There’s something scary about the new Bentley Continental GT. It is, as we found, extremely well named. It is comfortable, spacious, powerful, rare, everything you want from an ultra premium car. Here is the scary part. The passenger area is excellent. Passenger. It’s better than the driver’s area.
There is, as in many modern cars, a big console area in between the two. And in true Bentley fashion, it is executed tastefully in leather, wood, metal, or with whatever your heart desires. And the driver’s area of the Bentley Continental GT is excellent, of course. Clear instrumentation is now handled by very customizable screens, surrounded by metalwork, veneer, and leather. You can feel how much care went into the stitching of the steering wheel of the Bentley Continental GT. Then you look over at the passenger side. Without a steering wheel to interrupt the flow, the very lucky passenger is in this wonderfully designed and very elegant space. It looks and feels like an old motorboat. It’s a very nice place to be, and in which to travel. So. Scary. Because what if this is how you are drawn into the whole autonomous-driving thing?
The center console screen isn’t there. Or it is. Or its gauges. It retracts a bit and rotates so you can choose what type of interior feel you want. After a while, we found ourselves wanting only the gauges, or just the new wood trim choices that help complete the whole visual wraparound.
Now, it is not like the new Bentley Continental GT isn’t great to drive. It is. It is the most driver-pleasing one they’ve ever produced. So much so that some who spend their days teaching others how to drive faster are considering it as perhaps the perfect double-duty car for those long journeys between racetracks. It is that good. It helps to have a massive W12 6-liter engine, which is now paired with an eight-speed double clutch transmission. This combination allows wonderful smoothness and ease of delivery of power, but it is also tuned to be responsive and flexible.
This flexibility is, in many ways, what defines the car. It is flexible enough in all aspects to be able to handle just about everything, short of off-roading. Actually, it turns out that it raised itself when we went onto hilly dirt farm roads, we just didn’t realize it. And they never mentioned it. We only saw what happened when we stepped out and saw the car was higher than it should be. Then it settled back down. This and all the flexibility comes from the use of a three-chamber air suspension and a 48-volt Dynamic Ride System that help the adaptive chassis react quickly and with surprising range. You can, as is expected nowadays, choose your drive mode. The Bentley Continental GT offers Comfort and Sport, with the default mode named “Bentley” in between and a custom option if you want to get picky. In general, default Bentley is excellent. It was when we realized there was still much flexibility even within these chosen ranges that we realized how much was really going on. Even within Sport Mode, for example, the car seems to figure out what you need for what you are doing, and acts accordingly. Coming off high-speed sweepers onto tight, flat curves that almost require a stop, the car felt as though it smoothly helped you corner while making sure you could put the power down just when you wanted it. To all four, by the way. The Conti GT has active all-wheel drive, skewed for rear-wheel drive feel but adjustable as needed.
Basically, all this technology is there and in service of the drive. It is increasingly subtle and non-intrusive. And, Bentley being Bentley, everything is pretty much at art levels you may not have known existed. Plus, it changes as we and they learn. The new Bentley Continental GT was just launched, and that rotating information panel is already being adjusted based on customer comments. Initially, the panel settled on the no-instrumentation look when you enter or exit the car. It would then go to either analog gauges or digital screen depending on your wishes. Customers, however, began saying they wanted the clean dash look even when they were driving. So that was addressed. It was after this discussion that we realized how much these screens really took away from the experience itself. The little artificial light panels that told the rear passengers in the shuttling Bentaygas what the temperature was, for example, began feeling intrusive. The light from the screens broke the pleasant darkness as we ran through the Australian night. So yes, there is much to be said for the whole digital detox idea.
Bentley created this great salon that just happens to be really fun to drive. It is a great long-distance cruiser and a wonderful environment. We were not able to do the usual high-speed north of 250 testing that we believe really brings out the details, but we don’t see that as being an issue. There is a rear spoiler that pops up at speed, but it looks so much nicer without it. So yes, it is a great enthusiast car if you are looking for a real grand tourer. But it also may well be a gateway drug to the whole autonomous driving thing. It is just such a pleasant place to be.