“In that dream, I’m as old as the mountains…”
As I climb Austria’s Grossglockner Pass, leaving forest switchbacks for smooth tarmac flanked by heavy snow, these lyrics express from the Continental GT’s incredible Naim stereo. The opening line of the Fleet Foxes song “Grown Ocean” feels appropriate as I pin the throttle of a prehistoric W12 engine and accelerate towards the snowy peaks of the Austrian Alps. Finished in Verdant Green over a bright tan interior with dark stained burr walnut trim, Bentley’s forthcoming 2019 Continental GT is a dream of mountainous proportions.
I’m driving from Kitzbühel, Austria, stopping for lunch in Sauris, Italy, and continuing along a stretch of Italian autostrade on a return path back to Austria. The route crosses the aforementioned and remarkable Grossglockner High Alpine Road to the Hochtor Pass, which climbs to 2,504 metres, before dropping dramatically down the southern face of the Alps. This 626 horsepower Bentley Continental GT—the third generation of the car that arguably saved the brand—is up for the task. A gorgeous coupe embodying Bentley’s legacy of making fast, luxurious, and multi-talented continent-crossing cars. If you simply must do breakfast in Austria, lunch in Italy, and catch a flight for dinner in Germany, you’re welcome to hop in the passenger seat. But please, don’t touch the stereo.
The Bentley Continental GT is a gorgeous coupe embodying Bentley’s legacy of making fast, luxurious, and multi-talented continent-crossing cars.
As you might expect of a Bentley, the Continental GT is an impressive way to get around. From the stylish exterior to the leather-wrapped, tech-packed interior, the Connie GT blends the old-world format of a luxury coupe with a considerable array of modern conveniences. Balancing a broad use of leather, knurled metal accents, and wood trim, this latest expression of the Continental GT has fully digital gauges, an expansive touchscreen multimedia system, driver assistance systems, and a heads-up display. Aware that its prewar, sporty gentleman racer spirit may clash with modern computing, Bentley allows me to hide the touchscreen at the press of a button. As it rotates into the dashboard, the secondary panel features a trio of analog gauges, offering the external temperature, a compass, and a stopwatch that is controlled by a stalk on the steering column.
You’ll want the high-tech display visible, however—at least for a moment, as you’ll need to pick a song for the astounding 18-speaker Naim audio stereo. The top choice of three stereo options for the Continental GT, the 2,200-watt Naim option costs $11,533, and crucially, it sounds amazing. From James Blake’s “I Need A Forest Fire” to Drake’s “Nice For What”, the Naim befits the experience of hopping into a Bentley and heading for a far-off land.
If you’re in the business of chasing clouds on alpine passes and eating meals in disparate countries, motivation needs to be taken very seriously. To that measure, the Bentley Continental GT continues the brand’s use of a massive W12 engine. New for 2019, this 6-litre 12-cylinder motor has a pair of turbochargers and develops a thunderous 626 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. From highways to back roads and freshly opened snowy passes, motivation sorted.
From the stylish exterior to the leather-wrapped, tech-packed interior, the Connie GT blends the old-world format of a luxury coupe with a considerable array of modern conveniences.
The exterior design has also been updated for the 2019 model and while it’s similar to the original Continental GT from 2003, the 2019 Continental GT is sleeker, with more defined edges, an expanded wheelbase, and tweaks to the front and the tail. The latter sees a simplified design with a better integration of the rear hip shape, new taillights, a nicely subtle lower fascia with twin exhaust tips, and an integrated pop-up spoiler. The results are athletic and low-slung.
That huge W12 delivers its power through a new dual-clutch 8-speed four-wheel transmission. With the ability to select multiple driving modes, the delta of power between the front and rear wheels changes on the fly. In Sport mode, the most aggressive option, only a max of 17 per cent of power can be sent to the front wheels. With 21-inch wheels shod in Pirelli rubber, the GT has plenty of grip and offers a fast steering response, though feedback from the road is all but muted. With a cutting-edge 48-volt active roll system, body control is excellent, especially given the GT’s 2,244 kg curb weight. As a super fast grand tourer, what the Continental GT might lack in razor-sharp steering or sporty feedback, it gains in comfort, versatility, and sheer ease of use.
New for 2019, this 6-litre 12-cylinder motor has a pair of turbochargers and develops a thunderous 626 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque.
From highways to alpine hairpins, B-roads, and Italian tunnels that seem barely large enough for one car let alone mixed traffic, the Bentley stays smooth, laid back, and easy to drive. The cabin is quiet, but in Sport mode you get a strong idea of the wail produced by those many cylinders. The transmission, like the air ride suspension, offers excellent performance for spirited driving while becoming entirely unnoticeable when in comfort mode on the highway. Likewise, the Continental GT’s massive iron brakes (420mm up front and 380 in the rear) were excellent, always ready to slow its mass for the next hairpin or adjust for the pace of other vehicles.
From the driver’s seat, the Continental GT is much less intimidating than I had expected. Visibility is good, the driving position is ideal, the tech is plentiful but not obtrusive, everything you touch and see is beautifully made, and the performance is accessible. With a 0-60 mph of 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 333 km/h, the GT feels fast at any moment, in any gear, on any road. But it’s up to you. Want to cruise in comfort? No problem. Want to make the most of a great road? At once.
Few cars offer such luxury and refinement while being able to attack a curvy bit of road or cruise effortlessly at 250 km/h or more. When the uninitiated scoff at the Continental GT’s $285,681 starting price, it’s because they don’t understand what it takes to make a near zero compromise GT car. It’s the product of endeavouring to blend the fuss-free aspects of an average car with the charm, performance, and outright luxury of something decidedly more extraordinary, and the result is pure Bentley.
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