The term ‘Grand Touring’ is starting to take a whole new meaning. I say this given that we’re now in an age where Ferrari, Aston Martin and more recently McLaren, each have their own ethos about what a powerful and plush grand tourer should be.
In the case of the famed Flying-B badge, though, things haven’t changed. And that’s great news. For as long as it has been around, the Continental GT has gone on to define this specific genre and, by the way things went behind the wheel of the second generation model featured here, it has only gotten better.
Like before, this big coupe commands a lot of presence. Even as I carefully crawled out of the Etiqa Twins lobby where Bentley Kuala Lumpur is nestled in, the amount of eyeballs the Continental GT drew between there and Jalan Pinang is enough to make anyone nervous.
This was indeed a stark contrast from my rather discreet arrival just an hour earlier on my humble little scooter – perhaps the only way to efficiently tackle downtown traffic on a weekday morning. Then came the next difficult task, which was navigating the Conti out of the city and onto the MEX highway.
The 15 minutes it took to get to the ramp off Jalan Tun Razak, all whilst avoiding potholes and ensuring nothing happens to the pristine Midnight Emerald paintjob, felt unnerving to say the least. But all this soon became a distant worry at the back of my mind thanks to the GT’s plush innards.
The folks in Crewe have definitely upped the ante here from their last effort. Whilst the last Continental GT felt undeniably sophisticated, said word now feels like an understatement in the new one.
There’s a lot of fine craftsmanship to bask in, and it’s not just the dash’s dual veneer wood panelling, the novel James Bond-esque rotating touchscreen or hand-crafted leatherwork that’s fuelling this.
Take the climate control vents for instance, which use organ stop-like switches instead of the usual rotary or switch-type control to open and close. If that wasn’t enough, the shiny surrounds of each vent also looked as if they were hand-built rather than manufactured en masse by a machine. Yes, the attention to detail here is that stunning.
Couple that with just how plush the Portland and Beluga upholstery – Crewe’s fancy way of describing the fine leathers used here – felt and there’s no hiding this Bentley’s aristocratic ambitions. If anything, they do well in relieving the stress of tackling city traffic, but this, of course, is just one small part of the Conti’s story.
Once out of the city and on the MEX bound for Putrajaya, it was hard not to resist the idea of caning the Continental GT a little. And it willingly lets you do so. Just don’t forget to turn the drive mode selector dial out of ‘Comfort’ and into either ‘Sport’ or what Bentley calls ‘B Mode’ – the letter ‘B’ stylised in the fashion of its famed winged crest.
The chance to use Sport came as I cleared the MEX’s Salak Selatan toll gate. Having been in Comfort mode until then, the Conti didn’t feel any more difficult to handle than your typical large luxury sedan, and that’s despite its 4,806-mm long and 1,944-mm wide body. I’d reckon the clever air suspension’s settings and lightened steering weight helped too.
In Sport, the GT’s nature changes, becoming a lot more eager here with added weight in the steering wheel, its ride firming up, and the exhaust note rising by a few decibels. Flooring it out of the toll gate, it was surprising that things didn’t feel ballistic at first. Then again, the Continental GT wasn’t built to out-drag race cars.
However, by the time the eight-speed box shifted into sixth, the once broken lines on the road suddenly looked as if they were connected. This then prompted me to give the speedo a glance, at which point the gravity of the situation finally weighed in, forcing my natural instinct to immediately lift off the pedal and coast.
I’d rather not disclose what the readout was. Lets just say it was in the three-digit value that will make any regular Joe go “woah!”. The way the Conti acts as if it was just 85kph whilst actually going nearly three times that is Oscar-worthy. What boggles the mind is how effortless and unbelievably comfortable the whole ordeal felt.
Well, when you wrap your head around the GT’s mechanical tour-de-force, it makes sense. For starters, there’s Crewe’s signature 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 that sits underneath the long front, supplying no less than 626bhp and perhaps physics-bending 900Nm of twist, the latter kicking from as low as 1,350rpm.
That, by the way, gets paired to a very slick eight-speed dual-clutch automatic box and a rather rear-biased all-wheel-drive, not forgetting a slew of electronic wizardries to keep it all in check. Despite the un-dramatic initiation described earlier, the Conti’s ability to sprint from nought to 100kph in just 3.7 seconds en route to its claimed 333kph vmax is a stark and dramatic contrast to that.
Perhaps the Conti’s hefty 2,244kg kerb bulk has something to do with that lack of drama during said sprint, but that’s no deal-breaker when you’ve got rapid, continent-crossing performance at your disposal. Doing so in such refined and plush comforts only sweetens the affair, and there’s even a crisp 2,200-watt hi-fi by Naim for you to enjoy your tunes with too.
At this point, you might think the Continental GT is a bit of a straight-line fighter of sorts, which its predecessor was for the most parts. In this new Conti, however, that’s no longer the case as I discovered whilst taking a sneaky detour through one of the B-roads snaking the outskirts of Putrajaya shortly before making my return trip after concluding our photoshoot.
Whilst Sport mode would be the top choice for most in such situations, B Mode actually sufficed for this sprightly jaunt through the twisties. What’s noteworthy here is how this Conti holds its cornering line better than its predecessor did. Though I didn’t push it hard, it was obvious that there’s now less understeer in play, thus allowing the GT to hold tighter lines through the bends
Again, what’s mind-boggling here was how much stride the Continental GT’s ride delivered with such a task, soaking up bumps and imperfections with ease too. Then, there’s the impressively soft damping of the whole ordeal. You probably wont hear the cries of discomfort from the passenger seated next to you as much as you would from driving something honed for such hoonery.
What were reassuring too were the Conti’s anchors. Despite not being the carbon ceramic types most performance machines today rave on about, its ability halt itself on the dot using good old massive iron rotors (420mm each) and 10-pot callipers up front is nothing short of an engineering marvel. Again, what good is it to have this much speed when you can’t stop it, right?
The way the Conti acts as if it was just 85kph whilst actually going nearly three times that is Oscar-worthy.
Simply put, the folks in Crewe haven’t just elevated the Continental GT’s classy comfort; they’ve also turned it into a better sports car than it once was. With that, I can only imagine how they’ll up the ante when time comes for a new Speed or even a GT3-spec gentleman racer – really fast specials spawned by the previous-generation Conti.
Of course, no package is perfect, even in what’s perceived as the absolute plaything. Some are easy to overlook, like the W12 heart’s near-unquenchable thirst, as well as the rather cramped space for those seated in the back. If I were to nitpick, the Conti’s steering does feel rather muted, and rear visibility is almost akin to a letterbox more than anything.
Again, these are nothing compared to the grand scheme of things for the Continental GT as a grand tourer. A new four-door Flying Spur twin is on its way should space be a priority. If outright speed is your thing, you’d best be looking elsewhere, which in turn will mean forgoing the nearly unparalleled levels of luxury this Conti offers.
All of that aside, perhaps what’s left to discuss then is price. Rightfully, the Continental GT is not a cheap ask to say the least. Our tester, in particular, commands just a little over RM2.1 million, and that’s before insurance costs factored in.
Nevertheless, with anything that proudly bears Crewe’s winged emblem, the Conti still stands firm as the powerful and plush cruiser of choice for those with the means. More specifically, it’s one that’s made for those seeking a ‘grounded’ alternative next to their Bombardier Global 6000 and 120-footer Azimut.
Evidently, there are just some things a carbon-tubbed sports car simply can’t deliver. It may be rather traditional in many ways, but that’s also what makes the Continental GT a great grand tourer in its own right.
… the folks in Crewe haven’t just elevated the Continental GT’s classy comfort; they’ve also turned it into a better sports car than it once was.
|5,950cc twin-turbo W12, 626bhp, 900Nm||8-speed DCT auto, AWD||0-100kph in 3.7 secs, 333kph||12.2 litres/100km, 278g/km CO2||2,244kg (kerb)|
RM2,136,255 (as tested)