Bentley Continental GT 2012 Review
March 21, 2012
$158,510 - $182,160
The Bentley GT is an imposing machine with long and broad and muscled body, W12 up front for spirited touring and premium interior for comfort.
Customers wanted more of the same, wanted the same character of the first GT from 2003 with a few tweaks. Customers wanted the two-door car to move forward in style and technology without diverting from the heritage drive.
So the Bentley crew drew up a new body, a little wider and cleaner with sharper creases, stiffened the front end, revised some mechanicals and found a little more cabin room for the four-seater.
The result remains one of the grandest of tourers, a car of style and substance with similar lines and performance to the first of these Continental GTs, Bentley's most successful car series to date.
From 1919 to 2003 the British marque sold 16,000 cars. Worldwide the GT - in coupe, convertible and supersport styles - has sold 23,000 since 2003; around 250 of those in Australia.
The new GT is 'an evolution of the revolution', carrying on that successful relaunch - the renaissance of the brand - that these first GTs brought to the Volkswagen-owned Bentley.
At $405,000 the Bentley Continental GT is out there in a paddock of some mighty exotic machinery. It carries individual style, luxurious interior and excellent engineering; as do all in this bracket.
The GT does not carry some of those techno driver aids - lane assist for instance - of many in this class. Bentley boys and girls are 'goers not showers' we're told; they like to look after their own driving.
Value here is in the seat of the pants, in the distinctive style and engineering. It is said Bentleys' resale values outstrip those for the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW at about 80 per cent for a five-year old GT.
The twin turbocharged W12 engine now produces more power (423kW) and torque (700Nm), will run an E85 ethanol fuel mix and can push the GT to 318km/h. A 4 litre V8 option, arriving in late 2011, aims to reduce C02 emissions by 40 per cent.
All-wheel drive is now split 40:60 where the previous car was 50:50 and the six-speed auto has been revised and strengthened. There's stability control and a console-mounted switch for four suspension settings.
It took three and a half years to remake this bolder GT inside and out. Key to new lines was 'super forming', a panel-making process which allows those sharp creases Bentleys once had when bodies were hand-hammered, profiles lost with factory tooling. It also allowed designers to dispense with some lines, in particular shut-lines on front guards.
For a more dynamic, wider style, there's an extra 40mm in width, an 'eyebrow' line over the front guards, higher waistline, plus more upright grille and boot lid. There's a crease running from over the front wheels (reminiscent of the 1954 R Type) to sculpted haunches.
Simpler design lines and "Bentliness" are carried inside, witness the oval brake pedal with big B imprinted. Moving the seat belt from the front seats to the body saved 46mm rear seat space and 25kg; more sculpted door trim allowed more stowage.
The Bentley is stacked with airbags, front for driver and passenger plus individual side bags for all passengers and a knee airbag for the driver. All-wheel drive and well-balanced chassis, great brakes, continuous damping control all make for first-class primary safety.
The waft of the W12 exhaust behind, a clear alpine road ahead and the GT is in its element. Driver and passengers cosseted in a lake of leather-clad luxury.
Left to its own devices and D for drive, the coupe moves off at more than reasonable pace, aided and abetted by 700Nm arriving at a low 1700rpm. Visibility front, side and rear is good, the car is always quiet and confident though some tyre noise may intrude on coarse chip surfaces.
But shift into S mode, start using those steering wheel paddles behind the steering wheel for changes into and out of turns, and the Bentley delivers more. Sharper responses and a smooth, moon-shot linear rush to the next turn. Best of the experience are those smart downshifts, electronics allowing engine blips and sublime responses.
Big and ventilated disc brakes provide great feel and stopping power, speed-sensitive steering is docile around town and sharper as speed rises while suspension would appear best left one or two spots north of the comfort setting.
But while this 2011 GT may be 65kg lighter than its predecessor there's still 2320kg and almost 5mx2m of machine to shift from corner to corner on tight mountain roads. Important here to provide a little throttle to help the front end combat understeer. It is, at the end of the day, grand tourer in the best traditions of the genre.
An every day supercar
Bentley Continental GT
Resale: 82 per cent over five years
Safety: Seven airbags
Engine: 6 litre, twin turbo W12: 423kW @ 6000rpm/ 700Nm @ 1700rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Thirst: 16.5l/100km; CO 384g/km
Body: Two-door coupe
Dimensions: 4806mm (l) 1944mm (w) 1404mm (h) 2764mm (wb)
$158,510 - $182,160