First drive: 2018 Bentley Continental GT in the UAE
After more than a decade with just mild updates, an all-new Bentley Continental GT is upon us. We don’t mean to sound snooty, but we had driven different variations of the old model so many times (and Bentley was generous with new test cars annually) that at some point, we just stopped taking them because we couldn’t find much new to write about them. Yep, we said no to Bentleys. It was an excellent car, and we almost bought one for our long-term fleet years ago, but it felt like we had enough of it already. The new one changes all that with one major redesign.
The new look breaks away from the Bentley corporate look just enough to be fresh, with the front wheels moved forward further, a more swept-back rear window and a more upright grille. It now has the classic grand-tourer profile, and has details such as the jewel-like headlights, the smaller oval-shaped tail lamps, exhaust tips integrated into the rear bumper, and a pop-up rear spoiler.
Inside, it’s covered in leather and wood from top to bottom, with several bits such as a/c vents and shifter pieces made of metal. The new cabin ditches the “double-bubble” dashboard of older models and goes with a minimalist fascia made up of mostly straight lines. The updated infotainment touchscreen can flip and hide when not in use, revealing a trio of gauges on the other side.
The technology in the car is easy enough to use, kept simple with just the one 12.3-inch touchscreen as well as physical buttons for many other basic tasks. The gauge cluster is now a fully-customisable screen, while all the modern active-safety features are present.
It’s abundantly spacious up front, although you do sit too close to the windshield. Yet the rear seats are still cramped, but at least the boot is big.
Powered by a carryover 6.0-litre turbo W12 engine, it makes 626 hp at 6000 rpm and 900 Nm of torque from just 1350 rpm. Mated to an 8-speed automatic with paddle-shifters, the Continental GT is exquisitely fast. Capable of 0-100 kph in under 4 seconds, there seems to be abundant power even when accelerating from already-illegal speeds, delivered with muffled grunts and pops from the enthusiastic exhaust pipes.
The GT handles with great stability for a car its size, no doubt aided by the all-wheel-drive system and wide rubbers on those 21-inch alloys — 265/40 up front and 305/35 in the back. There’s limited feedback from the steering, but it is as responsive as the powerful brakes. It’s hugely entertaining on to drive on twisty mountain roads as we did, but you still have to be mindful of its weight and not overdo it on the tighter curves.
What it does supremely well is long-distance cruising. The suspension is tuned to be firm yet largely comfortable, with variable firmness as needed. It is also a generally quiet car, although some road noise is evident on certain types of road surfaces at 140 kph.
The new Bentley Continental GT is the perfect example of a redesign done right, and has again become a car that we (or anyone else for that matter) can aspire for.
Photos by Bentley Middle East and Charn Kamal.