Car reviews - Bentley - Continental - GT V8
Strong engine, exterior styling, interior fit/finish, ride comfort, handling despite size
Room for improvement
Sheer size and weight, road noise on 22-inch rims, options that should be standard, infotainment compared to VGA siblings
New Bentley Continental GT provides plentiful comfort and muscle in V8 guise
5 Feb 2021
For near on 20 years now, the Bentley Continental GT has been considered one of the linchpins of the luxury grand touring segment, having spent years locking horns with the likes of the Aston Martin DB9/DB11, Maserati GranTurismo, Mercedes-Benz SL and more recently, the BMW 8 Series.
The Continental GT has long been synonymous with the fabled twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 engine, however for the last decade the big two-door has also been available with a lighter and more frugal 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 borrowed from the likes of Audi and Porsche.
While Bentley’s local arm initially claimed the V8 would not be coming to Australia when it was revealed in third-generation guise in 2019, the luxury brand changed its view and the bent-eight Coupe and Convertible pair arrived last year before COVID-19 took hold.
Priced from a lofty $400,900 plus on-road costs, we took the hard-top Coupe out on the road to see whether the V8 is the pick of the bunch.
First drive impressions
From the outside, the GT intentions of the Conti are very clear – its size and width give it an imposing road presence.
Too big for a sportscar and too small for a limousine, the beefy two door feels right at home in the open-road tourer segment.
While its overall design language hasn’t changed a great deal since the first-generation landed in 2003, that’s not to say it looks dated – in fact, the Continental still looks every bit as menacing.
The low, wide stance combines well with the expansive front grille, circular headlight arrangement and optional 22-inch alloy wheels, while at the rear, the sloping roofline, muscular rear wheelarches and oval tail-lights give the impression of simple but imposing athleticism.
Moving into the cabin, the Continental’s super-luxury bent is clear to see from the impeccable fit and finish of the interior, along with the opulent materials used for the upholstery.
While the vast majority of vehicles will have at least some hard or soft plastic trims on its interior – on the B-pillars or door bins, for example – the Continental’s cabin is upholstered almost entirely in supple premium leather, even on the headliner, doors and dash.
With our model sporting two-tone ‘Linen’ and ‘Beluga’ – essentially cream and black – leather, the interior matches nicely with the piano black veneer stretching across the dashboard and door trims.
The 18-way adjustable seats are also some of the most comfortable and plush we’ve experienced, offering a soft and well-bolstered seating position that can be tailored to anyone’s preference.
While head- and legroom is ample for front passengers, the same cannot be said for the rear pews, which like other two-door cars with a ‘2+2’ seating layout, will only prove dimensionally comfortable for children.
At 358 litres, boot space is a little lacking for a car measuring 4850mm long, however we’re sure Sir will just be able to take the Bentayga when a set of golf clubs needs to be stowed.
The exemplary use of premium materials, as well as the high level of customisation in the interior, is partly where the Conti’s high pricetag is justified.
One of the most special elements of our vehicle’s interior is the optional rotating display that can flip the 12.3-inch infotainment screen around to face into the dashboard, instead revealing a trio of analogue gauges showing a compass, chronometer and temperature gauge.
While the quality of materials takes a big step up in the Bentley, the extra pricetag does not come with a marked increase in cutting-edge technology or new-fangled features, as evidenced by the 12.3-inch multimedia system (and digital instrument cluster) which, while proving perfectly adequate, is no better (or even slightly worse than) that of Volkswagen Group stablemates Audi and Porsche.
While in no way a bad system, Bentley’s interface does experience some lag when in operation, and the clarity of its graphics doesn’t compare its German counterparts.
Wired Apple CarPlay is standard, however for the price, we would have liked to have seen a wireless system (as well as a wireless phone charging pad) offered instead.
Nevertheless the cabin is a comfortable, serene place to be, with heated/ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, and low levels of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
As mentioned, under the bonnet of the Continental GT lies a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 borrowed from the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Audi RS6/RS7, tuned to produce 404kW at 6000rpm and 770Nm from 2000-4500rpm, driving all four wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
While technically the less potent of the Continental’s powertrain offerings, the V8 seems perfectly suited to the car, providing plentiful performance when needed but remaining quiet and well-mannered when not.
At 4850mm long and 1966mm wide with an unladen weight of 2165kg, the Continental GT is hardly pint-sized, however the twin-turbo bent-eight makes it feel smaller than it really is.
When given a poke, the engine does a fine job of hauling what is a big car up to speed – as evidenced by its rapid 4.0-second 0-100km/h time – and keeping it agile through the bends, especially with the revs spiked.
Shifting the drive mode selector to sport will provide a more engaging drive, however gear changes are mostly still done before the tachometer hits 4000rpm. To unlock the full potential of the engine, we recommend using the paddle shifters to change gears manually and see the revs climb toward the near-7000rpm redline.
When not trying to extract maximum power, the engine works well for a GT car, with smooth and even torque, level throttle response and a relaxed driving character that is perfect for cruising, while having enough power on hand to flick the switch when required.
So much so, that it makes you wonder if the W12 is needed at all, not counting those who make purchases based on needing the biggest/strongest/priciest option available.
Our only preference would be for a more expressive variable exhaust system, where the sound of the V8 could be opened up further for those who wish to experience it.
According to Bentley, the brand is in the midst of developing its own sports exhaust system for the V8, so we should see a louder V8 option materialise in the future.
The eight-speed dual-clutch, like the Porsche PDK it is derived from, is a great unit, one that avoids the low-speed niggles that plague many other dual-clutch units.
Shifts are fast and imperceptible, with lightning-quick changes either up or down.
Following a day of driving, fuel consumption for the bent-eight came out at 13.1 litres per 100km, a fairly thirsty figure but to be expected for a car of its size and power. Official combined consumption is pegged at 12.0L/100km.
As expected of a GT car, ride quality is excellent, with a comfortable tune that would make the Continental an easy proposition for an all-day drive.
Particularly in comfort mode, the suspension soaks up bumps and imperfections particularly well, something that is usually a trade-off with performance-oriented cars.
One slightly disappointing factor was the amount of tyre noise let into the cabin by the optional 22-inch alloys (20-inch are standard), which, especially on coarse-chip surfaces, provides a level of noise intrusion unbecoming of a $400,000-plus car.
Handling-wise, the Conti certainly has a sporty bent, controlling twisty corners and dynamic situations with poise and grace while moving smoothly even through rough patches of road and doing a good job of staying planted.
Don’t mistake it for an all-out sportscar however – it’s hard to hide the sheer size of the Continental, where too much dynamic engagement will run the risk of bring the big two-tonne coupe unstuck, a problem particularly noticeable on corners with undulating bumps.
Steering generally has a light and easy feel, making for a pleasant driving experience around town.
One welcome feature is rear-wheel steering, which helps make the Continental GT far nimbler in tight spaces such as parking lots.
Probably our most disappointing aspect of the Continental is the number of features consigned to the options list – on our car we had features such as adaptive cruise control, lane assist, traffic assist and a head-up display (Touring specification package), city assist, hands-free boot opening, surround view monitor and pedestrian warning (City specification package), and contrast stitching all consigned to the options list.
For a car that starts at $400,000, those features should arguably all come as standard.
Overall though the Continental GT is an accomplished, capable, stylish and comfortable GT cruiser.
It may not quite have the same dynamic abilities as some of its segment-sharing competitors, but its mix of good looks, luxury, everyday comfort and usable performance should sway a number of well-heeled buyers.
We also encourage anyone looking at forking out for the W12 version to have a drive of the V8 first – it may not have the same badge credibility at the country club, but its performance will satisfy all but the most demanding customers.
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