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The Car Connection Expert Review

The 2016 Bentley Continental GT family of coupes shows that brash performance can live hand in hand with a genteel demeanor.

The Bentley Continental GT is far from a new car, but that's just fine considering the luxury coupe's timeless appeal. It's the type of car that starts—not ends—at 500 horsepower. With unreal performance under the hood, whether you opt for the V-8 or W-12, the Continental's handcrafted cabins and hulking, all-wheel-driven grip are nearly demoted to finishing touches—like a 17-year-old Scotch whiskey and cigar, for example.

Regardless of body style or bespoke trim, the Continental GT looks the part of a classic grand touring car, with careful, gradual changes over the years to its aluminum body panels yielding a crisper look since 2012. That's when it was last redesigned, and distinguished more sharply from the related Flying Spur sedans. The beefy stance of the GT visually shifts its weight away from quad-oval headlamps back to its sharp, broad shoulders. Coupes look more tense and coiled, while the convertibles have a more relaxed, traditional look.

This year, Bentley's revised the looks slightly, with front fenders now wearing flying-B-shaped fender vents. The rear bumper is wider, and the horseshoe-shaped stamping on the decklid is more pronounced. The shift paddles inside each Conti GT are bigger, with a knurled metal finish.

Continental GT V8 S cars get a somewhat different set of visual priorities with a rear diffuser, a more aggressive front splitter, and different side sills to match, as well as 20-inch wheels and red-painted brake calipers. The V-8 cars are distinguished by their blacked-out grille, red-enameled badging, and figure-eight exhaust pipes. GT Speed editions don a different rear diffuser. Across the lineup, there are three new wheel designs in 20- and 21-inch sizes, and three new colors: Marlin, Jetstream, and Camel.

The Continental lineup covers a range of 8- and 12-cylinder engines, in base, S, W-12, and Speed editions. GT V8 models carry their output of 500 horsepower and 487 pound-feet (and sub-five-second 0-60 time) over from years prior. The GT V8 S, which was new in 2014, sports 521 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque; it's essentially a higher-output version of the same 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8. Both of these are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that includes an S mode with sharper throttle response and a more aggressive shift logic. GT V8 S models can get to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, and to a top speed of 192 mph.

Both the GT Coupe and Convertible can be upgraded to a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W-12 engine. The standard output of this exotic powerplant gets bumped from 567 to 582 hp for the 2016 model year, and from 516 to 531 lb-ft. GT Speed editions push the W-12 to 626 hp and 607 lb-ft. Bentley puts the 12-cylinder coupe's 0-60 mph times at less than 4.3 seconds and sets its top speed of 198 mph, with convertibles running slightly slower, and Speed coupes hitting 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and topping out at 206 mph. These are astonishing feats for cars that weigh nearly three tons.

While cruising, the W-12 engine is capable of running on six cylinders to conserve fuel; fuel is shut off though the valvetrains remain in action. The V8 models can go more than 500 miles (with some self control, of course) on a tank, thanks in part to a cylinder-deactivation system that runs the direct-injection engine in V-4 mode under light-load conditions.

The GT has sublime, capable road manners for a vehicle with this mass and length, and its standard computer-controlled shock system—Continuous Damping Control—allows three different modes, permitting you to push this car hard into tight corners without you or the car feeling ragged—it even excels on higher-speed sweepers and in all-day interstate hauls. In all versions, the GT comes with an all-wheel-drive system that uses a Torsen differential and 40/60, front/rear torque split that puts all that engine torque to the road with finesse—and allows a composed, refined, and capable driving experience even when the roads aren’t dry.

With as much attention that’s paid to interior details, cabin space isn’t really what the Continental GT and GTC have going for it. While the front seats are cross-country comfortable, there’s a little less elbow room than you might expect. Rear-seat accommodations in the GT include two bucket seats, with far less leg room than you might expect from a car that’s the length of a mid-size sedan.

Yet like the Continental’s Flying Spur sedan counterparts, the GT coupes and GTC convertibles are built with the look and feel of a hand-built interior, and superbly appointed. GTC convertibles come with a power top that folds in 25 seconds; it's woven with great quality and damps out a lot of ambient road noise. The convertible top for Continental GTC models is offered in three different colors, while there are four different two-tone hide colors within the standard range (before even considering customization). V-8 models get exclusive Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus wood veneer inside, as well as an Aliade cloth headliner and a short center console instead of the full-length console in W-12 models.

We heartily recommend the Mulliner package of quilted leather, knurled chrome, and turned aluminum trim, as well as the optional lambs-wool rugs. New for 2016, W-12-powered cars can also be fitted with semi-aniline leather that's less processed, and feels more luxurious.

The Continental GT lineup gets a laundry list of standard equipment that includes electronic climate control, Bluetooth and a DVD navigation system that also controls climate and audio functions. The navigation system sports Google maps and a vibrant 8-inch LCD touchscreen. New this year is in-car data service that turns the Conti GT into a rolling wi-fi hotspot. A Naim audio system has pure, flat sound, for just an additional $7,000 or so.

Although neither of the U.S. safety agencies have crash-tested a Continental (if they ever did, we might weep) safety concerns seem almost like a moot point considering the GT’s stout construction, and its full range of airbags—and the pop-up roll bars that GTC models get for extra protection. The standard rearview camera system is much appreciated, though, as the high-and-far rear can be challenging to see over.

Prices for the 2016 Bentley Continental GT begin at just about $200,000; it's not much of a challenge to push the pricetag of a GT Speed Convertible to nearly $300,000.

Fuel economy ranges from 15 mpg combined for W-12 cars, to 18 mpg combined for V-8-powered Continental GTs.

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