Bentley Continental

GT V8 Coupe

Bentley Continental GT, front
Bentley Continental GT, front
Bentley Continental GT, side
Bentley Continental GT, rear
Bentley Continental GT W12, cabin
Bentley Continental GT, side

SOMETIMES cars come along which single-handedly redefine an automotive brand and the Bentley Continental GT is a case in point.

Following Volkswagen's acquisition of Bentley in 1998 it was the Continental GT - launched in 2003 - which really put the marque back on the automotive map.

Since then it has been hugely popular and has also helped Bentley become a commercial success.

Strangely that doesn't feel like 20 years ago and the Continental GT still has the aura of a new Bentley about it.

It might have stuck to a basic design blueprint over its lifespan but has changed and evolved considerably.

The current model is the third version and it represents a continuous journey of improvement in almost every respect.

It's always been a good looker but the latest looks more striking, sleek and sculpted than ever.

It has also slimmed-down, thanks to the extensive use of aluminium so the body alone is 80kg lighter than its predecessor.

It's very easy to just stand and admire its classy and rakish profile and as soon as you sit in the driver's seat it's easy to be similarly distracted.

Interior aesthetics and ergonomics are as much a trademark Bentley feature as those sultry exterior design lines and there's a lot to love about it.

A couple of times I have been fortunate enough to visit the car maker's Crewe factory and see some of the craftsmanship that goes into these vehicles first-hand.

The wood veneers are automotive works of art in themselves and even the stitching on the seats is a thing of beauty.

Suffice to say the cabin combines style, luxury and opulence in a way that has to be admired.

There's some great technology on board to enhance the driver and passenger experience yet at the same time it is not over-complicated.

Once you get used to the ventilated and massaging seats for instance you soon start to feel like every car really should have them.

They might be an optional extra but let's face it, if you're buying a brand new Bentley you're certainly going to want to treat yourself to a few little extras.

One of the great strengths of the Continental's instrumentation and switchgear is the fusion of the old and the new.

Organ stop controls can sit alongside a state-of the art sat-nav system and they don't seem like odd bed fellows.

Engine-wise it's a very simple choice of one - a 4.0-litre V8 - Bentley's blistering 650bhp 6.0-litre W12 which used to be an option is only available in the Continental GT Speed these days.

In fairness the V8 isn't a great deal slower (around half a second when it comes to the 0-60mph sprint and has a slightly lower top speed) and makes for considerably cheaper fuel bills - if that is a concern.

Another of the Continental GT's great features is that it combines being a thrilling sports car with being an uber comfortable cruiser.

I notched-up a fair few motorway miles during my time at the wheel and it soaked them up with ease.

Perhaps surprisingly it also feels easy travelling around suburbia at low speed.

You'd think it may be a bit too harsh and bulky but that's not the case.

As a performance car it certainly does not disappoint.

The V8 engine will take you from a standing start to 62mph in 4 seconds and on to a top speed of 198mph should you ever be in a setting where you are permitted you to travel that fast.

The eight-speed dual clutch transmission is super-slick and four-wheel drive comes as standard, though it's a system that kicks-in when needed with the car operating in rear-wheel drive mode for much of the time.

The Continental GT sits on an adaptive chassis and uses Bentley's Dynamic Ride System to control ride comfort and lateral roll.

The four driving modes are Comfort, Bentley, Sport or Custom and when switching between the three standard ones the suspension, engine, gearbox and other chassis systems adjust accordingly. You can also create your own dynamic settings in Custom mode.

The Continental handles sublimely in all the standard modes though the differences are marked and obviously it is at its sharpest in Sport mode.

Have some fun on an empty and twisting B road and it will delight at every turn with the perfect combination of aggression and sure-footedness.

FAST FACTS

Bentley Continental GT V8 Coupe

Price: £157,900

Mechanical: 542bhp, 3,996cc, 8yl petrol engine driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 198mph

0-62mph: 4 seconds

Combined MPG: 25

Insurance Group: 50

C02 emissions: 263g/km

Bik rating: 37%

Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles

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