I love writing about Bentley’s Sport Coupe year after year. Not because there is plenty new to write about – in fact the changes are usually a precious few – but because it is the perfect excuse that I get once a year to drive this absolutely splendid machine. Even as the unmistakably changed silhouette of the third generation has been caught by prying bat-cameras, the entire year lies ahead for suitors to woo a second generation Bentley Continental GT – a classic in its own right.
THE SPECS: 3993cc V8 engine, V8 version: 500 hp @6000 rpm and 660 Nm torque @1700 rpm / V8S version: 520 hp @6000 rpm and 680 Nm torque @1700 rpm Suspensions: Air springs with continuous damping control. Touring suspension set-up with electronic height adjustment / Sports suspension set up in V8S / 21” Tyres
THE PERFORMANCE: V8: 0 – 100 kmph in 4.8 sec, 305 kmph top speed, fuel efficiency: 7.0/ V8S: 0 – 100 kmph in 4.5 sec / 309 kmph top speed / Fuel efficiency: 5.85
UPSIDE: Classic styling, excellent handling, practical GT
FLIPSIDE: Dated tech, fading oomph, neglected touch console
Ever since 2003, when a community of consumers suddenly found themselves riding the wave of luxury in an ‘approachable’ Bentley, and later the floodwaters to the future in a V8 variant, its admirers have been devoutly devouring what is being served to them year after year. Not many cars can claim that. And for that very reason, the Bentley Continental GT is a classic even while it remains current and sought-after in its segment.
The greater truth is, I can’t think of many other cars that are quite like the Bentley Continental; even if it is because it is more like a locomotive, in how much it weighs and how it pushes along with heavy intent. However, the amazing irony lies in how this hefty coach lends itself to your absolute control, as though it was half its weight; and in the way it glides along on its 21inch wheels, quietly unmindful of the imperfections of the road and delivering serene slumber to those lounging within. Now, there is no other car that answers to that description, is there?
Probably this is what I’ve repeated over the years; but as the taste matures, the car also matures. Time has only proved the supremacy of the Bentley Continental GT in delivering a unique sort of fun, if I may use the f word in the context of a Bentley.
Changes in 2016
This much said, what is new for the year might not seem to matter. But it does as well. Starting with the very colour of my test car. One of the four special colours introduced, ‘sand of sand’ makes the car look like it is sculpted to be one with this region. Behind the fender, a new vent adorned with a metallic B motive is what you recognise the 2016 edition by, while the smaller, ‘inverted aerofoil’ sort of grill is the third new thing. In the rear, the chrome that runs the whole width above the dual exhausts that spell 8 is a “tell-tail” sign for 2016. In a ‘leave-the-good-bits-as-they-are’ policy, Bentley Continental GT has retained most things including the delicious leather. In fact, the hide colours are also new – like the exotic combination of purple and beige in my test car – deadly! The seats get a new straight-fluting pattern, while my test car featured a tightly woven diamond quilting, standard for the Mulliner Driving Specification. On the console, the gearshift platform is in black gloss instead of chrome this year.
This time, I stuck to a driving style that suited a Bentley more, cruising over long distances yet with a generous dose of sporty drives thrown in, not sparing the paddle shifts too. The 0 to 100 came up in 5.2 seconds; and at the end of almost 500kms, I managed to achieve a 14.8L per 100kms, which is close to 7kms per litre. Absolutely justified when you’re talking about a 2,200kg luxury coach!
While the Bentley GT V8 is heavy and powerful, it is almost like touching something absolutely marvellous with light, thin gloves on. If you desire more oneness, switch to the Sport mode and the gloves come off!
By now, we are familiar with this Bentley’s driving features. The suspension adjustments ranging from comfort to sport and what they call ‘Bentley’ settings; and the cylinder on demand that switches from four to eight cylinders as and when necessary. The sense in having that can be seen on the tachometer – how the needle hovers around 1,300 revolutions at over 100 kmph. Even at absolute UAE speed limits, it was still hardly doing 2000 revs. And yet, the car quickly runs up past five thousand cycles when summoned. Now, that’s power on demand!
There is no self parking assist or anything that remotely resembles a distant kinship with autonomous driving, and that is one thing I am not going to complain about. The Bentley Continental GT still stays reassuringly close to classic driving pleasure.
The 21 inch wheels wear the red calipers that proclaim the name Bentley like Brembo, and provide smooth braking power that sticks to a straight line.
The gentle Continental
Riding on the steam of one of the most considerate V8s in motordom, the Continental GT is as silent as a breezy cruise should be. Even when it brings its sporty sputter to the surface when you shift to the Sport mode or the paddle shifters, the Conti still sounds sweet.
The smooth drive of the Bentley Continental GT is everyone’s to celebrate on a long road and though the rear is a heaven that children deserve, even six foot men will be happy back there, once they squeeze in as the sliding front seat makes way. Whatever space scraped from the rear goes on to make a decent boot, making the Bentley GT V8 one of the few sport saloons that tick the tail end box, literally.
Cabin and Controls
I must add that all that is being said about the V8 is true for the V8S as well. The difference in interiors depends on what you choose to customise a Bentley with! Naim for Bentley is new has done a great job in arranging the concert in this cabin – I could pick the sound of the brush falling on percussion leather.
Talking about leather, there is a surfeit of it in the perforated massage seats and elsewhere; the little space left is taken up by wood, except in the sticky corner under the screen console where you may place your mobile without sliding away.
The telephone works, the navigation takes you home and the information cluster behind the steering keeps your head straight. The touch-screen is as slow as change in the Conti.
What awaits a refresh
The rear view camera, which still remains a rear view camera, is one to begin with. One wonders why hasn’t Bentley introduced a front camera or a surround camera, which most premium brands already have. Besides, my theory gains momentum – it is the most expensive cars that feature the most unremarkable of rear view monitors. The air-conditioning offered the advantage of managing left, right and rear temperatures separately; but sometimes you miss the option to keep them in sync at the jab of a button.
While my test car did have Park Distance Control (PDC) and Advanced Cruise Control, the Continental GT lacks many of the driver assistance gadgetry – including blind spot monitors – that is standard fare these days. In defense: you can order anything you wish for in your Bentley.
2016 Bentley Continental GT V8S
It should be the extra power that makes it feel slightly lighter and more eager. The Conti V8S feels like it has taken the shape of a gazelle; the way it covers distances in long, easy strides, the astonishing quickness of response, the ease of handling bends and the incredible accuracy that the big car displays. The lighter feeling doesn’t translate to any untoward slip or slide despite the understeer showing up while dipping into sharp bends.
The GT doesn’t afford you much legroom in the rear… but aren’t you expected to sit there tight, just enjoying the speed? I got the Bentley Continental GT V8S to do a 0 to 100 in 5 seconds. In fact, the official climb is half a second less. The S badge is .3 seconds quicker than the standard V8 to get to the mark of 100, while fuel efficiency doesn’t fall far behind with figures close to 6 km per litre.