Bentley Continental GT Driving Impressions & Review

I’ve recently documented a new beginning for the Motor Verso project car fleet, with the latest addition of a 2016 Bentley Continental GT to my collection. Bentley’s absolutely stunning, luxurious, 2-door yacht-for-the-road is a particular car that I’ve fancied for quite some time now, and I’ve experienced a handful of them before. As such, this is hardly my first rodeo.

If you’re a long-time fan of Motor Verso (hello there!), all the way back in 2014, I first drove the Bentley Continental GT Speed (the first Bentley ever featured in a review on this young site of ours at the time), which back then, was Bentley’s fastest-ever production car, which could handily put most supercars to shame, punching its way through the 200mph barrier with supreme elegance.

For those who prefer a topless driving experience (not literally, of course), and you’d want to see what Bentley is capable of when they let their hair down and truly embrace the Boatley stereotype, I’ve also driven the Continental GT Convertible some months after that. It was quite a refreshing change, going from the massive W12 in the Speed, down to a punchy V8. While that V8 might not have been as fast, that’s not to say that it lacked oomph, of which it had plenty of, as it could readily make mincemeat of Europe’s fastest sports cars.

In 2015 and 2016 respectively, I then had the chance to drive the later, updated Bentley Continental GTs, in Speed form, on both occasions. These two are mostly pretty similar to what I then purchased, all these years later (which I’ll get into what I bought in a bit). Oh, and of course, when Bentley then updated their Continental GT line-up, I also drove the current-generation W12 Continental GT back in 2020. It retained much of the sumptuousness and refinement from the earlier Continental GTs, but with a more muscular, aggressive, and sharper styling, as well as improved performance all-around.

Otherworldly Performance And Speed For Its Gargantuan Size

But anyway, with not one, not even two, but five different Bentley Continental GTs under my belt, I have developed a strong liking for them. It’s endlessly shocking to witness just how fast and agile a giant slab of steel, wood, and leather could be, when you’re really leaning onto its 6.0-litre turbo’d W12 engine (or even those turbocharged V8 engines proved more than potent enough).

They’re superbly quick, and the numbers speak for themselves… A top speed of 206mph, and a punchy 0-62mph acceleration that takes just 4.0 seconds. There are plenty of lithe, athletic, more purpose-built performance cars that struggle to match these figures. While Bentley’s 4.0-litre turbocharged V8s, back when they first introduced them to the Continental GT line-up, are some of the best automotive engines that I’ve ever come across, I knew that when the time came for me to buy one of these for myself (from the awesome people over at Auto100), it just had to be that W12.

There’s an inexplicable yet magical aura when it comes to 12-cylinders that can’t easily be understood… Until you drive them. The Bentley W12 engine – which, as of writing this, has unfortunately reached the end of production, as the last of these W12s would roll out in 2024 – for its smoothness and refinement, packs a good punch, too. It outputs a whopping 626bhp and an absolutely relentless 820Nm of torque, which is mind-blowing enough in today’s world of 1,000+hp hypercars, let alone back in 2016.

Through a slick 8-speed ZF transmission, only Bentley’s W12 could make the art of shoving 2.3 tonnes of solid British steel be this effortless. In the passage of time, I have no doubt that future generations will continue to praise, speak of, and remember Bentley’s 6.0-litre W12 motor as one of the greats of all time. So, it was a no-brainer for me to, despite the relatively steeper premiums on the used market, opt for one of these, over the V8; though I would’ve been just as happy either way.

Moreover, the fact that these big, high-displacement engines (and high cylinder count, too) are becoming more extinct by the day makes it even more special to be driving around in one in this day and age. This is truly a powerplant to die for. Being a W12, which Bentley has continually refined since the early 2000s to this day, which would otherwise be described as two V6 engines mated together, it’s a unique sensation when compared to the high-revving V12s that the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini use, which also goes for Aston Martin, to some extent.

Although the Bentley Continental GT is a special occasion – and I have loads more to say about just how nice the interior is and how awesome it is to spend time in it – even when you’re not moving, if and when you do need to get somewhere quickly, its outright pace and speed betrays that otherwise timeless and elegant exterior. Whether you’re someone who’s more conservative and responsible on the throttle, or are perhaps a bit lead-footed (like me), in the Bentley Continental GT, you’ll know what it’s like to have raw and seamless power all the time, every time.

Handling And Dynamics That Challenge The Laws Of Physics

While some might perceive the Continental GT as this heavy motorway cruiser and straight-line monster of a posh grand tourer, it’s actually pretty fun to drive. The Continental GT’s suspension, though there’s a lot of waft and softness at times, befitting its grand touring aspirations, keeps it quite well-planted and poised as you’re zooming your way from corner to corner.

There’s naturally some lean and body roll, which isn’t a surprise, as even Bentley’s top engineers can’t beat out the laws of physics, but it’s still pretty impressive to see what they’ve been able to do. It’s no Porsche 911 or Alpine A110, obviously, but you can easily have loads of fun with it. All the while, you’re tuning in to a mighty, symphonic burble all the way through, courtesy of that meaty and muscular exhaust note.

The Bentley Continental GT is the sort of car that’s happy to go about at any pace that suits you. Whether it’s a lazy cruise around town, a busy bumper-to-bumper commute through London, or if you’re feeling a bit naughty, it’s just as happy to oblige when you floor it. On top of that, thanks to the magic of all-wheel drive, the amount of traction you get is amazing, making it an ideal all-weather and all-season car.

When you do need to slow down and catch your breath, those gigantic brakes equally do a superb job of stopping you instantly. For a seemingly old-fashioned, traditional brand like Bentley, they do handle the dark arts of electronics and technology outstandingly well. The adaptive dampers and active suspension on the Continental GT can soak up bumps, undulations, speedbumps, or potholes like they were nothing, maintaining its boat-like smoothness when you’re hauling it down a B-road. The ability to raise or lower the suspension is another added bonus, and given how long the Continental GT is, it can tend to scrape on speedbumps in its default or lowest suspension setting.

Yet, as you go faster, just one tap on the Sport Mode button sharpens the throttle response, letting it rev higher, and allowing for more aggressive downshifts, just as it further fine-tunes the power steering that would thus enable sharper turn-ins. Granted, all of this over-engineering does come at a cost, both when it comes to buying the car itself, as well as long-term reliability and maintenance costs. That’s the reason why I thought it prudent to call up the people over at Warrantywise, and get their aftermarket warranty plan, just in case something somewhere on the Continental GT goes wrong.

A Palatial Cabin That Makes You Feel Like A King

However, any doubts one might have about spending this much on a Bentley, and going through the anxiety of worrying about whether or not a simple roadside breakdown is going to bankrupt you or not, this is all gone once you step inside, and fall into its cushy leather seats. I remember being awestruck when I first got into a Continental GT all those years ago, and while much of its niceties and creature comforts have since trickled down to even cheaper cars these days, there’s still that unmistakable sense of theatre.

The interior of the Continental GT is undoubtedly a really special place to be, which justifies the high cost of buying and owning a Bentley in the first place. In some ways, it’s somewhat expected, given that for a grand tourer that you’ll be spending countless motoring hours with, it better have a comfortable cabin to lounge in. Yet, Bentley, even back in 2016, shattered all expectations for how lovely of an interior they’ve been able to craft.

From quilted leather seats, turned aluminium trim, squishy leather upholstery and trim elsewhere, as well as cold-to-the-touch metal bits and pieces, as well as that Naim sound system… They’re on a whole other level compared to their peers. Of course, I’d be remiss to not mention Bentley’s long-lasting partnership with the master watchmakers at Breitling, applying their craftsmanship to build the dash clocks that go into a Continental GT.

I’m at least quite pleased that I managed to find a used Continental GT in this nice of a shape, so much of it, inside and out, looks and feels almost brand-new. Another particular trait of Bentley’s design ethos, as is evident in the Bentley Continental GT, is a beautiful blend of new and old, perfectly contrasting some of its more classical touches with modern-day electronics. One example is the gauge cluster, where Bentley’s timeless use of fonts, minimalistic design, and simplicity means that, despite the tiny display looking a tad dated, overall, it still looks handsome today.

Alas, the same can’t really be said about the built-in, standard infotainment system, showcasing just how far the automotive industry has moved since then. This old VW/Audi infotainment unit is quite barebones in its functionality, and the UI reeks of mid-2010s software design and aesthetics. It’s not terrible, but if I’m going to spend more time in this Continental GT in the months to come, I’m planning to upgrade this infotainment unit altogether.

At least then, with an aftermarket system, I can get modern quality-of-life improvements, such as getting Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and an up-to-date satnav to work with. Otherwise, by default, all it’s able to do is offer some basic (albeit, outdated) satnav functionality. Besides that, it could pair with my phone via Bluetooth as-is, although the pairing process is rather slow. Furthermore, it also doubles as a display for the Continental GT’s reversing camera, which is a nice touch.

Truly, One Of The Finest Automobiles Ever Made

For all the joy that I’ve experienced driving the Continental GT and spending time just relishing that cabin, once I’ve arrived at my destination, it’s hard to not take a step back and admire its looks. The Continental GT, while it was mocked when it first came out, as some folks thought it looked a bit ugly, has only gotten better in the years since. This updated 2016 model had a few mid-lifecycle updates that further improved its handsome-ness, at least to my eyes.

Most of the exterior design updates, mind you, are quite subtle. The most noticeable ones that I’ve noted compared to the earlier, second-generation Continental GTs (in production from 2011 to 2018), are those Bentley ‘B’ logos on the side fenders. Aside from that, the eagle-eyed among you might’ve noticed that its front bumper has seen a slight redesign, and my Continental GT here is also fitted with the optional 21-inch alloy wheels. In my opinion, I think it’s aged really well.

In the weeks and months to come, expect me to cover Motor Verso’s newest member of the family with a lot more detail, as I’ll spend more time with the Continental GT. I’ve already outlined some of what I have been planning for this Continental GT. Aside from general upkeep and servicing, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ll be modernising the Continental GT, particularly that ancient infotainment system. If this is anything like the infotainment system upgrade that I did in our previous project car, an Audi R8, this is probably going to require a lot of work.

Beyond that, I’ll be discussing more when it comes to long-term running costs, like servicing or repairs, in addition to general expenses, such as fuel bills, the road tax, and insurance. Then, there’s the aftermarket warranty that I highlighted earlier, courtesy of Warrantywise, which could prove to be a lifesaver, given how expensive replacement parts and repairs are with old Bentleys. So, if you’d like to learn more of what it’s like to own something like this, or if you’re curious about how nightmarish a 2016 Continental GT will be like to live with, check out those other write-ups!

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