The Car Connection Bentley Continental GT Overview
The Bentley Continental GT remains one of the most luxurious and technically advanced cars in its class—or any class for that matter. Sold as either a coupe or as a convertible, in a range of V-8 and W-12 versions, the two-door GT is comfortable, phenomenally quick in any form, and capable in all weathers.
Ten years ago, the Continental GT catapulted the historic British brand into the 21st century. Since then, it's been a celebrity favorite—and a rival to vehicles like the Rolls-Royce Wraith and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe, as well as the Maserati GranTurismo and the Ferrari FF.
Launched in coupe form for the 2005 model year, the GT has seen increases to its power and refinement to its aesthetics. Now in its second generation, changes to the Continental GT have remained evolutionary concerning both the visuals and mechanicals.
MORE: Read our 2016 Bentley Continental GT review
The basics of the $185,000 coupe and $200,000 convertible are shared with the Flying Spur sedan. Though the two-doors have a much shorter wheelbase, they share the engine, transmission, all-wheel-drive system, and other performance pieces with the four-door Spur. All cars originally used a 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder engine in which the cylinders are arranged not in a V shape, but as a W—basically two narrow-angle V-6 engines mounted side by side with a common crank. This spares some room under the hood, and produces power just as copiously and as smoothly as a conventional V-12.
In the first generation, which was sold until the 2011 model year with one exception, the standard W-12 engine produced 552 horsepower, good for a 0-60 mph acceleration time of about five seconds, even though the cars each weighed more than 5,500 pounds. Updated Speed editions saw power rise to 600 hp, while 60-mph acceleration times fell below five seconds and top speed on coupes rose to 195 mph. A Supersports model added on 21 more horsepower, for a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds, and a manufacturer-rated top speed of 204 mph. An ISR special edition reached 631 hp. Each version used a 6-speed, paddle-operated automatic transmission. Each also rode on an independent suspension, with power shuffled to the wheels via all-wheel drive featuring a Torsen differential. Fuel economy in the Continental GT in this generation was a very low: 10 mpg city, 17 mpg highway, mitigated only a little by the flex-fuel capability of all versions.
were a marvelous convertible lid on the GTC versions that folded closed or open in 25 seconds. Lavish interior materials distinguished this Continental range even from the Ferraris and Maseratis of the world, and a 1,000-watt Naim audio system was on the options list for a mere $6,000 or so. The Mulliner trim package of quilted leather, knurled chrome, and turned aluminum trim was a highlight of modern-day automobile construction.
In the 2012 model year, Bentley updated the Continental GT and GTC with slightly revised styling, and made a 567-hp version of the W-12 standard. Quicker shift programming and a revised torque bias, to 40/60, for the all-wheel-drive system were matched with slightly more sporty handling. The Speed editions were dropped for the 2012 model year, while the Supersports GTC models were carried over intact from the 2011 model year, without the cosmetic and mechanical changes.
A new V-8 drivetrain became available for the 2013 model year, with a net output of 500 hp. It is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Because the V-8 is lighter, Bentley says performance nearly rivals that of the W-12 car, while fuel economy is up to 40 percent higher.
Also for 2013, the Speed model returned in both coupe and convertible form. Unveiled at the 2013 Detroit auto show, the new Continental GT Speed Convertible offers figures to match the coupe: a stout 616 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, enabling 4.1-second 0-60 mph acceleration and a top speed of 202 mph. The GT Speed Coupe accelerates to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and hits a 205-mph top speed.
For the 2014 model year, Bentley added yet another model to the lineup with the Continental GT and GTC V8 S versions. They use a higher-output version of the twin-turbocharged V-8 that produces 521 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque, carrying less weight than the W-12 version. Then, for 2015, Bentley updated the GT Speed, currently the most powerful in the lineup with 626 hp and 607 lb-ft from its W-12 engine, increases of 10 hp and 27 lb-ft compared to the previous Speed coupe and droptop.
The 2015 model year also brought a very limited run of Continental GT3-R models. Power for this variant came from a 592-hp version of the GT V-8 S's twin-turbo V-8. This Bentley shed 220 pounds compared to the V-8 model, in part by removing the rear seat, creating what was the quickest Conti yet. Only 300 copies of this racy Continental were built and sold globally.
Continuing the pace of yearly updates, the 2016 Continental GT receives a bit of a makeover, albeit a subtle one. Up front, noticeable changes include a smaller grille, vents carved into the fenders, and a revised bumper shape. In back, there's a new decklid for all models, while the GT Speed and V8 S models receive a new lower fascia. Inside, gauge faces evolve, the steering-wheel diameter shrinks, and wi-fi is now available as an option. The W-12 also gets a bit of a power bump for good measure, giving it grand totals of 582 hp and 531 lb-ft of torque in the GT, 626 hp and 607 lb-ft of torque in the GT Speed.
A successor to the Continental GT is expected in the 2018-2019 time frame.