Meet the 2012 Bentley Continental GT, also referred to as the New Bentley Continental GT. Created by the craftsmen at Crewe in the UK, this is a design icon, a two-plus-two, a grand touring coupe of the highest order and the successor to the Continental GT, introduced in 2003. Bentley Motors gave us the opportunity to test drive their latest coupe in Berlin, so naturally we used it as our personal transport, whilst experiencing the historical background and night life of Germany’s capital and largest city.
The new Continental GT is a four-seater coupe, built on the success of its iconic predecessor. It captures the spirit of the GT and offers the exclusive market a luxury gran turismo coupe. After its release in 2003 the Continental GT became a massive success with nearly 8,000 GT coupes sold, and a wide range of Continental sedans and convertibles dropped onto roads across the world, adding thousands more to this figure. The Volkswagen Group-sourced and Phaeton-based Continental GT has left its mark as a proper gentlemen’s car. It reminds us of the old English tradition of hand-stitched leathers, book-matched veneers, and a rugged sportiness.
The current model continues along these same traditions with an improved technical, interior and exterior trim. Across the whole range, new upgrades have been applied. These are nothing more than a facelift to the standard package which has been available for eight years now. However, the new looks and technical setup build on the fresh, contemporary feeling both inside and outside the Bentley Coupe.
Thanks to a tweaking of Bentley’s acclaimed 6-liter 12-cylinder bi-turbo power train, the power output has increased to 575hp at 6,000rpm and 700Nm of torque at an extremely low 1,700rpm. The engine is mated to a new gearbox that allows quicker shift responses and a double-downshift capability. It converts the power from 50:50 (front-to-rear) to a changed 40:60 rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. Thanks to Flex technology it can operate on unleaded gasoline, the standard (petrol) and sustainable bioethanol (up to E85) or any combination thereof. A more efficient 4.0 liter eight-cylinder engine will be made available later in the model year.
Extreme speed is known element of the CGT’s character. We’re glad to report that it still exists in the second generation, with sprints from zero to 100km/h done in 4.6 seconds and to 160km/h in 10.2 seconds. The acceleration of the massive coupe is an eye-opener and a wonderful display of sheer performance and sophisticated push forward. On the unlimited autobahns just north of Berlin we found it capable of reaching top speeds up to 280km/h quite easily without even noticing that the speedo was reaching the end of the scale. On the contrary, we were having an interesting talk about the latest in the automotive world while listening to some background music coming from the build-in 11-speaker Naim system.
Although they managed to shed 65kg of weight, the luxury coupe is still pretty heavy with a kerb weight of 2320kg. Most of the weight loss comes from the suspension, which is more aluminum-intensive now. The recalibration of the dampers changed as well, making it a slightly sportier and lighter car, but the differences are hardly felt when you are not a frequent CGT driver. Bentley’s Continuous Damping Control (CDC) air suspension provides a wafting ride and adjusts itself several hundred times per second. If requested you can change the height of the suspension manually via the touchscreen, offering a firmer ride. Only when a change of direction is ordered by the steering wheel, do you feel the weight playing a role. The coupe stays massive, but offers wonderful handling for a big car like this. This is probably due to its widened front (41mm) and rear tracks (48mm).
Our test car had 20 inch alloy wheels as standard, but for the first time, the Continental family can be updated with a 21 inch wheel. Three wheel styles are offered ranging from 20 to 21 inch and with the choice between various chrome and painted finishes. The massive disc brakes were more than up to the task of deceleration, and we did not even have the bigger optional carbon silicon carbide brakes.
Inspired by Bentley’s iconic past, Bentley incorporated some new subtle details to the exterior which distinguish the “new” from the “old”. At the front the radiator grille is more vertical, while the new headlight design includes LED lights. The trunk is higher and more squared off. At the rear, there are new rear lights and the design has a trunk safe “Double Horseshoe” pattern, reminiscent of the Bentley Mulsanne new elliptical flared exhaust end pipes were fitted. The tweaks are minor and only really become visible when both the old and new CGT are parked alongside each other.
The interior offers the driver and passenger an elegant place to see the earth slide by. The cabin is a combination of cool-deep carpets, double-stitched leather, brushed metal, chrome and exclusive wood veneers which cover the doors, central console and transmission tunnel. Two highlights are the Breitling analog timepiece in the center of the dash and the case placed in front of the arm rests matching the interior design. The new “Cobra” seats offer everything you want, an excellent seating position, ventilation, heating and a massage system with ten individual cells massaging. The front seat belts have a new presenter with electric automatic controls. The rear seats offer more space than its predecessor, but not enough for larger people. None of our passengers enjoyed sitting there for long.
In front of the driver you have a four-faced gauge panel with the speedometer, tachometer, water temperature and fuel gauges. A small LCD display shows navigation, phone and audio information. In between the “raised wing” there is a eight-inch touchscreen used by other brands in the VAG group. It displays the car’s audio system, telephone line and the options of comfort and navigation system which is compatible with Google Maps. The GT Coupe also benefits from the phone connectivity and music player, digital television and playback of DVD movies. Music can be played and controlled directly from an iPod and a six-disc CD changer, SD card reader or directly from the hard drive that can store up to 15 GB music.
The true experience of a Bentley does not rest solely with its presence, but also when the W12 comes to life via the push of a console-mounted button. The wonderfully distinctive growl from the back fits the perspective of the luxury vehicle and accompanies you while silently glide down the highway eating every kilometer with an ease and speed hardly seen elsewhere. The Bentley is true to its name. It is the best possible grand tourer (GT) you could ever choose, and it can be used anywhere around the globe (continental).
The days in Berlin passed by with smoothness and relaxation. Not only because of the wonderful scenery, the wide spread city landscape but also because of the ease in which you control the Continental GT and become acquainted with it. It suits a relaxed driving style with the urge to drive fast when the road space is available. In the end, it is the best high-end grand tourer currently available. Its focused on taking you anywhere in a smooth and powerful way. The only remark we left behind at “Under der Linden” was the gas-guzzling fuel consumption with an average of 23 liters per 100km and a maximum range of only 400km. Luckily there is a solution, a 40-percent more efficient 4.0 liter turbocharged V8 is coming really soon.