Bentley Continental GT Review: 2010 Model | Continental GT | Car Buyers Guide

2010 Bentley Continental GT Review

Grass and tarmac: that’s what signals wealth in Oman. Not cars, but the roads underneath and the verges around them. Unlike Dubai or Abu Dhabi, Oman’s wealth is relatively subtle. The growth of the road network from a mere 10 kilometres in the 1970s to many thousands of kilometres of smooth, multi-lane roadways today highlights its prosperity. As does the expensively maintained grass lining the road around the city.


The cars riding on the roads aren’t particularly flash, either. Relatively austere white Toyota saloons and pickups make up the majority of the traffic. There’s none of the proliferation of expensive metal that signalled Ireland’s Celtic Tiger growth: SUVs here are largely working vehicles, while German luxury and sports and Italian exotica are conspicuous by their absence.


That is, with the exception of the bright orange Bentley Continental GT we’re driving. Oman’s guaranteed fair weather and impressive road network has brought Bentley to Muscat to launch the new Continental, a car that was a big hit in Ireland’s boom times. Replacing the hugely successful GT Coupé must have caused a lot of head scratching at Crewe, Bentley's headquarters. Although it’s a car that has opened new doors for Bentley, the company is mindful of its tradition and existing customers.


So, assuming it’s in a tamer than tiger orange hue, you may not notice the all-new Bentley Continental GT slipping by. That’s deliberate, but subject the Continental to more than a mere glance and its changes become more obvious. The overall shape is utterly familiar, but there are some understated updates to its surfacing, while the detailing is subtly different, too. There’s more tension to the lines, and the edges are more pronounced and sharper. There’s a more upright grille framed by new LED-equipped headlamps, and the intakes beneath improve airflow and stability, while feeding its huge 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbo engine the masses of air it needs to cool and combust.


Around the rear, the engine’s spent gasses exit through re-shaped oval exhaust pipes, and their shape is echoed in the LED elements of the rear lamps. The boot lid is more pronounced and the edges around the entire GT are more defined, chiselled and prominent than on its predecessor. Thank Bentley’s increased use of 'Aluminium Super Forming' (a shaping process without welds or seams that creates shapes with air pressure and heat) for the crisper, cleaner lines.


The overall result is a more defined, edgier GT with a more striking look. It’s not hugely different, but, then again, that was the aim. The changes are subtle enough in more discrete colours that you might just slip the new Continental GT by those International Monetary Fund inspectors in Ireland. But why would you want to upgrade from the current GT?


The interior is perhaps the key reason to consider a trade-in. The old GT felt exactly that inside: old. Not as in the olde-worlde charm of a fine handmade interior hewn from traditional materials like wood, chrome and leather, but in its technology. The sat nav and infotainment systems were etch-a-sketch clunky in an iPhone world. The new system is a marked improvement, and features a 15GB music server – though if you’ve been in a recent Volkswagen you might recognise it.


Parts-sharing aside, the Continental GT’s cabin is a beautiful mix of traditional craft skills, fine materials and modern technology. The switchgear is all largely familiar, though the controls to adjust the suspension settings are better integrated into the infotainment system than before. The chrome vents remain the same, and the tactile quality when you reach out and move them is almost worth the Continental GT’s list price alone. If that’s not enough to convince you, then the organ pulls that open and close them will. Their weighting, motion and operation are an absolute joy. Indeed, you’ll find yourself gently opening and closing the one closest to the door when you’re sitting idle in traffic: its action is like a huge automotive comforter.


Not that you’re short of comfort. The seats mix fine support with real cosiness, and can be fitted with ventilation and massage functions should you want them. Those in the rear look inviting too, with more comfort should you clamber in there thanks to increased legroom. That's thanks to scalloped out backs in the front seats. It's a genuine four-seater, then, as long as your passengers aren’t too large or leggy. Wood veneers and fine leathers envelope you, while the new dashboard design echoes Bentley’s flying badge motif. The new steering wheel centre exhibits the same sharpness of line as the GT’s 'superformed' aluminium bodywork.


It’s not the things that you touch that really underline the differences inside, though. Instead, it’s the details like the acoustic glazing and additional noise and vibration suppression shields under all that handcrafted wood and leather that transform the car. Unwanted outside noise is all but eliminated. There’s no rush as you pass traffic or as it passes by on the opposite side of the road; and the engine is silent unless you’re rousing the 6.0-litre’s corral of ponies by burying your foot deep into the GT’s thick carpet.


Do so and the Continental does what it always did very well already: gain speed, effortlessly. Naturally, along with more defined lines comes some more impressive statistics from the twin-turbocharged, 12-cylinder, 6.0-litre powerplant behind that more upright grille. Now with 575hp at 6,000rpm – up 15hp ­– the Continental’s mighty output remains as potent as ever. It’s not the horsepower figure that really matters, though; instead, it’s the 6.0-litre W12’s glut of torque that defines the Bentley’s performance. There’s 700Nm of twisting force from just 1,700rpm, which, when combined with the Continental GT’s all-wheel-drive traction, means quite eye-widening acceleration.


Pop it into Drive, push the accelerator to the floor and the Continental GT simply disappears down the road. There’s no fuss, and no uncouth tyre squeal or fight from the steering wheel. Even the suspension manages to avoid excessive squat. The 6.0-litre W12’s potency is translated directly and efficiently into rapid forward motion. From outside, the engine makes a glorious noise; inside it’s more muted and cultured. Get it right and the Bentley can shift its not unsubstantial bulk forward to 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds. Keep that foot firmly planted and it’ll reach 160km/h just 5.6 seconds later on the way to its 318km/h top speed.


Just don’t try that on the M50 though, as the Gardaí aren’t likely to approve. Oman’s a bit different; not only is the traffic as scarce as housing equity in Co. Dublin, but there are no police to be seen. There's little point when all there is to police is the odd wandering goat and curious camel out in the wilds. This makes for something of a driving Nirvana, and the Continental GT is perfectly suited to traffic free, expansive tarmac and an absence of law enforcement...


The Bentley settles into a natural gait of around 200km/h, though on longer straights it’s easy for that to creep up to truly naughty levels. The GT’s hushed cabin allows the speed to pile on unnoticed, and the effortless urge from the engine requires little pedal input to keep the pace increasing.


Punctuating the long, heat-shimmering straights are some interestingly contoured mountainous roads. Where the civil engineer’s dynamite hasn’t managed to carve its way through the rocky landscape, Oman’s roads buck and weave around the hills with playful radii and sometimes savage dips and crests. With little warning as to where the road is going, and investment in Armco as limited as that in signage, some of the bends require a near-literal leap of faith as to their direction. That, more than the Bentley’s ability, tempers enthusiasm in the bends. The idea of dropping nearly three tonnes of British super luxury GT into the stark, moon-like scenery that the beautifully smooth roads dissect isn’t one I relished.


However, find a series of sighted, clear bends and the GT reveals more agility than anything this weighty has any right to have. There’s some 65kg less to change direction than before thanks to some weight savings, but it’s still a chunky machine. Nonetheless, Bentley has applied lessons learned from the more focused Supersports model that preceded this new car to the dynamic make up of this standard model. The steering retains its substantial heft, with the weighting pleasingly backed up with a crisper response. It’s not the most talkative, feelsome steering out there, but given the breadth of the GT’s performance remit, it’s a fine compromise.


Key to the Continental GT’s appeal and ability in the bends is the changes to the chassis and drivetrain over the old car. The power is now distributed with a rear bias through the GT’s four-wheel-drive system, split 40/60 front/rear. The suspension has been significantly revised, with a wider track and aluminium elements reducing weight and adding stiffness. The 'Continuous Damping Control' constantly monitors the GT’s attitude, balancing the tricky task of ride and body control. The result is a tauter, more responsive GT,  as the big Bentley carries its speed with greater conviction through the bends. There’s very little body roll, yet the ride remains supple and comfortable as you’d hope from something with GT in its name.


The newfound agility hasn’t entirely banished the slightly nose-heavy feel of the big coupé, though: push it hard in tighter bends and physics take over. The position of the big W12 engine is to blame, as it sits far forward in the Bentley’s chassis. Regardless, there’s some additional throttle adjustability and much more neutrality than the previous car, making it more enjoyable and exploitable.


And faster. Not that the Continental GT was ever short of speed. The new car imbues the driver with more confidence and more incentive to use its performance, though, rewarding on a greater level than the old car. There’s still that tremendous ability to lose hours and cover massive distances with unflustered ease, but the depth of the GT's talent runs deeper than ever. It bodes well for the forthcoming Speed and eventual Supersports models that are sure to follow this standard GT.


'Standard' is relative, though, as anything with the ability to reach 100km/h in 4.6 seconds with such crushing ease demands huge respect. And huge power. That’s ably provided by the twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12. It’s an extraordinary powerplant, with huge potency low in its rev range. It’s this flexibility that makes the GT such an enticing proposition. Even at 150km/h it’s barely ticking over, as the big W12’s ample torque makes light work of shifting the GT’s bulk.


Changes to the gearbox make using its power more efficient, with shift times from the six-speed automatic halved in the new car. You can take control of the shifts yourself, but really there’s no need, and the position of the paddles behind the wheel isn’t quite as good as it could be: the paddles themselves are high up and relatively short. The six-speeder shifts smoothly at low speeds when left alone, and it retains its ability to slip ratios through unnoticed when asking more from the big 6.0-litre unit.


Do that and you’ll pay at the fuel pumps, though, as the GT has never been a flag-bearer for efficiency. Forget Bentley’s talk of Flexfuel E85 capability and instead focus on the 384g/km CO2 emissions and 16.5 litres/100km combined consumption figure. That’s not exactly tax friendly or very parsimonious, though tax and fuel costs are the least of your worries if you can afford the €270,000 or so sticker price for the GT. That’s before you start adding some choice extras, naturally.


It's a huge amount, which in these more financially conscious times might be difficult to justify. But consider that the Continental GT is about as complete and rounded a high-performance, luxury car as you can buy and you can perhaps make a case for it. You could clear out all your other cars from the garage and let the Bentley do the work of them all. It’s as fast as most supercars and is as comfortable as a luxury saloon – even if it doesn’t seat four quite as convincingly. It’s four-wheel drive, too, so pop the right tyres on it and you needn’t necessarily get stuck in the winter, either. Crucially, though, as long as you don’t buy it in the retina-straining metallic orange pictured here you might just slip by unnoticed among the existing Continental GTs that were snapped up when the going was good and the cash was flowing more freely.


As cars go it’s an unlikely candidate for a stealthy buy, but the Continental GT has tended to garner respect rather than envy. Try achieving that in a new Italian at the moment and you’ll meet a mute response at best. If your GT’s is due for replacement and you’re faring better than the rest of us, then the Bentley remains a relatively unique proposition in the luxury/supercar marketplace as a useable day-to-day purchase. Ireland’s got plenty of grass, and it's not short of tarmac either, but few will be wealthy enough to buy the Continental. If you are, then the GT just got a whole lot better.



Bentley Continental GT



5,998cc, 12-cyl


Output @ rpm

575hp@6,000, 700Nm@1,700



6-sp auto RWD



0-100km/h 4.6 secs


Top Speed






CO2 Emissions



CO2 Tax Band

G (€2,100 p.a.)





Boot Capacity



Base Price

€270,000 (Est)


Price as Tested

€270,000 (Est)


On Sale




Sumptuous luxury, supercar performance



Big thirst, big price tag










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