Introduced way back in 2003, the Bentley Continental GT is, as its name suggests, a Gran Turismo. It’s for those who want their pace with grace and sumptuous, hand-finished luxury. Bentley has updated the car regularly to keep it relevant, though it’s due to be replaced completely before too long. Along with crushing pace, in either V8 or W12 guises with varying outputs, comes huge ability. All Continental GTs come with four-wheel drive and a slick automatic transmission. There are sharper sports cars and bigger, more accommodating GTs, but the Continental GT’s strength lies in its utterly rounded ability, as it’s a luxury supercar you really can use every day and for any journey.
Did you know? Braking the Speed model from its 205mph top speed to a standstill disperses enough energy to light a family house for six hours.
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It might be getting on in years, but the Bentley Continental GT remains utterly relevant in the rarefied world of luxury sports, super and GT cars. It blends a mix of all into a very convincing whole, and while it’s not as sharp and engaging to drive as some, it’s incredibly capable, very fast and, crucially, remarkably easy to live with. Plenty of personalisation means each one can be uniquely specified, while the interior is sumptuously hand finished with the finest materials and accommodates four – at a push. Offered with V8 or W12 engines with outputs ranging from 507hp to a scarcely believable 710hp in Supersports guise, pace is never an issue. An imperious, near unique proposition, the Continental GT remains hugely appealing.
Design & Exterior
Interior & Comfort
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Specs & Trims
Running Costs & Fuel Economy
Crushing any-weather pace
Sumptuous, hand finished interior
Ease of use
We Don’t Like
Infotainment system feels ancient
Lacks the latest connectivity and driver aids
A four-seater, but only just
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Design & Exterior: (8/10)
The Bentley Continental GT Coupe has been around long enough to be recognisable, familiar even, but that does nothing to detract from its appeal. Its pugnacious upright Bentley grille and powerful, broad stance hint not just at its ample power but its luxury, too. Those exterior lines have been tweaked slightly since its arrival in 2003, most comprehensively in 2011 when it received an extensive re-engineering. Bentley now uses superformed aluminium panels to define a crisper line on its flanks.
All versions look sensational, and it requires a real Bentley connoisseur to spot the subtle changes delineating the different V8 and W12 models. The V8s come with uniquely shaped exhaust finishers, V8 badging and different standard finishes on the front grille. The Supersports is a bit more extrovert, with more obvious aerodynamic revisions, larger wheels and tyres and bonnet vents signifying its 710hp and 209mph ability.
Bentley offers so much personalisation it’s rare that any two Continental GTs will be identically specified, unless of course you order two the same for your different houses… Bentley also makes the Continental GT in Convertible guise if open-topped super luxury and speed is your thing.
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Interior & Comfort: (9/10)
Bentley takes enormous pride in its hand-crafted luxury tradition and that’s obvious in the Continental GT’s cabin. It’s an exhibition of high-quality materials, while the dash itself echoes the shape of Bentley’s winged badge. The finest leather hides (stitched however you like, and with whatever matching or contrasting colour you wish) cover the armchair-like seats, the door panels and the dashboard top, while rich wood veneers – polished so smooth you’ll find it impossible not to touch them – or carbonfibre, or brushed metal (in any mix and quantity you like), fill the gaps between them. The bullseye chromed air vents with organ-stop pulls are a tactile delight, too. The Continental GT’s interior is a masterclass in mixing the very best materials to very good effect indeed.
There’s a lot of comfort inside, though the Continental GT’s billing as a four-seat car is only partially true. Those rear seats are not as accommodating as something like a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe’s, although they’re fine for occasional, shorter journeys. The driver and front passenger are far better accommodated, their seats offering seemingly infinite electric adjustment, with heating, cooling and massaging functions possible. The driving position is, thanks to all that adjustment, excellent, but the thick pillars do make the view out a bit restricted.
The Supersports model sacrifices some refinement, mostly in road and engine noise, in the pursuit of its huge performance. A decent, if not massive, boot will swallow enough luggage for those weekends away, or a golf bag or two if that’s your, well, bag.
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Technology & Connectivity: (4/10)
In our WiFi-hotspot, smartphone-connected, Apple CarPlay world the Bentley’s infotainment system feels woefully outdated. It even retains a CD auto-changer (remember those?). That, it could be argued, is appealing, as not everyone wants the everything-on, always-available connection modern life brings. One concession is Bluetooth connectivity, so you’ll be able to use your phone hands-free, even if the extended services all rivals offer – be it streaming, navigation and suchlike – are notable by their absence. If you want to connect your phone for anything else you’ll need an optional accessory lead.
The satellite navigation is based on an ancient Volkswagen system and its operation is pretty clunky, while the screen that displays it is rather low-res. Within that screen and its surrounds are the controls for the audio, which, even in standard guise, is very impressive in sound and clarity. Spending more on the Premier Specification adds the awesome Naim premium audio as well a rear-view camera and massaging/ventilated front seats. Even so, in the face of competition like the tech-rich Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, with its availability of near-autonomous driving and a comprehensive suite of connected services, the Bentley looks, and feels, very much last century.
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Performance & Handling: (8/10)
There’s never been any question regarding pace in the Continental GT, other than how fast you would like it to be. The 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 model, with 507hp, is able to reach 62mph in 4.8 seconds from rest and then 188mph. Choose the V8S and power grows to 528hp and the top speed rises to in excess of 190mph; remember, these are the ‘entry’ level engines. If eight cylinders is all a bit hoi-polloi for you, then there’s always the 6.0-litre W12, introduced with the original Continental GT model in which it develops 590hp. That increases to 642hp if you opt for the slightly more driver-focused GT Speed version and up to a scarcely believable 710hp if the singularity of the Supersports model appeals.
If the power impresses, then the torque dominates, as output ranges from 486lb ft to 750lb ft (yes, you read that right) making light work of the heavy Bentley. All are fast, crushingly so, although the Continental has always been a bit of a sledge rather than pin hammer in its poise, even if it masks its bulk on the road pretty remarkably. There’s four-wheel drive to help manage all its power and torque, the eight-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, while column-mounted paddles allow you to take over should you wish.
For all the bruising pace of the W12-engined cars it’s the V8s that deliver the most convincing agility, thanks in no small part to the fact there’s a lot less weight in the nose. Relatively speaking, that is, as even the V8 feels nose heavy in the bends, to the ultimate detriment of sharpness.
It’s a demanding road that’ll see the Continental GT – in any form – run out of ideas before you’re travelling at a ludicrous pace, and the four-wheel drive gives it the sort of surefooted security that makes it a genuine all-year-round proposition. Massive standard brakes haul its easily accumulated speed off with impunity, though if you happen to live at the top of an Alpine pass, then it might be worth optioning the carbon ceramic discs.
The Speed model adds more of what its name suggests, with suspension revisions to suit its character; likewise, the Supersports piles on more pace again. Both lose out a bit on comfort as a result. All come with adjustable air-sprung suspension, though those more focused cars ride a bit more firmly and there’s a little more road noise thanks to their bigger wheels and tyres.
Recommended engine: 4.0 V8 S
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Safety Features: (5/10)
It’s never been independently crash tested, but the big Bentley’s likely to protect you well should the worst happen. Its age means there’s little in the way of anticipatory accident prevention technology like autonomous braking, though there is anti-lock braking with Brake Force Distribution and a full complement of airbags inside. ISOFIX child seat mounts are available, while four-wheel drive and electronic stability and traction control systems help manage the Continental GT’s ample outputs. Tyre pressure monitoring, auto headlights and wipers are standard, too.
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Specs and Trim Levels: (10/10)
The standard palette of colours could fill almost every page of this website, so extensive is it; the online configurator breaks them down into Silvers, Blacks, Whites and Beiges, Golds, Oranges and Browns, Reds, Greens and Blues. To give you an idea of just how extensive those choices are, there some 22 different shades of blue alone. If you’re picky, Bentley will paint your GT any colour you like via its Mulliner personalisation scheme, which can colour-match your car to your favourite shirt, tie, handbag, lipstick or anything else that takes your fancy.
Nothing so vulgar as trim levels here, as all Continental GTs come with a generous standard specification to which you can add pretty much anything you like. All feature leather, climate control and satellite navigation, while Bentley offers various packages such as the Mulliner Driving Specification to upgrade wheels to 21-inch items and add quilted leather and different trim finishes inside. Part of the joy of buying a car like this is the ability to specify exactly how you want it, be that contrasting leathers, a favourite wood veneer or turned metal finish, the colour of the stitching, the type of the stitching, thickness and colour of the carpets and more besides. The Premier Specification is a check-box worth ticking on all as a starting point, as it adds massaging and ventilated seats, Naim premium audio, a rear-view camera and a valet key. Regardless, the list price is merely the starting point. It’s expected, normal even, to spend at least 10-20 percent more again on making your Continental GT unique to you.
Size and Dimensions
It’s big – nearly five metres long – but then you know that, as it’s one of the reasons you’ll buy it. You might want to specify those parking sensors.
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Running Costs & Fuel Economy: (3/10)
Nobody buys a Bentley and worries about how much it will cost to run, but even so it’s not going to be cheap. The V8 models have cylinder deactivation to help with fuel economy, switching seamlessly to four cylinders when you don’t need all eight, but the official figure of 26.6mpg underlines that it’s hardly parsimonious. In the real world you’ll do well to make it into the 20mpg sphere, especially in the W12 models. Insurance won’t be cheap, either, while all are in the top tier for road tax, too, with the lowest-emitting Continental GT outputting 246g/km of CO2, the highest some 358g/km. Depreciation will be heavy initially as well.
Reliability and servicing
Early GTs did suffer electrical problems, but it’s been around long enough for Bentley to have addressed any niggles the Continental might once have had. Fixed price service plans are offered, with an annual or 10,000-mile service required.
Every 10,000 miles.
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If you must ask then the starting price for the Continental GT V8 is lb140,300, rising to lb212,500 for the Supersports Coupe. That might seem like a lot, but it’s comparable to the cost of rivals and, compared with something like Rolls-Royce’s Wraith, looks like decent value. Likewise, against the likes of Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class Coupe, which is mass-produced in comparison, it looks like conspicuously good value. The list price is, of course, merely a starting point; expect to spend at least lb10,000 and more on personalisation.
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Laughable to consider costs, but the V8 entry model is just fine and the cheapest to run.
Supersports has 710hp and 209mph ability. Need we say more?
Standard Continental GT W12 covers all bases when it comes to luxury.
Aston Martin DB11
More sports than GT, and not as comfortable as a result. Similarly British and hand-built, though.
Glorious looking and sounding, more spacious inside, but quality is below par and feels even older than the Bentley.
Porsche 911 Turbo
The consummate all-rounder: four-wheel drive and wickedly quick, but omnipresent and lacking in luxury in comparison to the Bentley.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe
Tech-rich, fine-driving two-door version of the S-Class. Feels mass produced in comparison, though.
Rolls-Royce’s take on the big, capable GT is convincing indeed, but has an even higher entry price.
What others say
“The Bentley Continental GT might not be the best-handling coup’e, but it excels in comfort and luxury.”
“While the Bentley Continental GT might be a little long in the tooth, it still carves out its own successful, if slightly unusual niche.”