Every successful car brand out there has at least one model that is synonymous with the brand and a big reason behind its success. That model for Bentley is the Continental GT.

There are those who even think that Bentley would not have survived for as long as it has; had it not been for the Continental GT’s success. A cool thing about this model’s latest iteration is that despite Bentley being a part of the Volkswagen group, it retains the British characteristics of its predecessors and that is something that is in very short supply these days.

I got a chance to test this beauty out and here is an account of the indelible impression it left on me.

It is the sad truth that these days, cars aren’t as exciting and individually unique as they used to be. Of course, car design is not entrusted completely to the engineers and designers themselves.

In fact, almost everything is planned based on profitability and often it is the accountants that have the final say. Do not get me wrong. I am not saying that this approach necessarily spoils the car. On the contrary, in today’s world, this is the only way for car companies to survive.

In light of that, it is almost astonishing to see Bentley launch a car like the Continental GT W12. Every aspect of this car screams the phrase ‘as good as it can get’ and it was a treat to test these features. Everything from the looks to the way it drives is food for the soul.

What is the Bentley Continental GT W12 about?

Cars used to be broadly classified into two. There were those cars that were purely meant to provide outright performance and then there were the sensible ones that focused more on practicality and comfort. Soon, however, the grand tourer was born which was any car that could be used to chew up miles of roads comfortably but in a manner that was equally exciting.

Basically, it combined the best traits of the first two types of cars. This Continental GT is a perfect exemplification of that design ethos. It is a beast when it comes to outright performance but it can give you that excitement in a setting that is as exquisite and comfy as it can get.

Let me start with the first thing about this car that is captivating which is the way it looks. Bentley Continentals have always been great lookers but this one ups the ante even further. There are some significant changes that have made this car even more handsome.

The front wheels sit slightly forward giving the car a more menacing look. The iconic front grills and the classy circular headlamps give it the authentic British aesthetics. There are no separate gaudy DRLs to spoil the show here. From the front, this car looks meatier than ever.

It is, however, from the sides that this car looks truly breathtaking. It gives the impression of being incredibly stable and there are enough nuances like the muscular arches above the rear wheels that proclaim that this car means business.

The rear is also pretty cool looking with the minimalistic tail lamps almost mirroring the appearance of the twin exhausts. Not to forget the large Bentley logo in the centre that reminds the world of the car’s pedigree.

The paint job also adds further character. The car I tested was outfitted in a Cricket Ball paintwork and it had a lot more detail to it than I expected.

Classy looks will only get you so far but where this car truly shines is in the way it drives. A big part of that is down to the incredible 6.0-litre W12 engine that can put out 626 bhp of power and a mind-boggling 900 Nm of torque.

The two twin-scroll parallel turbochargers add further oomph. This engine is mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. All of this results in some very impressive stats. The Continental GT W12 can go from a standstill to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds and can keep going all the way to a cool 207 mph. A combined fuel economy of 20.8 mpg and CO2 figures of 308 g/km round out the numbers.

How does it drive?

While the looks of this car have progressed, the one area where this car has really improved is the way it feels and drives. Let us start with the throttle response. As mentioned earlier, the Continental GT W12 packs in 900 Nm of torque and this torque is available from as low down as 1,350 RPM and it does not let off all the way up to 4,500 RPM. That is if you are brave enough to keep your foot planted all the way down on the accelerator pedal. This car just grips and goes.

The engine also has enough grunt in terms of outright power as well to keep things exciting throughout the rev range. The power and torque are also delivered with an immediacy that has improved on the previous generation of the Continental GT. The performance of the past models has been replaced by a car that almost lurches forward each time the accelerator pedal is pressed. The automatic gearbox also works quite well without any clumsiness. The rush of acceleration for a car of this size is incredible. It is mind-blowing to think that Bentley has made the current generation Continental GT significantly more responsive from the previous generation.

The biggest surprise though comes in the form of the way this car handles. It is still a front-engined car but the weight distribution is such that only 55% of the total weight is put on the front axle. This means that the Continental GT is no longer as nose-heavy as it used to be. There is also a lot of technical and mechanical wizardry going on that ensures that this car handles particularly well at all speeds and under different conditions. The Pirelli P-Zero tyres combined with all the electronic magic offers a level of grip that is almost physics-defying.

While the new model is lighter than its predecessors, it is still a hefty car at 2,244 kg but Bentley actually flaunts this number as a sign of the stability their car offers.

Previously, Continental GT’s would be a little reluctant in direction changes and even after going around corners, you could sense that the car was still trying to sort out its momentum. That is no longer the case as the car is immediately able to gain composure even after a very quick direction change.

The double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension mixed with the three-chamber air struts are almost magical in their ability to keep the considerable mass of this car in check even when the car is being driven quite aggressively. This is a great demonstration of clever engineering.

There are also four different engine modes to choose from. The Comfort mode is best when you are just cruising around while the Sport mode firms everything up and makes the throttle and brake response even sharper whilst opening the exhaust valves. The Bentley mode is an all-purpose ‘best of both’ setting that can be used to keep the comfort levels high while still getting loads of excitement.

The power is also delivered to all four wheels but here again, there has been a considerable advancement as the power is carefully metered out between the front and the rear depending on the conditions. All the power can be delivered to the rear wheels to help with fuel economy and emissions when possible.

The maximum amount of power that can be delivered to the front wheels depends on the engine mode chosen with Comfort and Bentley mode allowing up to 38 per cent while Sport mode reduces it to 17 per cent. Even though this is very much a performance-oriented car, it is quite efficient too with the ability to turn off cylinders when the load is low.

It is also worth mentioning that the suddenness with which this car delivers power and handles steering inputs takes some time getting used to but once you are in tune with the car, it will be the most fun you can ever have in a grand tourer as of now. The Continental GT appears to be edging forward from the competition.

What is it like inside?

One area that really differentiates a grand tourer from any other type of car is the way it feels to sit inside one. You should be able to experience all the exciting power and driving characteristics mentioned above from a place of utter comfort and the Bentley Continental GT W12 does not disappoint one bit in this area.

The specific model that I tested comes loaded with a host of extra options but even in its standard trim, this car is a treat on the inside. The single tone Beluga leather used just looks and feels exquisite. The choice of leather hearkens back to the days of old when a lot of attention was paid to every single detail inside a car.

The Dark Eucalyptus Veneer on the centre console adds a nice contrasting element to the leather and it too feels quite elegantly crafted and put together.

The dashboard has a very dynamic design with the instrument console being one of the best I have come across in a car yet. The user interface is great and the refresh rates look very smooth.

Add to that the optional rotating central display and the car feels like something out of a very modern spy movie. The 12.3-inch screen is of high-quality and is very detailed while the three analogue dials add a nice classy touch to it. This is an incredibly unique feature to add to your car and will certainly wow your passengers with the touch of a button.

The front seats are indeed a very nice place to be in. There is ample head and legroom and the high-tech nature of the dashboard will keep you engaged even if you are just a passenger.

The optional Front Seat Comfort Specification adds further niceties to the mix. The rear seats while not being as roomy are still adequately comfortable.

A 358-litre boot also makes the W12 a pretty practical car as well. A journey for a couple of hours in this car for four people shouldn’t be much of a problem.

The Continental GT W12 also boasts of a myriad of the latest connectivity options. The infotainment system can be easily controlled from the steering wheel as well as from the touchscreen. The sound system comes in the form of a standard 10 speaker audio system that is quite good. Here we tested the Bang & Olufsen system and it was absolutely outstanding.

As for the safety and driver-assistance options, the GT W12 comes equipped with all the standard features like adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and the night-vision system are optional extras. The night-vision system is so much more than a gimmick and is actually quite useful. It can spot people and animals from a long distance away keeping you and those around you safe with more time to react if they step into the road.

The experience

By this point, it should be clear that I really enjoyed my time with the Bentley Continental GT W12. The bar is already set quite high when it comes to this model and hence it is a huge accomplishment that it still managed to pleasantly surprise me. The looks were on par with what I expected and wanted but it just blew my mind with the way it handles and just puts pure power on to the road.

However, despite all this, if I had to pick one quality out of the many that make this car great, it would be how unabashedly British it is. It is built in the UK by British residents and that, in my opinion, helps the Continental GT retain everything that has always been good about Bentley’s poster child while adding enough new features and improving on the old ones to keep it fresh and relevant in the current era of the motor industry.

Bentley Continental GT W12 Cost

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Continental GT W12 comes with a hefty price tag. The price for the variant I drove is £163,100. This is a car that is meant to be customised to your heart’s content and while that can drive the price high very quickly, it does make for a driving experience that is like no other.

Having said that, even the standard version is good enough to make you feel special every time you get behind the wheel.

Verdict

The verdict here is quite simple. If you are in the market for the best GT car available, then there is no other choice that will satisfy all your needs better than the Continental GT.

It does have a few minor quirks like a smallish rear window and an incredibly powerful driving characteristic that can be a shock to the system, but you will get used to both of these in minutes behind the wheel.

In my opinion, the car is as close to the perfect GT car as you can get, and if you are not satisfied by the base car the options for customisation are endless.

Bentley Continental GT W12 Specs

Price: £163,100
Engine: 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 TSI
Power: 626 bhp
Torque: 900 Nm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-62mph:  3.6 seconds
Top speed: 207 mph
Weight: 2,244 kg
Economy combined:  20.8 mpg
CO2: 308 g/km