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Bentley Continental 2011 Review

On the road the car feels quieter, tighter and more responsive, generating more feedback for the driver.

It's one of those cars that look just the same as the old one, at least at first glance. But, if you were to put the new Bentley Continental GT side by side with its predecessor, the differences would become immediately apparent. It's a strategy that has been adopted successfully by other car makers, BMW chief among them, leading to an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach to car design. At the same time, the new model must be sufficiently different to entice existing customers to update. Has Bentley succeeded?

VALUE

At just over $400,000 plus on-roads, the Continental GT is Bentley's most affordable model, straddling the upper reaches of the luxury segment and lower echelons of the even more exclusive, range of hand-built vehicles. To put the car in context, the two-door, four-seat coupe is designed to whisk four people in absolute comfort across the continent at warp speed and fulfills this role very well.

Think big and powerful with huge reserves of torque and a top drawer, hand-finished interior and you begin to get the picture. Launched in 2003 (2004 in Australia) the Continental GT was the first modern day Bentley of its kind and as such found a ready market. One Oz customer even flew his completed car out to Australia rather than wait the two months for it to arrive by boat.

The GT has spearheaded the resurgence of the bespoke British brand, under Volkswagen's ownership and now accounts for a majority of sales. As a successor, the new GT won't find the running quite so easy, but it's been a while between drinks.

TECHNOLOGY

With the unique W12 engine in place again, it's lighter and more powerful than before, and the all-wheel drive system is now biased 60:40 towards the rear, imparting a sportier drive experience. The 12 cylinder engine (in effect two V6s joined at the hip) pumps out an impressive 423kW of power and 700Nm of torque this time around, up from 412kW and 650Nm.

Linked to a sweet ZF 6-speed auto with column mounted shift paddles, it pushes the car from 0-100km/h in a scant 4.6 seconds, two tenths less than before, with a top speed of 318km/h. That's not an inconsiderable feat bearing in mind the GT weighs a hefty 2320kg.

In a first too, the W12 engine is now E85 compatible, but we shudder to think how fast it would slurp the stuff based on the 20.7 litres/100km that we were getting using 98RON (claimed economy from the 90-litre tank is 16.5). We're told fuel consumption would increase about 30 per cent, greatly reducing the range.

DESIGN

In the styling department, the car has a more upright front grille and there is a greater difference in size between the headlight/secondary light combination either side, with the addition of fashionable daytime LEDs.

The window level has been raised, the rear lights are completely different and the rear apron has also been completely redesigned, with 20 inch wheels standard and 21s now optional.

Inside you need to be a Bentley aficionado to pick the differences. But the new 30Gb touch screen navigation and entertainment system is hard to miss, adapted from VW's parts bin. The front seat belt mount has been relocated providing a more comfortable seat design and easier access to the rear seats. There's 46mm more rear legroom but still feels too tight for long trips.

DRIVING

On the road the car feels quieter, tighter and more responsive, generating more feedback for the driver. But throttle response remains considered rather than instantaneous, as the car gathers itself for the charge. At idle the W12 has an impressive throb. We were surprised by the absence of driver assistance systems apart from active cruise control.

Bentley says they aren't a high priority with customers, but with a narrow field of view, blind spot warning wouldn't go astray, neither would auto-braking to prevent rear-enders. In other developments, Bentley has revealed it will add a V8 later this year, but is not saying much about the 4.0-litre engine apart from the fact it will produce better economy (and will no doubt be cheaper).

BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GT

Engine: 6.0-litre turbocharged petrol 12-cylinder
Power/torque: 423kW at 6000rpm and 700Nm at 1700rpm
Transmissions: Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Price: From $405,000 plus on-road costs.

Pricing Guides

$179,795
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$123,310
Highest Price
$236,280

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GTC 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $154,330 – 177,430 2011 Bentley Continental 2011 GTC Pricing and Specs
GTC Speed 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $156,090 – 179,410 2011 Bentley Continental 2011 GTC Speed Pricing and Specs
GTC W12 6.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $165,220 – 189,970 2011 Bentley Continental 2011 GTC W12 Pricing and Specs
GT 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $126,610 – 145,530 2011 Bentley Continental 2011 GT Pricing and Specs