We test drive the new Bentley Continental GT

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Have Bentley….will travel

By Kevin Haggarthy

Prices start £152,000                                    Price as tested £207,000

If you love cars and you love driving, then spending a weekend behind the wheel of one of the World’s greatest GTs’ on some of the UK’s finest roads is a pipe dream.  So here’s to living the dream…..

Our choice  is the new third generation Bentley Continental GT. It is one of the World’s finest Grand Tourers, lifting the bar substantially over its predecessor which, despite its competence and ‘best selling’ credentials, sorely needed replacing.

This third generation ‘Conti GT’ is much more than an overhaul; it is a totally new car; lighter, stiffer and faster than its predecessor. It’s better looking too, its contemporary lines and curves making it a sleeker looker and less ‘staid’. The biggest immediate difference to the eye is the wider front grille, rounded headlamp clusters, and an oval integrated rear lamp cluster design at the rear. The finish on the car is stunning; oozing quality at every point, and the interior has to be amongst the classiest in the World, with amazing ambient lighting.

Under the bonnet is a 6.0 litre twin-turbo charged W12, generating 900m of torque, 626 brake horse power, a 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 207 mph. Not as self-indulgent as it sounds, for six of these cylinders deactivate under light load. As a result, a credible combined 20.8 mpg is achieved, with a full tank achieving a range of 411.3 miles.

behind the wheel and beyond…

the pleasure is in the detail

I challenge anyone not to pause for appreciation once behind the wheel. Not once did a passenger sit inside this car without commenting on the excellent fit and finish; add to that the finest leather, the finely embroidered door casings and rear quarter panels (ours had the top Mulliner spec). What’s more, the touch and feel of the switchgear is perfect. It is a car you’d be tempted to buy without even turning the key. But when you do…

Visual turns to aural pleasure, courtesy of a deep, gruff,  exhaust note. This is what separates a Bentley from a Rolls, the former  a driver’s tool first. Yet that first taste of forward motion is sublime, silent almost, until deeper exploration of throttle travel translates 900 m of torque and 600 bhp into a spine-tingling surge. Get that far and your hooked. – add ‘line’ and ‘sinker’ to the equation for me.

Our trip was a 280 mile Thursday evening hike from London to Snowdonia in North Wales; a familiar destination for motoring scribblers.

In loading up the Bentley with cameras, cleaning equipment, and luggage the now bigger boot compartment held it all. Combine that with the fact that an average sized human being can now occupy the rear seats, this Gen III Bentley Continental GT completes the tick list for ultimate intercontinental travel.

welcome distraction

Anyone other than me tonight is in for a boring 200 mile drive; theres 100% motorway speed camera surveillance along my stretch of the M25, the M1 reduced to 50 mph due to roadworks for what feels like half the length of your life, then on to the M6 Traffic Queuing Disaster -and finally the M54 to Telford; so empty that you are inclined to sleep. Yet in the Conti GT we are oblivious to it all. Instead I chose to introduce six and half grands worth of Naim for Bentley premium audio into the reckoning, for what has to be the best sounding in-car entertainment system to grace the earth. Your Spotify tracks never sounded so good. By the time we were ready to turn off from the M54 to the more entertaining A458, so engaging was the ‘ Niam’ that you could be sitting on the motorway listening to music without complaining for two years.

Stirrings in the night

To arrive at Malwydd feeling so relaxed after a long congested evening drive was quite odd. Put it down to the Bentley Driving Experience; I opted for the ‘comfort’ drive on the journey up, saving ‘Sport’ for tomorrow’s daylight, twists, turns, and whatever weather nature chooses.

As I settled down for a night’s rest, a range of clearly distinguishable exhaust notes successively interrupted the refreshing silence of the Welsh Countryside. The rasp of a BMW M4, that’ll be team driver Patrick Bryan, soon followed by a subtle variation of the same tone from Paul Sander’s stunning red M6 saloon. The deep throated soul stirring of ’Panch’s’ 600 bhp Aston Vantage turned up next, soon to be followed by the wild roar of a rude V8 – that’ll be Steve Holden’s bright yellow Mustang. I missed the wail of John Halliwell’s Lamborghini Huracan Performante, but that’ll be with us in the morning. Time for sleep then….or so I thought, until close to midnight half of Wales was woken by a sound that can be only likened to a boy racer on steroids with an overdose of Viagra; It was James Sohl in his white Honda Integra Type R, bought specially for the occasion and quite the loudest car on earth.

The gang line up for the morning’s drive

Stirrings in the day…..

Day two and nature’s promise was indeed rain. My colleagues are a bunch of dedicated keen drivers with great cars, so there won’t be much hanging about. The Bentley was going to enjoy ‘mixing it’ with this bunch, despite weighing not far off two and half tons. Last night’s journey was enough to give me confidence in the Conti’s dynamic abilities, combined with the wet weather reassurance of four- wheel drive.

I was not to be disappointed. Outside of the ‘comfort’ setting, the Bentley offers the choice of ‘B’ for optimised all round ‘Bentley’ performance or ‘Sport’. Today of course, it’s ‘Sport’ to which a deep rumbling exhaust note confirms. The suspension automatically tightens up too, but not at the cost of comfort or ride quality, just a tighter more rooted feel. Firm acceleration pinches you with the sheer joy of 12 cylinder power combined with the authority and confidence to take every overtaking opportunity safety allows; you just know you can, so you do.

who said you cant go off roading in Sports GTs!

No need to chicken out on the bends either, you can attack them with sure footed precision courtesy of a finely tuned chassis, suspension, steering, and grip. Yet so powerful is this car that you do feel its weight and power needs those amazing brakes to shave off surprisingly massive speeds, achieved very quickly and with minimal effort; and they do it well. Yet you’ll still have the mental time to notice how the wipers do their work in silence, the crystal clarity of the music, and when you have to stop for a phone call, the in-car phone reception is as clear as chatting to a real human being sitting right beside you.

fuel stops aplenty but mpg surprisingly good for power and spec

Authority, speed, confidence, luxury, quality and safety-yes, it’s all here. In fact, it is when driven hard that the true driving character of this Bentley shines; it is fun with dignity, power with pride, quality with character, speed with safety, state of the art technology embodied in classical tradition and breeding. It is proof that Bentley has’n t forgotten its DNA, and that the British can still make exceedingly  fine cars……….

Images :Paul Halliwell (www.paulh.photos)



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