We couldn’t help but be impressed with the heavily revised and rejuvenated Bentley Continental GT when we drove it six months ago on the satin-smooth reads of Oman, saying that it was now one of the best real-world driver’s cars on the market. And that impression holds true now that we’ve finally driven the latest car in the UK, Bentley having taken the musculat but perhaps overly blunt character of the previous GT and intensified it in all the right areas.
Actually a very significant facelift of its predecessor, the highlighta of the new Continental GT include a new six-speed ZF automatic geatbox that is claimed to reduce shift times by up to 50 per cent, an uprated version of the 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 that now puts out 567bhp, wider tracks mated to new chassis settings (taken mostly from the Speed and Supersports models), and a 40/60 front/rear standard power split rather than the previous model’s 50/50. And the result is exactly ehat was needed for this most popular of Crewe’s models.
The active air suspension now offers excllent bump absorption in the more forgiving of its four settings (even on the optional 21-inch wheels fitted to our test car), although body control becomes a tad loose when settled into the softest mode.
Crucially, this improvement in ride has enhaced the GT’s touring ability, as has the now even better refinement. It isolates the driver thoroughly and fenerally provides an everyday cruising ability that is exactly what you would hope for in such an over-indulgent coup.
Initially the steering can feel a little synthetic and weighty for town use, but at higher speeds the steering weight evens out nicely, the optional 11,020 Pounds carbon-ceramic breakes start to offer a delicacy of feel and outrageous stopping power and there is a general cohesion to the whole driving experience.
Best news of all is that the new GT remains well resolved, even if you are always aware of the 2-3-tonne weight, it still understeers a little too eagerly, and as soon as you stiffen up the suspension you’ll get sharp jolts regularly going through the dampers directly to your leather sports seat-ensconced buttocks. But it’s fun and it’s nimble in a way that it wasn’t previously, tith the nose more willing to turn and the rear-biased power split bringing a more precised and encouraging response.
The first of the irritations is the automatic gearbox. It does an excellent job much of the time particularly in Sport (when the exhaists also offer a much more throaty tone) or normal auto models but it can be a bit slow to respond to prods of the right pedal, and occasionally it will jump more cogs than you expected.
Also, for all that the delightfully epic twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 engine can offer, it’s feeling a little left behind by the best out there in terms of drama, if not in performance. And finally, although the list price is impressively competitive, there is nowhere near the standard spec that you would expect, and the carbon-ceramic brakes should be first on the standard equipment list, judging by the actions of the Bentley’s main rivals, even if they do suffer from an excess of pedal travel when used hard.