Bentley Continental GT: elegance, comfort, status, serenity

The Bentley Continental GT starts at $198,500 / £159,100. The model we drove, north of £190,000 (around $248,000), but the price is almost irrelevant. This is much more than a price tag. It’s elegance, comfort, status, serenity.

The admiring glances, the knowing nods, the open-mouthed, finger-pointing excitement as you effortlessly glide along don’t go unnoticed. Sure, the Orange Flame paint on our Continental GT did make it stand out from the crowd even more, but the attention is warranted. 

When it comes to finding the best driving experience there is, the Bentley Continental GT is hard to beat. 

Bentley Continental GT design

The original Bentley Continental GT, which arrived in 2003, wasn’t the sharpest looker, but the design has been refined and updated over the years, and the latest model has a sleek, contemporary aesthetic inside and out.

A large, shining grille dominates the front profile, with delicate pinched bodywork lines running the length of the vehicle. Its wide, low stance provides the Continental GT a powerful, dominating presence and the oval lights and exhausts on the rear provide pleasing symmetry to the eye.

The doors are wide, heavy, substantial. As they open, the illuminated Bentley footplate greets you as you step over the deep threshold and into the driver’s seat. Entry and exit does take some practice, as you need to really swing your leg in and out of the low driving position.

Once in the seat, however, you’ll unlikely want to leave. Close the door and the excellent acoustic insulation shuts out the world around you. A small, motorized arm appears over your shoulder, delivering your seat belt to your hand. 

We affectionately dubbed it the ‘seat belt butler’. It’s certainly not an essential feature, but we now wish every car had one (it’s not limited to Bentley’s though, we’ve also seen it in Audis). One negative point here though, the motorized arm feels a little flimsy, and lacks the premium finish of the rest of the car. It’s minor, but it’s something you’ll have to be gentle with.

Click your belt in and turn focus back to the cockpit in front of you and the Continental GT makes you feel at home. The front seats are spacious and fantastically comfortable, with the quilted stitching matching the leather stitched door panels for a premium finish.

The two rear seats are more for show than anything else. Tall front seat passengers will leave little-to-no legroom in the back, meaning the rear is really only viable for young children.

Move your hands over the dials, to the end of the control stalks, to the rear of the paddle shift switches and to the inside of the door release handle and you’ll find the same knurled finish. 

Pleasingly distinctive to the touch, it’s another small detail on the Continental GT which reminds you you’re in something rather special.

Bentley Continental GT drive

Unsurprisingly, the Bentley Continental GT drive is sublime. Smooth, comfortable and effortless, it also has the ability to thrill thanks to the 6 liter, twin turbocharged W12 under the hood.

Put pedal to the metal and the Continental GT can propel you from 0-62mph in just 3.6 seconds. For a car which weighs over 2 tons, that’s some serious performance which leaves many rivals in its dust.

On tarmac, the ride is blissful, but even when we took the GT a little off road – to a car park located in a field – we were able to continue in comfort.

You’re able to manually adjust the ride-height of the Continental GT easily using the main touchscreen display, providing additional clearance for those times you veer off the long drive up to your mansion house.

There are few drive modes available, with the standard Bentley mode (denoted by the Bentley B icon above the circular mode selector) the default setting which balances a comfortable ride with the performance push when required – it’s the mode we used most often and is great for both cruising and brief bursts of acceleration.

Bentley Continental GT

You can switch between drive modes using the dial below the gear shift

However, if you really want to put the W12 to work, click into sport mode. The suspension stiffens up (but it’s still far from uncomfortable), steering becomes more responsive and the exhaust becomes raspier – which complements the sheer force produced when you push the GT to show you what a luxury superyacht on wheels can really deliver.

The wing mirrors are large, as too are the blind spot indicator lights mounted on them (it takes a short while to become comfortable with their flashes), ensuring you’re suitably warned when there’s another vehicle alongside, helping you to avoid pricey collisions.

For the times when you’re touring, piling on the miles, Comfort is the drive mode you need, offering up the most comfortable of rides. You can enhance this even more by taking advantage of the built-in massage function in the driver and front passenger seats. 

Controlled, again, from the large main touchscreen, you can pick from five different types of massage, with a toggle for intensity too. Our favorite was ‘Wave’, which works all the way up and down your spine in a highly effective way.

If massage on the move isn’t quite your thing, the seats in the GT are also heated and air-cooled, which along with the climate control, ensures you’re always traveling at your most comfortable temperature – bliss.

Bentley Continental GT

There are five massage functions to choose from

Bentley Continental GT specs and tech

We’ve already mentioned the large, central display in the Bentley Continental GT a couple of times, and you won’t be surprised that there is much more on offer here than just ride-height adjustment and the massage function.

Before you even get to using the touch screen, it has a party piece of its own. Approach the car and peer through the window and the dash appears to be just a panel of wood stretching from the instrument cluster to the passenger door.

Climb inside and press the ignition however, and the panel rotates to reveal the 12.3-inch display. It’s an impressive trick, with an added bonus of having a third side to it, housing traditional dials for compass, time and temperature – if you’d rather have something more refined than the large touch screen. A button below the section allows you to rotate through the three options.

Rotate back round to the display and the touch screen is bright and clear, and Bentley’s interface is responsive and easy to navigate. It’s not the quickest we’ve used, with the occasional noticeable pause as the system loads, but it doesn’t get in the way of operation.

The satellite navigation is excellent, with highly detailed maps and points of interest, a smart search engine and clear instructions provide on the main display, on the screen in the instrument cluster and even on the HUD (heads up display).

You can also control audio playback from the large touch screen display, with DAB radio and Bluetooth smartphone connectivity available. 

The Continental GT also features a high-quality speaker system from Naim, which delivers incredibly crisp sound which can be fully tailored to your particular taste with individual on-screen controls for the sub-woofer, bass and treble.

Bentley ensures the interior of the Continental GT looks just as good at night, with delicate mood lighting in the foot wells, on the door panels and across the dash. You can even select from a range of colors, ensuring you get the look you want.

Talking of night… another feature here is the ‘night vision camera’, which can give you a live feed of the road ahead through a special night vision camera on the front of the car. This provides you with extra visibility when driving on dark roads – especially useful if you’re winding your way down unlit country lanes.

That’s not the only camera on the Bentley Continental GT either, as it has them all round its frame, providing you with a 360 degree, bird’s eye view of the vehicle’s surroundings.

This, along with parking sensors, makes parking and maneuvering this large car much easier, plus there’s a main reversing camera too allowing you to clearly see what’s behind you. It’s a useful addition, as visibility from the rear window isn’t the best.

Something which took a little bit of working out was the cruise control, with the controls on a stalk behind the left side of the steering wheel. We find on-wheel controls for cruise easier to master at-a-glance, but it didn’t take long t work out the GT’s way of doing things.

Combining the adaptive cruise control with a very good lane assist system, and the Continental GT could pretty much drive itself along motorways – although you’ll need to keep your hands on the wheel at all times, and continue to pay attention to the road ahead. This isn’t an autonomous car.

A glance down from the road, and the digital cockpit – a screen that replaces the traditional instrument cluster behind the wheel – and you can see a wealth of information. Core stats such as speed and fuel are displayed alongside detailed navigation and mapping functions, various car data sets and information on the music playing and the call list from your mobile phone.

However, with its HUD, the Continental GT ensures your eyes spend most of the time focused on the road as it projects key information such as the speed limit, your current speed and the next navigation instruction into your line-of-sight.

There’s plenty of charging sockets for everyone’s phones too, with two USB ports under the central arm rest up front, and a further two hidden below a sliding panel between the two rear seats – which also features two cup holders and a 12v port as well.

If you ever get the chance to drive a Bentley Continental GT, do it. It’ll be unlike anything you’ve driven before it. The comfort, the power, the tech – it’s a heady cocktail of premium excess and luxury and one that would be seriously addictive if it wasn’t quite so expensive.

It’s a fantastic experience, but one which may have ruined all other cars for us.

  • John McCann is getting behind the wheel to give you an alternative look at the wealth of cars – and the tech inside them – available today. From super-fast sports cars to tech-packed hatchbacks, he’ll take you through a range of makes, models, power and price tags in his regular TR Drives column.