After eight years on the market, and an array of special editions, the Bentley Continental GT has finally gone in for its first redesign. But German powers that be at Bentley (the British marque is part of the Volkswagen Group) are loath to fundamentally change a car that has been such an undeniable success, as the Continental is the first Bentley ever to sell in significant numbers. The result is that the 2011 Continental GT doesn't stake out new ground but instead seeks to enhance the existing formula.
So, even though this car wears all-new sheetmetal, at first glance -- or even second or third glance -- it doesn't really register as new. Bentley has decided that this is the Continental GT's signature look, and it's not going change but it instead will evolve. Although you may not be able to put your finger on exactly what's different, the new version does come across as more handsome, particularly in person. It's almost like an idealized version of its predecessor. With a more skillful treatment around the headlamps; crisper, more defined body creases; and an elongated side window glass area, the new car also better reflects the classic '50s Continental coupe.
Looking good is a Bentley's first prerogative, and the new Continental GT does that better than the previous car. A Bentley should also look like something special inside, and this one does that as well, from the minute you open the heavy door and get the first whiff of that hide-stuffed interior. It probably helps that this example was upholstered nearly wall-to-wall in pale yellow leather (the hue is called Magnolia), its flamboyance kept -- just barely -- in check by contrasting medium gray accents. This is not a color combo you'll see in a Toyota.
Aside from looking exotic, the yellow interior also has a practical benefit in that it brightens what otherwise could be an oppressive cabin, with its low ceiling, raised beltline, and a nearly horizontal backlight. This is particularly an issue for back seat passengers who, although they have a bit more knee room than before thanks to slimmer front seats, still had better be short. If you're thinking you'll put adults in back with any regularity, you really should be looking at the Flying Spur sedan instead.