When you think of the Bentley brand, what comes to mind? Likely, it’s stuffy. The type of automobile driven by Candy or Biff as they go to a polo match. This isn’t helped by the marque’s formerly close association with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. Those days are long over.

Today, under the Volkswagen Auto Group umbrella, Bentley continues to evolve. The third-generation Continental GT shows just how far it’s taking some liberties. How so, you ask? Let me unravel this.

Bentley Continental GT

Introduced in the early 2000s, the first-generation Continental GT was considered “the baby Bentley.” But for those who drove it and compared it with the then flagship Arnage, it was significantly different. It boasted more technology and felt more sporting. Fast forward to today and it’s a similar story. While the flagship, dubbed the Mulsanne, has been discontinued, one thing is certain: The Continental GT continues to march on with more technology and a sportier driving experience.

It may be a bit difficult to tell on the outside, however. That’s because the average person probably will not notice much different from the previous-generation Continental GT. I reassure you, however, it is an all-new design on a completely different chassis.

What will, undoubtedly, catch your eye is the impressive front grille, which dominates the GT’s “face.” My test car was further accented by the lower grille also adorned in chrome. To say it has presence is an understatement. Flanking that front grille are the bejeweled, quad LED headlights of the car. When I say that, I am not poking fun. Get up close and take a longer look at the lights — they are actually cut like crystal. This motif is carried throughout the taillights and other elements of the interior.

Bentley Continental GT

Observers will notice the Continental’s sweeping lines, which run front-to-back. This look evokes sophistication while balancing throwbacks to the company’s previous models. The most pronounced design detail is integrated into the rear fenders, which gives the car pronounced “hips.”

Although there’s a lot to like about the latest GT’s design, I am not particularly keen on the oval taillights. They’re a miss for me. Agent 001 and I have wondered if these are the worst looking taillights in the business. Now that they’ve made their way onto the 2021 Bentayga though, I think that’s the "winner" at the moment.

Sliding into the driver’s seat, it becomes readily apparent why this vehicle’s base price starts at nearly $200,000. With two-tone leather covering nearly every surface, diamond quilting appearing on the back rests and door inserts, real metal trim bits and wood veneers wrapping around you in the cabin, it is stately.

Then there’s certain things inside this Bentley that have never been done before in the auto industry. The level of detail is simply astounding — this is what makes a Bentley so. I love it.

Here’s just one example. Upon closer inspection, the optional diamond patterns in the leather appear almost like silk. The reason? According to a Bentley representative, that’s because there are 712 stitches in each diamond.

Need another? Fellow watch nerds will appreciate this. My test vehicle was also optioned with a special Côtes de Genève aluminum insert in the center console. It mimics the metal working inside of high-end timepieces.

When it comes to technology though, its engineers took a different approach. Rather than reinvent the wheel, the Bentley team leaned on Audi to lend its MMI infotainment system. So when you start the vehicle and that massive piece flips to the 12-inch display, don’t be surprised if it looks familiar. The software works wonderfully. The display is laser sharp and it does not have lag unlike other automakers' interfaces.

If you prefer to stow the screen away, you can flip it to display three analog gauges — one is for the outside air temperature, one is a compass and the last is a stop watch.

Obviously, all of the aforementioned is impressive as Bentley is in the über-luxury class of autos. But it isn’t until you start driving that you “get it.”

Bentley Continental GT

Powering on the car, the 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 fires to life. Producing 542 horsepower and 568 lb.-ft. of torque, it has plenty of oomph to move this nearly 4,800 pound coupe. Mated with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, zero to 60 comes in a rapid 3.9 seconds. But, because it is a Bentley, it actually doesn’t feel that fast — there’s very little drama due to extremely smooth shifts, thicker glass and extra insulation.

You only know how quickly you’re accelerating as your head is pulled back and the speedometer climbs like a video game.

Fuel economy clocked in around 16 mpg, which isn't brilliant, but not unexpected in a heavy and powerful auto like this.

Although my test vehicle was equipped with insanely large 22-inch wheels, somehow the ride comfort wasn’t overtly impacted. Overall, the suspension is well dampened whether you’re in Comfort or Sport mode. Around town I typically opted for Comfort to soak up more of New Jersey’s craters. On back roads and highways, where I wanted to have a bit more fun, I switched the GT into Sport mode to give myself a bit more confidence pushing the Bentley’s boundaries.

Having driven numerous Bentleys over the years, they tend to feel rather tank-like. While you can have some fun with them, they tend to get a touch sloppy when you put them in the twisties. The all-new Continental GT, however, is different.

While there is a certain heft that makes you feel like you’re piloting a vehicle made from a solid hunk of metal, the GT V8 feels more nimble and playful when on serpentine, country roads. Not only is this due to Bentley’s use of technology but there’s a fun fact hidden here: The Continental’s chassis was co-developed with Porsche.

It shows.

This provides a much more controlled experience as the body is kept in check and drivers will feel more comfortable hustling this Bentley in and out of corners. It’s certainly not a sports car and its steering will remind you of that. It lacks any communicative feel and isn’t exactly the sharpest.

The takeaway is this: While the Continental’s strong suit remains opulent grand touring, now you can cackle as you take the “long way” home.

The real joy of driving this Bentley though is its flexibility. If you want to use it as a grocery getter, no problem. For commuting? Child’s play. Long distance hauls? That’s precisely what it is was built for.

I think that’s what makes a Bentley just so. It’s the vehicle’s ability to let passengers remain completely isolated when reality is starkly different.

Kudos to Bentley for getting it right. No longer is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe the land yacht to have. Of course with the flying "B" though, you'll pay for it.

The Good:

- Bentley has upped its game after the previous-gen Continental GT felt very 2005
- Excellent ride quality over road imperfections, even with 22-inch wheels — it's sorcery, really
- Overall, the all-new Continental GT is much more fun to drive over the previous-gen car

The Bad:

- I tested the V8 version with VAG’s turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 — it’s a nice motor but not unique
- Intermittent issue with the rear windows not always sealing, required driver to drop all the windows then close all the windows to fully shut
- This is a flashy product — If you’re looking for discretion, this isn’t it

The Lowdown:

With the previous-gen Continental GT, it wasn’t particularly compelling as it was long in the tooth. Its driving dynamics were great for long-distance, high speed travel but it became a bit of a nuisance on country roads or while running errands. And the tech simply stunk. Fast forward to today, however, and this is a completely different story. Its technology is superb and the driving dynamics clearly are influenced by Porsche’s guiding hand. If you want to make an impression and have a magnificent grand touring car, the Continental GT makes a strong case for itself. Just go for the W12.

Bentley Continental GT

REVIEW: It's Good To Be King! Does The All-new Bentley Continental GT Take BACK The Throne?

About the Author