A history lesson…
2003 represented a big year for the quintessentially British Bentley marque, as not only did they risk it all with a new car dubbed the Continental GT, they also asked the buyers who have been with Bentley for decades to buy a car that was basically opposite of what the marque has typically stood for. The Continental GT was like nothing we’ve ever seen before from Bentley, as it was curvy, low and sporty; something Bentley has never really done before. But, it worked, and the GT has gone on to redefine how we view Bentley.
With a revolutionary W12 engine from Volkswagen, the power British-bruiser became a hit in the States and Europe, and it was said that Bentley couldn’t fulfil the order quantity; such was the GT’s popularity.
Now in its second incarnation – with a facelift – the Continental GT is set to continue its dominance of the luxury GT car into the next decade.
Bang for your buck
A 6.0-litre W12 550bhp engine with more torque than every weightlifter in the world, four-wheel-drive for epic grip and the same levels of luxury as the Titanic had – before it sank; the GT is every bit the superlative bruiser it claims to be. You pay for the privilege of owning one, but good God; you don’t half get a lot for your money.
It comes as standard with pomp and circumstance; the interior is incredible, the seats and more comfortable than your sofa and the Audi-derived dash works as you’d expect. But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, it’s all about that W12 engine.
The twin-V6 3.0-litre engines come with two turbos and enough power to get the heavy GT down the road quicker than a lot of purpose-built supercars. It’s everything a Bentley should be.
What you’ll pay
From new, the original 2003 Continental GT went for £110,000, but nowadays you can expect to pay around £50,000 for a decent, relatively new, low-mileage GT, which is very tempting indeed. Just be careful because the insurance premiums are high, due to the car’s group 20 classification.
What to check
Thankfully, the GT is a very reliable car, which is nice when you’ve just spent a large amount on a luxury barge. But really, there’s hardly anything you need to be worried about. Most of the parts are from VW, so they all, kind-of, work.
This is where a Continental GT becomes tricky, as depending upon what breaks, you could be on either/or on the price scale. If a VW part breaks, you won’t become bankrupt to replace it, but if a Bentley part goes – like a windscreen – you’re talking over £1,000. Ouch.
It’s probably best to stay clear of any ‘loose-chippings’ roads, then.
How it drives
The Continental GT is a heavy car, there’s no getting around that. But with the might of the 550bhp W12 engine behind it, you’ll be stunned by just how quick it can be. Overtaking is ludicrously easy, and the grip is just nothing short of epic thanks to the four-wheel-drive system.
It’s nowhere near as agile as a Lotus Elise, but then a Lotus Elise doesn’t have a field of dead cows in it or satellite navigation. The seating position is close to perfect, the seats themselves are stunningly supportive, and there’s even room in the back for two – very small – people.
The near-200mph top end is impressive, but even with this incredible turn of speed; the GT is still very easy to drive. Stick it in auto and you can cruise just as easily as you could in a BMW 5-Series diesel. It’s really a jack-of-all-trades.