Car reviews - Bentley - Continental GTS
Superb quality, hushed ride, seamless engine delivery, agile handling
Room for improvement
Not space efficient, thick A-pillars, cabin has a lot of reflective bling
Latest Bentley wrapped in leather and wood but leans heavily on Porsche, Audi cousins for dynamic chassis, engine development
10 Mar 2023
By NEIL DOWLING
THE best of British marque Bentley is winding up the heat this year with a new ‘S’ variant added to its two key models to package the best of style and performance.
Bentley said the ‘S’ adjusts its grand touring recipe with a definite focus on driving pleasure and, after driving the first of the Continental GT models in ‘S’ guise, the luxury-car maker seems to have hit the nail square on the head.
Of course that hammer blow comes at a cost. The new version of the Flying Spur saloon and Continental GT coupe and convertible make the cash register ‘ka-ching’ at $538,200 and $517,800 respectively, plus on road costs. The Continental GTC ‘S’ convertible is from $568,400, plus on road costs .
Above the ‘standard’ Continental GT V8, it squeezes about an extra $58,000 from the wallet. Alone, that’s serious money. Compared with the total cost of the coupe, it’s about nine per cent extra. Chicken feed.
So what do you get?
Oddly, the extra kit doesn’t stand out and dazzle. The ‘S’ starts as a V8-engined coupe and then Bentley tailor it – literally if you consider the delicate stitching of the leather upholstery – with enhancements to suit this ‘driving pleasure’ creed.
See the black chrome, dark tint over LED lights, black grille (chrome is optional) and gloss-black 22-inch alloys?
Does it all make the coupe a more desirable package?
Is there value in the new variant?
This is the first Continental I’ve driven in about eight years. A lot of things have changed, as evident by the look of the coupe and the grey hair reflecting back in the sun visor mirror.
In fact, so much has changed that you’d be hard pressed to swap any components of the old car with this 2023 delivery. Well, to be specific, one part – the glove box handle.
Much of what is new in the Continental appears to be invisible. What looks the same actually is not – so that means there’s an awful lot of new stuff under the body.
Although it’s readily identifiable as a Continental GT from prior years, the body is all new.
Under the skin, the architecture of the previous Continental has been replaced with the same platform used first by the Porsche Panamera.
The new coupe also picks up a Bentley-specific modification of the Porsche/Audi 4.0-litre V8 with two turbochargers (also used by Porsche) and eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, along with a significant list of other components from Porsche/Audi including the infotainment system.
So is it a Panamera and will you get the same buzz out of the Porsche while saving a few dollars?
The Continental is in another, different class. Where the Panamera is a sports car with luxury, the Continental is luxury with sports-car performance. The emphasis is subtly reversed.
The Bentley hides its teeth beneath the leather and wood, the alloy and Dinamica (faux suede).
Dinamica is used for the steering wheel, gear lever, seat cushion and seat backrest while leather hide is on the seat bolsters, door pads, along the instrument panel and around the console.
The ‘S’ gets driver-focused instrumentation with the same graphics as the Continental GT Speed. The seats are fluted, with Bentley offering quilting as an option, and the ‘S’ emblem is embroidered on the headrest of each seat.
There’s also the option – at no cost, win-win – of embroidered Bentley wings on the seats. Other ‘S’ identifiers include a metal ‘S’ signature badge on the dash and illuminated Bentley tread plates with the ‘S’ device replacing the Bentley Motors Ltd plaque.
The coupe can’t hide its size. It is an impressive 4.85m long and sits wide and hungry at the kerb at 2187mm, including the mirrors.
Pop it on the scales and the two-door coupe is a hefty 2172kg dry. Add humans and it’s heading towards 2.5-tonne.
And here’s the thing: the figures on the paper don’t add up. All this conjures up an expectation that the Continental is a fat and lazy big-engined UK cruiser built for two. Lavishly, of course.
I remember the old Continental. And indeed the Mulsanne that has left the Bentley model index when someone in Volkswagen Group realised that the four-door Flying Spur saloon had far more ability, enthusiasm and sporty character.
That’s another story, and another test, but the new Spur is an absolute treat and generations away from the Mulsanne.
So the old Continental, comfy as a Posturepedic though it was, but one best to back off when the red mist descends.
Welcome to the latest GT. Fire it up and point it at the suburban rat race during peak-hour diversionary traffic time, and it has absolutely no admission about its size or weight.
The steering is sharp, well-weighted and controlled by a wheel that falls perfectly to hand thanks primarily to its adjustment and that of the seat.
It just feels right and pleasingly – thankfully – it has that most desirable of attributes which is its ability to shrink around the driver. So it magically becomes compact, more manageable, more agile and faster.
Then there’s the audio. Bentley fit four fat exhaust pipes for a reason. The 4.0-litre Porsche/Audi-derived engine has been honed to draw out all the lovely mannerisms of gobs of torque at the bottom end, a fiery heart in the mid-range of the tachometer, and the ability to scream its eight lungs out towards the end of the tacho’s dial.
The V8 has been used in a range of tunes by a few of the top-end models in the Volkswagen Group, including Audi’s A8 and some RS versions; Porsche’s Panamera and Cayenne; the two Bentley cars and its Bentayga SUV; and in its maximum 478kW/850Nm guise, the Lamborghini Urus.
In the Continental (and Flying Spur) it pumps 404kW (542 bhp) at 6000rpm and torque of 770Nm at a dinner-table flat 2000-4500rpm.
Aided by the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that boasts razor-shape changes, it’s enough for a 0-100km/h sprint of 4.0 seconds. That’s impressive but even more so for a beast that weighs a slip under 2.2 tonne.
Bentley claims 23.2 mpg – yeah, right – which is 12 litres/100km in Australia. It draws 95RON fuel from a 90-litre fuel tank, good for a blast down the coast. Any coast.
If you’re expecting me to make a comparison with the optional W12 engine, I won’t.
More accurately, given the fact I haven’t driven it and that Bentley has announced it will end production next year, it’s a pointless argument aside from the fact that as a potentially appreciating asset, the W12-engined Continental may just be a worthy tax-free investment.
Hot though the V8 engine is, the drive line is even more impressive. Where Bentley previously used a permanent all-wheel drive system, the more recent car has an electronically-controlled drive that favours the rear wheels pretty much all the time.
Torque vectoring sits on top of this more flexible drive and will allocate power to any wheel it deems fit.
Then there’s the brand’s ‘dynamic ride’ to combine sports handling with a ride that befits the need for occupant comfort.
Bentley’s ‘dynamic ride’ is a clever bit of kit. It is a 48-volt electrically-operated active anti-roll control system, developed by Bentley, that compensates for cornering forces to minimise body roll. Bentley said it also boosts ride comfort by separating the left and right-hand wheels.
So drive it hard and it reacts to the physics of cornering forces but treat it gently and it rewards with a super-comfy ride. Indeed, cruising in this car is not only a glide but exterior noise is barely perceptible.
These electronic features are knitted with the power steering as well, so there’s a barrage of sensors and monitors that can make this car sit and act like a ballet dancer with barely any input from the driver except for enthusiasm.
Bentley has increased its cover to a five year, unlimited distance warranty.
Bentley Continental GT S V8: $517,800 plus on road costs
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