From gentle giant to high-performance beast
HIT SPORT MODE AND THE EXHAUST TONES CHANGE, THE REVS COME FASTER AND SUSPENSION FIRMS UP
As my dentist looked at my cracked tooth during an emergency visit recently he asked, “do you think I should buy a new Ferrari 458, Lamborghini Huracan or a Bentley Continental GT?”
“Is it going to cost me that much to fix my broken tooth?” I jokingly replied.
My dentist didn’t answer, instead he took me to his computer to show me the listings for the vehicles he was thinking of adding to his fleet.
In past visits to his surgery my dentist had talked about his car collection — and the passion his wife had for performance vehicles.
Having only driven a 458 Spider and Huracan on track, and at that stage not having tested a Continental, I could only give him some practical advice — though if you have those vehicles on your potential purchase list practicality is irrelevant.
The front bumper now has a full-width lower grille.
I did remind him that, as the dad of two little kids, a back seat may be helpful, and if he wanted the new vehicle as an everyday drive, it was best he took all three vehicles for a good drive, especially if he encountered Huracan-hating speed bumps in his daily commute.
A week later I had a temporarily repaired tooth and my dentist was no closer to making a decision on his new luxury car, and even after a follow-up phone call to check on the dodgy tooth, he was still pondering which car to buy.
Although I’m reluctant to go back to see my dentist, I can now update him on a sports car on his wish list after just testing a Bentley Continental GT.
While my dentist was looking at a previous model Continental GT, my test vehicle was the new “refreshed” GT Speed, and specced up to cost $537,250 — quite a bit more than my dentist was willing to pay for his new luxury car.
The Continental badge was re-introduced by Bentley in 2003 for its grand tourer with an all-new model launched in 2011. At this year’s Geneva motor show, the refreshed Continental GT model was revealed and has just arrived in New Zealand — to keen interest according to the local Bentley dealership.
The GT Speed is a large coupe, with a length of 4818mm, 2226mm wide, 1391mm high with a wheelbase of 2746mm and weighing 2320kg.
The large boot holds 358 litres while inside the GT Speed has a new leather interior with a “small-diamond” quilting pattern that is supposed to be reminiscent of “a tailored British jacket”.
The driver controls are all new with larger gear shift paddles, though they are just a few millimetres too far away from the steering wheel for my small hands.
The coupe has plenty of headroom and the two rear seats have enough legroom for an adult passenger.
The new-look 2016 Continental GT is the work of Bentley Motor’s director of design, Luc Donckerwolke, with some enhancements after customer feedback.
The Crewe-based Bentley design studio decided to concentrate on the angle of the front wing above the twin headlights, giving it a more defined line.
The front bumper has also been recreated with a full-width lower grille to “emphasise the car’s stance”, says the company. The radiator grille has been reduced while there are new vents behind the front wheel featuring a stylised “B”.
The four-seater GT Speed coupe sits on all-new 21-inch directional sport alloys while it gains new twin-rifled exhaust tailpipes to emphasise the performance of the vehicle.
A wider rear bumper gives it a more prominent stationary appeal — with the Bentley looking as if it’s actually moving.
And when it is actually moving, the GT Speed has the help of a 6-litre, W12 twin-turbocharged engine producing 820Nm of torque and 467kW of power with a top speed of 327km/h and went form 0-100km/h in 4.2seconds.
The GT Speed is paired with an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission, and sitting in Drive mode hit eighth gear at 110km/h. I dialled in Sport option and it remained in fourth gear at that speed.
I didn’t want to lose my licence to see what speed it would take in Sport to get into eighth gear — and a Bentley New Zealand staff member wasn’t prepared to guess what it would take.
Not that needing to get into eighth gear in Sport mode is essential — the moment you move into that function the whole performance of the GT Speed changes.
Suddenly you go from a luxury, understated grand tourer to a sports performance car with attitude to spare.
The exhaust tones change, the revs come faster and the suspension firms up to prepare for more invigorating driving.
On the motorway in Sport mode, it was too easy to pass the speed limit with just a tap of the accelerator but on back country winding roads, the GT Speed was in its element.
Flicking into manual mode and using the all-new gear shift paddles to move through the gears, the GT Speed was one of the most reassuring drives I’ve had in a sports performance car of this calibre. I put it down to the combination of all-wheel-drive, the weight of the car and a responsive engine.
Faced with a line of slow traffic, held up by a truck and trailer, the GT Speed devoured the passing lane with enough time and space for other vehicles to overtake the slow truck.
Once back in the city, I was tempted to detour to my dentist to show him the GT Speed. While he would have liked a test drive in the car, I wouldn’t have liked his insistence at checking out my teeth.
While his budget can extend to luxury sports cars, my budget can’t stretch to permanent solutions to toothaches.
BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GT SPORT
|Engine||6-litre, W12 twin-turbocharged engine, with 8-speed auto transmission|
|Pros||The most exhilarating drive in a luxury sports coupe|
Too easy to lose your licence driving it