Getting away from it all, Bentley style Wildly inappropriate timing, but you’re not going to say no to life with a Conti GT.
Bentley Continental GT V8 Month 1
The story so far
A pinch-yourself-is-this-really-happening moment: living as a Bentley Boy in 2020
+Extraordinary quality; ample power on tap; sense of occasion
- Actually a sports car at all?
Relevant in 2020 at all?
Price £151,800 (£194,345 as tested)
Performance 3996cc twin-turbo V8, 542bhp, 3.9sec 0-62mph, 198mph
Efficiency 23.9mpg (official), 21.0mpg (tested),
Energy cost 26.4p per mile
Miles this month 280
Total miles 5055
Bentley has quietly sewn up the £100k-£200k pocket of the grand tourer market ever since the first-generation Continental GT launched in 2003. It thrust Crewe into a hitherto unidentified white space in the automotive firmament: the playground of the successful, just-into-six-figures, grown-out-of-Mercedes-Benzes brigade. Now, with the latest Mk3, we’re going to spend a few months finding out just what that’s like. Having been piloting a humble Ford Focus estate for the past year (read all about it on page 108), I’ve now swapped into another red car of rather different lineage. Our gentleman’s express from Crewe is the more attainable V8 model, not the W12, although our example has had a lot of options (£42,545’s worth!) added to take the list price sailing well past the 12-banger’s RRP. Our car in fact retails within a whisker of £200k.
It arrived at Drive-My the same day we were sent home to work as the pandemic swept across Europe, and I can confirm that there are few finer places to self-isolate. As the door thudded closed in the car park, and the double glazing latched into generous seals, I was cocooned in splendid Bentley seclusion. Not many cars at this price can match the sense of occasion of this lounge, lifted by the dual-tone Porpoise and Cricket Ball leather. Sounds a bit of a spiky handful, actually looks elegant.
The hide is pungent and Feel-some; none of this thin-to-the-touch, cheap-premium nonsense here. It’s complemented by a deep Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus over Grand Black veneer, whose party piece is the rotating central display – yes, another option costing a jaw-slackening £4770.
This James Bond-inspired gadget lets you flick between the wide 12.3-inch touchscreen, a bank of three winningly analogue dials (temperature, compass and stopwatch) or a plain wooden panel, each swivelling into place with chronometric precision. It’s great fun, but we’ll reserve judgment until the novelty’s worn off (if it ever does).
Cleverly, it all feels authentically Bentley, from the traditional, touchy-feely organ-stop air vents to the hewn-from-solid door handles; there are precious few signs that this car hails from the same wider stable as the VW Polo. You may find some of the wilder gadgets a little outré for this most gentlemanly British of car brands (do we really need heated armrests? A steering wheel festooned with 14 buttons?) but this reflects the tech creep that afflicts all motor vehicles nowadays. If successful business types have stepped up into their first Bentley, perhaps they expect the same gizmos they enjoyed on their AMGs and 7-series.
That first drive home, clutching laptop, chargers and enough notepads to see me through the uncertainties that lay ahead, was a brief glimpse into the Conti’s talents beneath the showroom swoon. Bentley has got first impressions off pat, but as we sailed serenely down an uncharacteristically deserted A1, I realised this long-term test was going to be eerily quiet in other ways too: the V8 is whisper-hushed at a cruise, even when it closes down one bank to operate as a four at light loads, and the soundproofing makes this an exceptionally refined cruiser.
Bluetooth telephone conversations are much easier as a result. Spear off the motorway and the Conti packs some serious punch. It’s hard to believe this is Crewe’s entry-level model, but its 542bhp is as vigorous as it sounds, an accompanying 568lb ft of twin-turbocharged wrench available all the way from 1960 to 4500rpm.
It’s like the leather-bound reading room of the RAC suddenly catapulting you into the distance at closing time. I can’t wait to uncover more of this intriguing duality of purpose in the months ahead. There’s much to find out.
Is the V8 a better bet than the ostentatious W12? Can driving a Bentley at a time of national health and economic turmoil be acceptable? Will our car’s winter tyres go off as spring gives way to early summer? Just how much better will my music and podcasts sound on a £6595 Naim stereo? And is the latest GT a car that’ll propel the legend of WO, Tim Birkin and those famous Bentley Boys well into their second century? Stay tuned for regular reports, as we indulge in a spot of Continental travel of our own making.
The V8 is whisper-quiet at a cruise, even when it closes down one bank to operate as a four-cyl at light loads
Continental GT coupe is available with a V8 or the flagship W12. Ours is the V8 – woof
Mulliner Driving Specification involves 21-inch black and polished alloys, quilted seats and door cards, sports pedals, metal fuel and oil filler caps and a lovely leather headliner.
You pay that much for the Continental Blackline dark grille, exhaust tips and window surrounds, which provide a fantastic contrast to the St James Red paint.
PUTTING THE T IN GT
Touring Specification brings Lane Assist, radar-controlled adaptive cruise control, very clever night vision and an unobtrusive head-up display.
The Ronseal-named Front Seat Comfort Specification option involves sublime multi-adjustable, massaging, air-conditioned and heated quilted armchairs.