I recently had the chance to drive the brand-new 2019 Bentley Continental GT, which is a tremendously impressive car. This opportunity came courtesy of O’Gara Coach in La Jolla, California, which is my local Bentley dealership here in San Diego. O’Gara had a Continental GT on loan from Bentley to show off to customers — and I spent a few hours with it, too.
Here’s what I learned: the new Continental GT is a massive improvement over its predecessor. This wasn’t especially difficult to do, because its predecessor was truly ancient — the outgoing Continental GT had been out for more than a decade. Sure, it had been given a nip here and a tuck there and the occasional facelift, but it was old, it felt old and the technology was ancient.
No more. The new Continental GT now has it all — everything from adaptive cruise control to an instantaneously responsive touchscreen to all the latest safety gadgets. It finally feels like a modern car, which it finally is — and that will be a huge benefit for shoppers who want the Bentley, but also want the tech from a Mercedes-Benz or a Porsche. Now they don’t have to choose.
Another major difference from the old Continental GT is the performance. The new one uses a twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder, just like the outgoing model, but power is now up to 626 horsepower — a big increase from the outgoing model’s 567 horses. The powertrain has also clearly been massaged for more rapid acceleration, and the new Continental GT no longer has the "jet plane" acceleration feel of the old one, instead building power more aggressively and with more verve — much like a sports car.
Indeed, the same is true of the new car’s handling, as steering is still pretty light, which is what you’d expect from a luxury car, but it’s both linear and predictable, though it requires a bit more input to turn than I’d prefer. Handling is even more impressive, with a composed feel in turns and surprisingly sharp cornering capabilities — something I wasn’t expecting from a vehicle at this price point.
Where the new Continental GT really shines, however, is the design, styling and fit and finish — the cosmetic stuff. The exterior appearance is absolutely gorgeous, and while I initially questioned precisely how much the look had actually changed in creating the new Continental GT, it’s now clear to me that the styling is massively different. When you see it in person, you’ll note that the car’s basic profile looks a lot like the prior model’s, but the overall design has been modernized, sculpted and adjusted so it looks like a totally new vehicle. It’s similar to the transition between Porsche 911 models.
But it’s not just the styling: the overall fit and finish and interior quality is fantastic. Since being absorbed by the Volkswagen Group, Bentley models have been dogged by the reputation among enthusiasts that they’re just "more expensive" versions of various Audi or Volkswagen models. But anyone who’s actually spent time in a Bentley knows how ludicrous this is, and the Continental GT further proves it. The interior is beautifully crafted, with its 3-sided rotating dashboard panel that can display an excellent screen, finely-crafted dials or neither.
The leather is also handsome, with gorgeous stitching, and it appears every material is expensive, heavy and well-thought out. I’m especially impressed with the aluminum used in the turn signal lever, the wiper stalk and the cruise control stalk — three items most automakers don’t pay much attention to. Not Bentley — where every detail is highly considered. That also includes the headlights, which look like they’re surrounded by crystals, bringing a sense of occasion of luxury even to the headlight assembly.
So, the new Continental GT is a huge improvement over its predecessor, and it’s also not too terribly priced. The $250,000 asking price for the one I drove is massive, sure, but in a world where that number won’t buy you a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, a Rolls-Royce or even some top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz models, it’s surprising that you can spend it and get a well-equipped Bentley. The new Continental GT is an excellent car, and it remains true to its roots — they’ve merely been significantly enhanced.
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