have been reconfigured to make sure you know you are driving a Bentley.
The infotainment system, again, borrowed from parent company VW. It’s the same system used by Audi and Porsche. The graphical user interface is high resolution and has been reconfigured to make sure you know you are using a Bentley infotainment system. It works well enough, it’s got a fast processor so flicking through the menu system is swift.
However, the infotainment menu system can take a bit of time to get used to. But once you understand how it works it becomes more and more intuitive to operate. But the real party trick is the rotating infotainment display. At a flick of a button, you can rotate it to display a matching wood panel finish, analog clock display or back to the infotainment system. You never get bored of using it.
The Bentley Continental GT has got a lot of firepower. Two powerplants are available, the twin-turbo V8 or the W12. The W12 on test is the Mount Everest of engines. Yes, that’s 12-cylinders, 6.0-litre, 626bhp and 900 Nm of torque (664 Ib.ft), 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds, top speed 207mph to be precise. The figures say one thing but the real-world driving says another.
The acceleration from a standstill is brutally savage, this is gentleman turned violent gangland killer territory. And the noise it makes as it accelerates is akin to a warzone. Yet it can cruise all day like a Nun. But it’s the drivability of the engine that impresses the most, it’s got that classic lazy accessibility. No matter what gear you are in there is always plenty of power instantly at your authority. As with all modern-day cars, it has a number of driving modes, but it drives well in any mode.
And the 8-speed transmission is pleasantly refined and just makes the overall driving experience ultra-comfortable for long-distance cruising. The ride and handling of the last generation was always better than you expected but it did show it’s underbelly when urged. The third generation is far more refined. A 48V front and rear active anti-roll bar system combined with air-suspension allow for composed and assured handling through twisty corners with minimal body roll. And I dare say it’s quite fun.
And no matter what size of wheels you have fitted – 21-inch alloys are standard – the ride quality is supple enough to cope with the roughest of surfaces. Massive brakes ensure stopping power is never found not wanting. It’s still a big car and does not have the overall dynamism of a sports coupe. But the Continental GT is the better all-rounder in terms of comfort, speed, and everyday usability.
In many ways, the Bentley Continental GT with a massive engine in today’s market is becoming somewhat of a dinosaur. As the transition from fossil fuel-powered cars to electric cars begins I can’t help but think that the Continental’s days are drawing to an end. But the end is many decades away so if you can afford one you may as well enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Just don’t forget to plant a tree.