New & Used Bentley Continental GT: In Depth
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The Bentley Continental GT is a super-luxury premium two-door offered as a coupe or convertible with an extensive range of drivetrains and performance levels. One of the most luxurious cars in its class—or any class—the Continental GT is comfortable, all-weather capable, and potently quick in any form. The GT competes with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and Rolls-Royce Wraith.
Read our review for more details on the 2015 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 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 twelve-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 5 seconds, even though the cars each weighed more than 5500 pounds. Updated Speed editions saw power rise to 600 hp, while 60-mph 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 time 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 featuring 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. 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 horsepower. It is paired with an eight-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 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 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 horsepower and 502 pound-feet 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 horsepower 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.
Also in 2015, Bentley will offer a very limited run of Continental GT3-R models. Power comes from a 592-hp version of the GT V-8 S's twin-turbo eight-cylinder. Bentley has shed 220 pounds form that model, in part by removing the rear seat, which creates what should be the quickest Conti yet. Only 300 copies of this racy Continental will be 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 design. In back, there's a new bootlid design for all models, while the GT Speed and V8 S models receive a new diffuser-looking lower valance. Inside, gauges faces evolve, the steering-wheel diameter shrinks, and WiFi is available as an option. The W-12 also gets a bit of a power bump, for grand totals of 582 hp and 531 lb-t of torque.