Bentley Continental GT

Dismissed as a flashy 'footballer's car' in the past, the refurbished Bentley is wonderfully indulgent

Which came first: the car or the image? Bentley's Continental GT is readily dismissed by the cynical as a "footballers' car".

It is true that the model has proved popular around Alderley Edge, but that was not its raison d'être. It was instead created as a way of expanding the Bentley brand after its separation from Rolls-Royce, and in that quest it has certainly succeeded.

The GT's launch happened eight years ago, although it seems more recent. Eight years is a long time in the modern motor industry, where development times are compressed far beyond past recognition and all car-makers are desperate to keep their customers' attention. Especially when they are as wealthy as those who kick a ball around for a living. So now there is a new Continental GT.

The overall shape has changed little but the edges are sharper and the front grille thrusts forward more assertively. The wheels are bigger and are set laterally further apart from each other. Inside, too, the look is edgier, and there's a new stereo and sat-nav system able to store 30GB of music files and show Google maps.

Look more closely and you'll notice the backs of the front seats are a little thinner, which makes the rear seat usefully more roomy. They are slimmer because they no longer carry the whole seatbelt mechanisms and their attendant strengthening, the belts instead now offered by a retractable arm from behind your shoulder, Mercedes-coupé-fashion. This new GT weighs 65kg less than the old one, a welcome reversal of the usual new-car trend and evidence that car-makers are starting to take vital weight loss seriously.

All that said, 2,320kg is still a hefty lump of car. Just as well, then, that it has a 6.0-litre, W12 engine – effectively two narrow-V6s sharing a common crankshaft – to haul it. With the help of two turbochargers, the W12 produces 575bhp (up by 15bhp from the old car), plus an admirable 516lb/ft of torque available at just 1,700rpm.

But are not all these just incremental improvements, just a new layer of icing on an already rich, luxurious, expensive cake? Yes, but underpinning them all is a new version of the four-wheel drive system which now sends 60 per cent of the engine's efforts to the rear wheels and 40 per cent to the front, instead of equal amounts to all four.

This simple change dramatically alters how the Bentley feels. Always very fast, it used to feel nose-heavy, unwieldy, a bit stolid. For a car intended to have a sporting flavour, this was not ideal. Some rapid runs along sweeping roads in the Oman desert, revealed a personality transformed. Now the GT hides its mass well, turning keenly into fast corners and then sticking firmly to your chosen line.

More power in a bend now allows the beginning of the very gentle tail-drift usual in a powerful rear-wheel drive car, and it makes the Bentley feel properly sporting. The engine storms from a standstill to 62mph in 4.6 seconds and on, if allowed, to 198mph. No wonder 384g of CO2 (at least) pour forth every kilometre.

Only under hard braking does the weight reveal itself. Keen drivers might like the carbon-ceramic brakes option, a cool £10,000 on top of the car's £135,760 base price, but they can't do much about an engine note boomier and less melodious than a 12-cylinder engine's should be. Nor should they be feeling the engine vibration through the steering wheel; instead they should feel the tyres working against the road, which they can't because there's too much anaesthesia in the system despite its new-found precision.

All that said, the new Continental GT is wonderfully indulgent. Its wood and leather are as exquisite as ever, and I know of no car with a lovelier oil filler cap than the GT's machined aluminium item. In a year's time there will be a new 4.0-litre V8 engine, much more frugal (helped by an eight-speed gearbox) and probably more mellifluous. Cheaper, too, perhaps. That will be the one to have.

The Rivals

Aston Martin DB9: £116,950

Built to Bentley standards, lighter aluminium chassis. Its 5.9-litre V12 offers 470bhp; suspension changes greatly improve ride and handling.

Ferrari 612 Scaglietti: £217,230

Biggest, bulkiest Ferrari. Not everyone's idea of beauty but 532bhp V12 sounds magnificent. All-aluminium body and chassis, enormous price.

Maserati GranTurismo S Automatic: £86,220

Near-bargain, with striking styling and a 4.7-litre, 433bhp V8. Much more satisfying than non-S version thanks to more engine torque.

Voices
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.
voices
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
VIDEO
News
weird newsMan live-photographs cracking of mysterious locked box on Reddit
Sport
Oliver Giroud kisses the Arsenal badge after giving the Gunners the lead
sportArsenal 3 West Ham 1: Two goals from the German striker and one piece of brilliance from Giroud puts the Gunners back above Everton
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
weird news
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
filmAs 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star James Dean perfected his moody act
News
Obesity surgery in rats has been found to change the way the body processes alcohol
news
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
artThe Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
Life & Style
US Airways has been at the centre of a Twitter storm after it responded to customer complaints with a graphic sexual image
techUS Airways takes an interesting approach to customer service
Arts & Entertainment
Philip Arditti as Yossarian and Christopher Price as Milo Minderbinder in Northern Stage's 'Catch-22'
theatre
Arts & Entertainment
The Purple Wedding: Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell tie the knot
TV The second episode of the hit series featured a surprise for viewers
Life & Style
Back to nature: women with body issues have found naked yoga sessions therapeutic
lifeDoing poses in the altogether is already big in the US, and now it’s landed here – in mixed classes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Move from Audit to Advisory

    £45000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Move from Audit to Advisor...

    Management Consultancy - Operational Research Analysts

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: You must ...

    Secondary Teaching Assistant

    £60 - £70 per day: AER Teachers: THE SCHOOL: This outstanding Secondary School...

    Application Support Analyst (MS SQL, java based webserver, batch scripting)

    £36000 - £40000 Per Annum On call allowance.: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
    Supersize art

    Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

    The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
    Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

    How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

    More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
    10 best activity books for children

    10 best activity books for children

    Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
    Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

    Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

    Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
    Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

    Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

    Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
    Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

    NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

    Politicians urged to find radical solution
    Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

    Ukraine crisis

    How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    A history of the First World War in 100 moments
    Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

    New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

    Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
    Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

    Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

    Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?