The Bentley Continental GT is the brand’s most successful car to date and in order to find out the latest improvements on the brand new facelift, we have traveled to Norway; to the city of Ålesund to be exact. It is located at the coast of the Norwegian Sea and surrounded by mountains, small islands and Fjords. Driving through this beautiful landscape with lots of narrow and twisty roads and any traffic seemed like the perfect location to test the new Bentley Continental GT family.
The family consists of eight cars: The original Continental GT, powered by the well-known 6.0-litre W12 engine, delivering now 590 hp (575 hp before the facelift) and then there is the faster W12 version, the Speed, with 635 hp (625 hp before the facelift). Aside from that we have the V8 and V8 S with 507 and 528 hp respectively which are both powered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8. All the models distribute their enormous amounts of power on the road via an eight-speed automatic gearbox by ZF.
The transmission does such a fantastic job we were actually wondering if there is a double-clutch system installed at some point. The cars also feature permanent all-wheel drive with a 40:60 torque split. There is then the convertible version of each of those cars making it eight cars in total.
Bentley has made quite a few albeit rather subtle refinements to the latest Continental GT facelift. Considering that 2014 was a record sales year for Bentley with just a little over 11,000 cars sold and over 50 per cent of those sales accounted for the Continental GT, it totally makes sense to “not change a running system”, i.e. not make any major changes to their most successful car. The exterior was further improved to give the car more presence on the roads and especially the revised front bumper gives it a more planted-on-the-road-look. The rear bumper was reshaped too and it has become wider and features full-width chrome.
There are three new colours available as well; Marlin, Camel and Jetstream, the last which is a light metallic blue that looks just fabulous, making for a total of 17 standard colors, over 90 optional colors and pretty much every other bespoke color is available on request too. Another small new detail is the new chrome fender badges on the V8 S and W12 models that now give more insight about what’s under the hood.
The marque claim that the W12 now gets up to 5 per cent better fuel economy, mostly due to a feature called variable displacement where six cylinders are shut off when full power is not needed. We we didn’t experience this feature, the range is allegedly improved to up to 600 km with a full tank.
In the interior, there are quite a few changes as well. The instrument panel has been revised for a more modern and up-to-date look and the gear-shift paddles have become larger. There is also a new Breitling clock and new stitching as well. It goes without saying that everything that looks like leather really is leather and everything that looks like metal is metal in the car.
Only the finest materials have been used, just as you would expect it from a Bentley. No disappointments here whatsoever. What we loved especially in regards to connectivity is that the Continental GT now comes with on-board WiFi, so we could share our experiences right away from the Norwegian coast.
Enough of the talk, how do they drive?
Well to be honest, although some of the roads were rather small for the Bentleys which are not exactly the size of a smart car with a width of 2227 mm and length of 4806 mm, we couldn’t think of any better location to test them.
The roads offered such sheer diversity that it was like we drove the car in every possible surrounding there is.
Within an hour, we experienced small twisty roads as well as wider straight roads surrounded by the most beautiful scenery we have seen in a very long time. The lush green hills reflected in the calm waters like a mirror and the snow covered mountains in the back really provided an amazing setting to thoroughly drive the cars.
Within the same short period of time we also experienced all four seasons, as it was rather grey and almost raining when we left. Just a few kilometers later the sun came out and we decided to put the roof down on our camel-colored W12 convertible. Approaching the fantastic mountain pass “Trollstigen” the temperatures dropped considerably and it didn’t take long until the first snowflakes were falling down.
It is worth stressing however that as long as it is not pouring down heavily, neither snow nor rain will come in contact with you if you go faster than 50 km/h. On the other hand, as soon as the weather got better and we were able to increase the speed again, you don’t feel any wind at all with the top down, even if you go (much) faster than the Norwegian speed limit. Which we didn’t of course…
The W12 accelerates very smoothly but with enough power that you get the feeling of being on a private jet. It seems like nothing could stop it and the level of comfort on the sometimes bumpy roads is simply amazing although we mostly had our damper setting on sport instead of comfort. For us the W12 is the epitome of a proper GT car. Best suited on the Autobahn or other highways where you could enjoy travelling fast in comfort and style and drive mile after mile after mile.
After the Trollstigen pass, we stopped at the peak of the mountain for a coffee break and then continued going downhill in the snowy conditions and the all-wheel drive system provided us with great grip and traction, so we felt very safe at all times. Driving past the most spectacular rocky landscapes with huge waterfalls we were stopping more often than we were supposed to but the pictures were well worth it. At the lunch stop where the sun came out again, just in time before the famous Atlantic Road, we decided to switch cars and hopped in a Monaco-Yellow V8 S.
Although the weight difference between the W12 and the V8 S is just marginal, the car feels totally different. To us it was like the car was half the size and weight, which of course is just a subjective feeling but driving the V8 S on the tiny roads was more enjoyable and more fun. With 680 Nm / 502 lb.ft of torque, the V8 S isn’t much behind the 720 Nm / 531 lb.ft W12 and while the W12 is still the flagship Continental GT, we feel that the V8 (S) is an amazing addition to the family.
We personally would probably opt for the V8 S as it gives you a more sporty feel and still with the luxury and comfort that you would expect from a Bentley Continental GT. We especially loved how the V8 S sounds when you step off the gas at around 5000 rpm where the exhaust makes a spectacular popping sound.
To sum it all up, the facelifted Continental GT family has received a reasonable upgrade improving the details of the car while leaving the basics of the car untouched such as the three main simple lines that have defined the car since 1952 when the Continental GT was introduced and back then was the fastest 4-seater car on the market with a top speed of 200 km/h. Prices in Europe start at 146,700 EUR plus tax for the Continental GT V8 and 199,800 EUR plus tax for the Continental GT speed convertible.