The hulking Bentayga SUV may be the storied marque’s new hotness, but the 2019 Continental GT is Bentley’s modern-era heart. The assembled officials who spoke—and whom we spoke with—during our first taste of the car used words like “honor” and “crowning achievement” to describe how they felt about working on the new generation of Bentley super coupe. Indeed, the Conti GT was a phenomenon when it first hit the market back in 2003. It quickly became a gotta-have-it machine for hip-hop stars, Hollywood hotshots, and the nouveaux riches alike, with some 70,000 having been sold to date.
The third-generation Continental GT finds its voice from the hand-built masterpiece that is its 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 engine, which is rated at 626 hp and 664 lb-ft—numbers that would have blown everyone away a decade ago but now seem almost commonplace. There is nothing common about this super coupe, however. This is a member of the House of Lords—a proper British motorcar that does its touring in grand style while nodding to Bentley’s past.
During 200 miles or so of taking on challenging, foggy mountain passes, lollygagging through picture-postcard mountain towns, blasting through tunnels, and rolling deep across rain-slicked motorways in Austria and a tiny slice of northern Italy, we felt totally in control of the Continental GT at all times.
There is no getting around the fact that this is still a big and heavy car at 4,947 pounds, but it is some 130 pounds lighter than before and flat and confident during hard cornering. It’s also ferociously fast, with 60 mph coming on in 3.6 seconds. And like the previous Continental GT, it joins the 200 Club, with a top speed of 207 mph.
The steering wheel you’re turning is a stitched-up, leather-clad unit, part of a cabin that many heifers gave up their hides to swathe. Bentley has ramped up its interior fit and finish, claiming that more than 310,000 stitches are needed to cinch up all that leather. Wood veneer options kick up the impression of luxury and are a main customization touch point. Another interior cue Bentley officials are particularly proud of is the diamond-in-diamond stitching pattern that reportedly took 18 months to perfect.
Prospective U.S. customers are going to have to wait almost a year to get their hands on one at $214,600 to start, which is too bad. By the time that happens, Bentley will have already begun rolling out the inevitable V-8, plug-in, and myriad high-performance variants. There will be plenty of options, to be sure, but from our first taste of it, the GT is worthy of praise.
As for what’s upcoming on the Bentley docket besides the GT—a new-generation Flying Spur sedan and a rumored “coupe” version of the Bentayga—the big question is what the Crewe crew’s next all-new model will be. Speculation centers on either a compact-ish, Audi Q5-sized crossover below the Bentayga (please, no) or an all-electric offering using a version of the same VW Group J1 platform that will underpin the Porsche Taycan and the Audi e-tron GT.
Design chief Stefan Sielaff has been on record as all but confirming that a four-seat EV is coming, with the name Barnato being tossed about. This move would make sense, as it would give Bentley its first all-electric vehicle and allow the marque to explore a new look. The company showcased an EV convertible roadster concept called the EXP 12 Speed 6e at the 2017 Geneva auto show, but our sources say the production Bentley EV will be based on sister-brand Porsche’s forthcoming Taycan.