1. home
  2. news
  3. 2020 Bentley Continental GT Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner

2020 Bentley Continental GT Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner

Bentley’s latest super coupe makes a big, bold mark.

Michael FloydWriterWilliam WalkerPhotographer

It's not a stretch to say that if it weren't for the smashing success of the modern era Continental GT, the Bentley marque may not have been around to celebrate its recent 100th birthday. In fact, the Bentley Continental GT has become so successful that it has evolved into its own mini-lineup of sorts, featuring multiple powertrain options and variants galore. And the third-generation, 2020 Bentley Continental GT, which launched in the midst of Bentley's centenary party, is shaping up to be an even more expansive (and expensive) proposition. It's a car that's become so good we couldn't help but name it a 2020 Automobile All-Star.

After decades of languishing under the stewardship of Rolls-Royce, Bentley started to regain its footing in the 1980s and '90s as a sporting alternative to Rolls, drawing from its legendary Bentley Boys/Blower history as its lodestar. Bentley also eventually drew interest from the likes of Volkswagen AG, which gained control of the crew from Crewe in 1998. Volkswagen ownership opened up a wealth of new development opportunities and economies of scale for the storied British automaker. But it also needed a wow factor car, something to wake up the broader collective consciousness to the fact that Bentley was back in a big way—it needed the Continental GT.

The Conti burst onto the scene in 2003 with swoopy, coupey good looks and its beef-eating W-12 engine. It wasn't perfect, but it was perfectly timed—a hot new grand tourer to help usher the revamped Bentley into the new millennium and to showcase the first tangible fruits of Volkswagen's benevolent stewardship.

Though the new, third-gen 2020 Bentley Continental GT doesn't have the star power of that first car, it's world's better in just about every measurable way. How's this for some measurables? The 2020 GT V8 we evaluated during All-Stars pumps out 542 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque from its 4.0-liter twin-turbo engine, as opposed to the first-gen car's twin-turbo 6.0-liter W-12 at 552 hp and 479 lb-ft (the latest GT's W-12 puts out 626 hp and 664 lb-ft in case you wonder). At 3.9 seconds to 60 mph, the Conti GT V8 is roughly a second quicker than the first-gen GT, and just a couple of ticks off of the new W-12-powered car. At 4,773 pounds, it's also some 500 pounds lighter than the last generation Conti V8.

While that's svelte for a Bentley Continental, it's still plenty heavy, and the car is dimensionally big for a coupe, something that wasn't lost on us as we hustled it along our All-Stars road loop. That said, there were plenty of kudos for how well all that mass moved when hustled during each of our editors' test drives. "This behemoth is far more sprightly than it has any right to be, with plenty of comfort, speed, and grip," said features editor Rory Jurnecka.

Bentley engineers dialed in that sprightliness through several key ride and handling components, including an active all-wheel-drive system that varies front/rear torque split depending on the situation. The Conti GT's signature suspension system (standard on the W-12 car, and optional on the V-8) is called Dynamic Ride, a 48-volt powered setup that uses active anti-roll bars in conjunction with a three-chamber air suspension and continuously adjustable suspension dampers. Dynamic Ride helps fine-tune the ride and handling balance between compliance and grip, a big deal for a big car in which ride comfort is as important as delivering a more buttoned down, sport-oriented setup.

It's a luxury car with a hot rod streak," said social media editor Billy Rehbock. "It's happy to be hustled through windy roads or play on an open highway."

Editor-in-chief Mac Morrison said, "The Continental GT seems somewhat nonsensical on paper, but then you drive it and find out that a two-plus-ton car can still be plenty of fun."

So while it's not a flat-out track rat (if you want that, save your fat sack of cash for the coming Supersports and Speed versions), the Bentley Continental GT proved eminently capable out on the open road. This car's primary mission is as a high-speed grand tourer, with a heaping helping of luxuriousness on the side. It performs its duties flawlessly with a stiff upper lip—keep calm and carry on at any speed.

When you're out there touring, you'll do it in a cabin that does a masterful job of isolating you from the cacophony of the outside world at highway speeds, with the exception of its rumbling, twin-turbo baritone exhaust note that politely intrudes when you decide to summon its services. "Quiet when unprovoked, nice grumbling rumble when provoked. Fast too!" said our resident racer Andy Pilgrim of the GT.

More than any other facet of the new-generation car, it's the Continental GT's interior appointments that shine brightest. And we mean gleam. Metal accents abound, everything from the Bentley hallmark organ-style pull air vent controls to the drive mode dial and various other touchpoints in between. Bentley has also touted elements such as the extensive leather stitch work, with intricate diamond patterns on the seating and door panels. And then there's the flipping center-stack area that can display the infotainment screen, several analog style dials, or just a panel that integrates with the rest of the dash via the touch of a button. Yes, it's a gimmick of sorts, but one of the more impressive and imaginative we've seen from a high-end luxury automaker.

This particular test car also came with an Edition One package, a $47,765 (no, that's not a typo) grouping of adornments that further amplified the GT's interior and exterior with numerous higher-end touches. The wow factor (and the price) weren't lost on us. Exclusivity costs money, and luxury marques are always ginning up more ways to separate the wealthy from some extra cash.

"The bodywork looks muscular, yet elegant, a perfect indication to prime you for what's in store before you slide behind the wheel. The interior is sumptuous and doesn't feel like it comes from another manufacturer," said Rehbock, one of our younger staffers who was smitten with the GT. "The price is a bit inflated because of that Edition One package, but even if it didn't have any of the special edition fluff, it'd still be an exceptional car."

Grizzled veterans such as contributor Arthur St. Antoine espoused similar thoughts. "Best-looking Crewe-mobile in a long time," he opined. "There is some real edge and rakishness to this one. Interior is equally stunning—you really get what you pay for here. Same with the car's speed and moves—sometime I'd like to gun this thing from, say, Berlin to Munich. Bet I could beat the airlines."

Praise wasn't unanimous for the Bentley coupe, with some believing it hadn't made a game-changing leap over the previous car. That, and its heft and hefty price garnered some mild negative feedback. But when the votes were counted, the GT came up big. Crewe should be proud.

Contributor Basem Wasef succinctly summed up why we voted the Continental GT a 2020 Automobile All-Star: "The Conti GT, especially in V-8 form, turns out to be a near-ideal expression of a grand-touring coupe: Swift, opulent, and effortlessly capable—it's a car that begs for many, many miles of open road."

2020 Bentley Continental GT V8 Specifications
PRICE $201,225 (base)/$284,659 (as tested)
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/542 hp @ 5,750 rpm, 568 lb-ft @ 1,960 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 16/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 190.9 x 77.3 x 55.1 in
WHEELBASE 112.2 in
WEIGHT 4,773 lb
0-60 MPH 3.9 sec
TOP SPEED 198 mph

2020 Automobile All-Stars Awards: The Very Best Cars of the Year

This year's Automobile All-Stars awards saw us return to the Palmdale area for track testing at Willow Springs before spending a few days in Angeles Forest and Borrego Springs. So what are the best cars of 2020? These are.

2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners 

The new Ferrari F8 Tributo is arguably the best mid-engine car on sale today, delivering ludicrous performance and, just as important, a driving experience to match.

What makes the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette an Automobile All-Stars winner? Killer performance and unbelievable value, for starters.

The third-generation 2020 Bentley Continental GT is a car so good we couldn't help but name it a 2020 Automobile All-Star.

2020 Kia Telluride SX Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

In a field of supercars, sports cars, and Europe's best, Kia's Telluride three-row SUV proved it's a great choice for anyone in need of an affordable, well-built people hauler. So great, it's an Automobile All-Star for 2020.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner

Even facing down the very best supercars of the year, this American powerhouse proves it can do finesse as well as brute force—and earns an Automobile All-Star award in the process.

With its upscale interior, great chassis, and fun-to-drive demeanor, the Mazda3 proves that a car need not be expensive to be an Automobile All-Stars winner.

2020 Toyota Supra Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

The new Toyota Supra has been a polarizing figure since it hit the market, and our test drivers found plenty to debate about it. But it proved it's one of the most-fun sports cars on the market, and easily claimed an Automobile All-Star award in the process.

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

Reimagining a legend isn't easy, but sometimes Porsche makes it look that way. The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S is not just a great sports car, it's an Automobile All-Star.

2020 Automobile All-Stars Contenders

2020 Subaru Outback XT Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

Subaru's family wagon might seem a bit out of place in this company, but that's only because you haven't driven it. The 2020 Subaru Outback XT is a 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender.

It's Mercedes' smallest offering in the U.S. , and not even the hot version, but the A220 is breathing the rarified air of the 2020 Automobile All-Stars competition.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

This limited-edition, U.S.-market-exclusive super-STI is unlike any Subaru that's come before, that's for sure. But is the WRX STI S209 an All-Star?

The Lamborghini Huracán Evo is fast, loud, and gorgeous. No wonder it's a strong 2020 Automobile All-Stars contender.

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender

It's a special edition, but is the Porsche 718 Spyder really that special? We found out during our 2020 All-Stars evaluation.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

We spend three days in Southern California hills and desert testing the 2020 Jeep Gladiator along with 20 other All-Stars Contenders to see which rise to the top.

2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The very fact that an affordable family hauler is rubbing shoulders with hypercars and mega-luxe cruisers should tell you the 2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite is something special. It's also a contender for the 2020 Automobile All-Stars award.

How does a car this big drive this well? We dig into what brought the 2020 Mercedes-AMG 63 S to this year's Automobile All-Stars competition.

It's McLaren's first car to put a serious emphasis on practicality and comfort over outright performance—but is the GT an Automobile All-Star?

2020 BMW Z4 M40i Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The 2020 BMW Z4 M40i proves it's just as much about good handling and driving fun as it is about top-down cruising.

BMW's excellent M850i xDrive luxury sport coupe does battle with 2020's best cars but falls short in this year's Automobile All-Stars competition.

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback Test Drive: 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback is a compelling and powerful machine that's a winner in its own right.

Electric cars have many inherent advantages over the combustion-powered competition, but does the 2020 Audi E-Tron have what it takes to hang with this year's best?