WHEN you hear the word Bentley, you automatically think opulence, affluence and social status. Likewise, the words Continental GT evoke thoughts of automotive beauty, road presence and perhaps even a bit of jealousy.
Recognised as one of the most prestigious car makers on the planet, Bentley is actually owned by Volkswagen Group. Headquartered in Crewe, England, the company was founded as Bentley Motors Limited by W.O. Bentley in 1919 in Cricklewood, North London.
It won 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930, and has since gone on to participate in, and win, a multitude of motor sport events over the years, including the 2020 Bathurst 12-Hour.
Motor racing aside, its 2020 road car lineup is pretty damn special, and features the Flying Spur, Continental GT, in V8 and W12 engine variants, the Bentayga SUV, and the final iteration of the Mulsanne.
It’s almost impossible to choose a favourite from the range, but we’ll focus on the 2020 Bentley GT Continental Coupé V8, draped in the stunning Alpine Green, that we’ve been handed the keys to. It’s arguably the best grand touring coupe ever built.
The GT has a kerb weight of 2,165kg, and could best be described as voluptuous. It features an exceptional all-wheel drive system, air suspension, a deployable rear wing and a twin-turbo V8 power plant that offers 405kW of power and 770Nm of torque.
Traditionally powered by a monstrous W12 12-cylinder engine, the V8 variant is something new, with its new engine borrowed from its Porsche sibling. We’ll forgive the parts bin raid because frankly, it’s an awesome power plant.
The V8 hammers the big Bentley from 0-100km/h in just 3.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 318km/h. On the road, it feels fast, and it is fast. Too bloody fast some might say, but the big Bentley does it effortlessly.
The 8-speed dual clutch transmission is smooth and snappy. It’s a gearbox that doesn’t care what you do with it, slow and steady or nail it, it kicks up and down with ease. The quad exhaust tips ensure the soundtrack befits the performance too.
Stop/start and cylinder deactivation ensure it’s as efficient as possible, with Bentley claiming a combined fuel cycle of 11.2-litres/100km, but we suspect fuel use hardly matters to the intended buyer. We saw 14.6-litres/100km with some spirited driving.
And while acceleration in the GT is exhilarating, the deceleration is just as spectacular. After a spout of heavy pushing through some of the corners in the Royal National Park, just outside Sydney, we uncovered one of the big Bentley’s hidden talents.
It has a turbo flutter and an amazing snap crackle and pop from its quad exhausts. The burst of noise was unexpected, yet exuded a massive smile. That could be the boy racer in us though.
The all-wheel drive system is well tuned, and the poise with which the GT stays glued to the road is evidence the system is near perfect. It rides beautifully, despite the 21-inch rubber, delivering a premium driving experience.
The steering is smooth, it feels agile, and it can behave like an angry racer, or a suburban roller, depending on how hard you drive it. It will chew up corners and spit them out when you need it to, too.
The 2020 Bentley Continental GT is confident without being ostentatious, with a timeless design that looks good from every angle.
The interior is exquisite too. The leather work is supple and silky. Detailing, from the stitching to the machined aluminum center console trim, is stunning. The front seats are equipped with power headrests, and adjustable cushioning and side bolsters.
They’re ventilated and can include a massage function. But it’s the rotating three-face centre panel in the dash that is among the Bentley’s most unique features. Each face includes something different.
A Porsche-sourced 12.3 inch infotainment screen is of course the main option, but you can choose to see a trio of analog gauges, or a stately wood panel. The choice is yours, and it’s a real delight. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard too.
The driver gets a digital instrument cluster, with a host of steering wheel mounted controls. And that is the only downside to the Bentley Continental GT. Those controls look like they were lifted from a mid-2000s Volkswagen Golf or Audi Q7.
The steering wheel itself is nice, but the buttons make it look cheap. That aside, the audio system is well beyond what most buyers would expect in terms of clarity and sound.
The 650-watt, 10 channel, 10 speaker audio system features digital and analogue radio, and if that isn’t enough, you can opt for a Bang & Olufsen or Naim setup.
A wealth of My Bentley services are also included, and designed to make the journey smarter, safer and more convenient. Satellite maps allows the navigation to display a photo-realistic landscape.
Private eCall notifies emergency services in a critical situation, while perimeter alert warns you if your car moves out of a specified area. Find my car shows you where you parked and through the My Bentley app, you can activate heating before you get in.
With a host of opportunities for personalisation, you can make your Continental GT V8 entirely your own. There are 15 interior hide colours, including four elegant duo tone colour splits.
There is also a wide range of stunning paint colours (way to many to mention), alloy wheels and veneer options to choose from. You can even commission something truly bespoke from Mulliner – Bentley’s coach building arm.
Safety wise, Bentley has thrown everything possible into a package that includes adaptive cruise control, Bentley safeguard plus, head-up display, lane assist, night vision and traffic assist.
It also gains automatic dimming door mirrors, city assist, hands-free boot opening, pedestrian warning, reversing traffic warning and a top view camera.
It’s difficult to measure the value of individuality at this end of the pricing scale. However, if you like to stand out, and drive something different, there’s absolutely no doubt the Bentley offers a GT experience that few can match.
The list of options and packages available to tailor to your taste is endless. You will be and are spoiled for choice. One thing to remember, is this is a luxury GT first and foremost, but one that engages, rather than isolates the driver, or passengers, for that matter.
It’s so good, it questions the very definition of a driver’s car. For most of us though, the 2020 Bentley Continental GT is well out of our reach (price wise), but if you’re looking for a GT car that ticks every box, this is the one.
The 2020 Bentley GT Continental V8 is available in Coupé at $400,900 (plus on-roads) and Convertible, from $441,300 (plus on-roads).
Our 2020 Bentley GT Continental was supplied by Bentley Australia. To find out more, contact your local Bentley dealer.