Following tradition, Britain’s Bentley anoints its all-new 2020 Continental V8 coupe as a GT, which customarily denotes a two-door grand touring car with a back seat. Drive one, however, and you’d likely regard it as a pure high-performance sports car.
The Bentley engineers and designers went to a great deal of trouble to make that back seat useful, but failed. Insert any modest-sized adults comfortably in the front seats and there’s no knee room in back, despite accommodations that include armrest cup holders and USB ports.
Sure, you can easily move the powered front seats fore and aft with a touch to divvy the space. But then the driver, chest against the steering wheel, must figure out a way to steer with his armpits. The front passenger might be able to squeeze knees under the dash—if he or she can climb in at all.
The new Continental GT is an inch shy of 16 feet long — the same as its immediate predecessor. But the wheelbase — the distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels — is about four inches longer. The engineers used that space to relocate the engine farther back and lower for improved balance. But it might have been better used for more rear cabin space.
So it’s best to consider the Continental GT V8 as a “plus two,” distinguished from British “plus fours” — or knickers — and referring to such cars as older Porsche 911s with vestigial back seats suited mainly to cantaloupes and agile capuchin monkeys.
With two aboard, the Continental V8 stands out as a superb sports coupe with performance and handling that rivals almost anything you can find. In its milieu, it is eclipsed only by its garage-mate, the Continental W12, which is powered by a 626-hp, 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine.
The tested Continental GT comes with a mere 542-hp, 4.0-liter V8 engine that delivers 568 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, enough to propel it to 60 mph from rest in an estimated 3.5 seconds.
Power makes its way to all four wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, which essentially pre-selects the next gear for shifts up or down that happen instantly. The power surge feels as smooth as a Waterford crystal champagne flute — attested to by a door sill plate that says, “Hand Crafted by Bentley Motors Ltd., Crewe, England.”
If only the W12 will suffice — it was scheduled for introduction later in the model year — it will cost you an additional $16,100 over the $201,225 for the V8, and likely more than that depending on equipment and other extras.
The tested V8, with options that included lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, night vision, head-up display, ventilated front seats with massage functions, ambient mood lighting, pedestrian warning, top view rear camera and a $6,770 Bang & Olufsen audio system, came with a bottom-line sticker price of $236,345, including the destination charge.
On the test car seats, the hand-selected leather hides were done up in Camel and Imperial Blue, with the dashboard fascia and console trim highlighted by dark-stained burr walnut veneer. Almost everything about Bentleys can be owner bespoke — the British word for customized. Customers can bring in a favorite color — say, on an antique electric hair dryer — and the company will paint their Bentley to match.
Though it’s a 2020 model, the Bentley GT celebrates 2019, the company’s centenary year. The company was founded in 1919 by W. O. (for Walter Owen) Bentley and his brother, H. M. Bentley. A badge and puddle lamps on the new GT display 1919 and 2019. Bentley’s first car, designated the Three Litre, arrived in 1921.
After 1924, when the Three Litre Sport won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in Europe, Bentley went on to win that race four more times up to 1930. Some of those nonagenarian Bentleys, lovingly maintained by collectors, still cement their reputation for reliability by motoring hundreds of miles on annual rallies sponsored by Bentley owners’ clubs in the UK, Australia and the U.S.
For 40 years, the Bentley name was entwined with that of Rolls-Royce. But the two parted company and Bentley now is owned by Germany’s Volkswagen.
Like other super-luxury makes, Bentley is not a major player in the U.S. market. In 2018, a total of !,972 Bentleys were sold here, including all models: Mulsanne and Flying Spur sedans, the Bentayga crossover sport utility vehicle and all versions of the Continental GT.
- Model: 2020 Bentley Continental GT V8 two-door coupe.
- Engine: 4.0-liter V8, turbocharged; 542 hp, 568 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 86/13 cubic feet.
- Weight: 4,773 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: Est. 13/19/16 mpg. Premium recommended.
- Base price, including destination charge: $201,225.
- Price as tested: $236,345.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.
Photos (c) Bentley