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Bentley Continental GT review: Discovering a new continent
IF you were in the market for a proper luxury Grand Tourer, where would you look? I've had a think and realise there aren't many candidates, least of all one capable of fusing luxurious appointments with driving joie de vivre.
Bentley has offered a solution for 16 years in this rarefied space in the form of the Continental GT.
Its latest model is only the third iteration of the Conti, and even then, we found the second-generation car to be more of a Version 2.0 of the original than a completely new one.
With that generation though, Bentley did seize the chance to sharpen up its aesthetics and dynamic abilities, as well as launch V8 derivatives targeted at younger owners.
Meanwhile, the mammoth W12 engine was regarded as appealing more to older gents.
But if the first Continental GT defined its category, and the second one's urbane charisma and breadth of abilities (including tackling winding roads) changed the way we looked at such cars, where does that leave the new one?
True to Bentley form, the latest Continental GT is eminently waft-worthy, just like its predecessors, but boasts a more salacious facet to its personality that lets the committed driving enthusiast have fun as well.
Up till this latest model, the Conti never quite tickled my fancy because of the stuffy, stiff-upper-lip demeanour that made it seem to take itself too seriously, as well as a ponderous bulk that blunted its dynamic performance.
Thankfully, all that's set to change with the new car's propensity for driving fun, although I should qualify it hasn't lost any of the gravitas that has always endowed the Continental GT with such powerful road presence.
In the interest of saving weight, the new car is built on a platform that makes extensive use of aluminium, and is therefore some 85kg lighter than an equivalent all-steel body.
Coupled to this, the new car has had its front axle moved 135mm forward to improve weight distribution (and looks), and the 48-volt Dynamic Ride System reacts instinctively and precisely to changes in handling conditions to deliver on-point body control - a boon when you're pushing hard over surfaces of varying irregularities.
Even without adopting a rear-wheel steer system, which seems to be all the rage these days, the Continental GT admirably copes with tighter turns with aplomb, with feelsome steering that allows one to place the car with surprising accuracy.
In fact, there's a convincing level of communication from the steering wheel so you know just how much you can push the limits of the Pirelli rubber.
As before, the Continental imparts a sense of occasion the moment you climb aboard. It's easy to appreciate how well Bentley has blended the digital trappings of the modern world with analogue whimsy in the cabin. The digital instruments are seamlessly integrated into the cabin so they don't stick out like a sore thumb, and if you specify the Bentley Rotating Display like on our test-car, it's possible to rotate between a solid wood veneer, 12.3-inch main touchscreen display, or trio of analogue gauges.
All the touch-points in the cabin have been embellished to stellar effect, so there's a sense of impeccable quality about the proceedings. Every detail is intensely scrutinised and intricately enhanced, with the work imparting a timeless air to the cabin.
That's the "Grand" part of its brief sorted, and the "Touring" part hasn't exactly been neglected. On the pull, the acceleration of the supremely elastic W12 engine is relentless and makes light work of the car's two-plus tonnes of weight.
Pedal to metal, the new Continental will touch 100km/h from standstill in 3.7 secs; unfettered, it will show you 333km/h on a derestricted autobahn. The engine transforms from sedate to snarling with a flex of your foot, especially when you're up for a bout of spirited driving.
Although Sport mode gives you no-holds-barred performance, I found the perfect compromise in the bespoke "B" mode (for Bentley, duh!), a perfectly nuanced, well-rounded factory setting that combines rousing powertrain response with a pliant chassis for devastating fast-road use.
There's a lightness and liveliness to the new car that was missing from its predecessors, and coupled to the sleek, edgy aesthetics and finely executed cabin appointments - and there's a very thin line between fine and fussy - there's no denying the Continental GT feels decidedly younger-at-heart now.
BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GT
Engine 5,950cc, 48V, V12, bi-turbo
Power 626hp at 6,000 rpm
Torque 900Nm at 1,350-4,500rpm
Gearbox Eight-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 333km/h
0-100km/h 3.7 secs
Fuel efficiency 12.2L/100km
Price To be announced
Agent Bentley Singapore
Available To be announced