Bentley Continental GT History
2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible first driveEnlarge Photo
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The Bentley Continental GT is a two-door coupe or convertible, available in several styles and engine choices, but all are among the most luxurious cars on the market today. All-wheel drive and powerful no matter how you slice it, the Continental GT is both very fast and surprisingly capable in any climate. It competes with the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe, the new Rolls-Royce Wraith and Mercedes-Benz CL Class.
Read our review for more details on the 2013 Bentley Continental GT
Launched in coupe form for the 2005 model year, the Continental has seen increases to power and re-touches to its aesthetics, but little in the way of fundamental mechanical change.
The basics of the $185,000 coupe and $200,000 convertible are shared with the Flying Spur. 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. At the core: a 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged twelve-cylinder engine in which the cylinders are arranged not in a V shape, but as a W. 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, and a 0-60 mph acceleration time of about 5 seconds, even though the cars each weighed more than 5500 pounds. Updated Speed editions saw power rises to 600 hp, while acceleration times fell below 5 seconds and top speed on coupes rose to 195 mph. A Supersports model added on 21 more horsepower, for a 0-60 mph of 3.7 seconds, and a manufacturer-rated top speed of 204 mph; an ISR special edition reached 631 horsepower. Each version used a six-speed, paddle-operated automatic transmission. Each also rode on an independent suspension, with power shuffled to the wheels via all-wheel drive and a Torsen differential. Fuel economy in the Continental GT in this generation was a very low 10/17 mpg, 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, at the touch of a switch. Lavish interior materials distinguished this Continental range even from the Ferraris and Maseratis of the world, and a 1000-watt Naim audio system was on the options list for a mere $6000 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. A quicker shifting pattern 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, but the Supersports GTC models were carried over intact from the 2011 model year, without the cosmetic and mechanical changes. Recent rumors have tipped the Supersports for a return in 2014, however.
A new V-8 drivetrain has become available for the 2013 model year, with a net output of 500 horsepower channeled through an eight-speed automatic transmission. 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 is back, 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 horsepower and 590 pound-feet 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 205 mph top speed.
For more on the GT Speed Convertible, read our first drive report.