Introduction: 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8
Originally launched in 2003, the first Continental GT brought a Bentley 2+2 luxury touring coupe into the modern world. Its lines were far more flowing than Bentley vehicles that came before it, and it helped the British automaker reach new audiences. That’s not to say that the older designs were bad, in fact they remain timeless.
Still, the Bentley Continental GT remains the automaker's best-selling vehicle, and there’s a brand-new version that’s arrived. The second generation coupe now has a broader range of engines to choose from, and the “base” version boasts a V8. That might seem crazy to those desiring a W12-powered rocket train, but we forgot to add that this particular V8 comes packing a set of turbos.
Bentley offers its Continental GT up to the lucky few with a variety of power ranges and roof choices. The V8 version has become the “entry-level” Continental, and you can choose between a coupe and a convertible. Pricing on the hard top starts at a tick over $175,000, while the convertible is a bit more premium with its $193,300 starting price.
Should you desire a bit more power than the V8 affords, you can afford to pay more for the 6.0-liter W12 engine. Now, you’re tickling $200,000, and if you want to get crazy with a Continental Speed or Supersports, you’ve crossed into a whole new world. The Speed starts at $215,000, and the wildly impressive Supersports will cost you closer to $300,000, thanks to the $291,900 starting price.
Competition: 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8
Competition at this level gets a bit tricky. There are cars that perform better for far less. Other less expensive automobiles offer nearly similar levels of luxury for quite a bit less as well. Up here, however, buyers shop with their hearts more than their minds. An Audi R8 can be had for $114,200 and an Aston Marvin V8 Vantage S scooped up for $136,700. Both are more exciting to drive and look at, but the Bentley will still appeal to those desiring the flying B.
Alternatively, a car like the Merceces-Benz CL-63 AMG, which costs $153,000, will run circles around the Continental GT V8. It also is just as luxurious (minus a few interior trim pieces). Still, it doesn’t hold the street cache that a Bentley buyer is looking for.
If you asked the Bentley shopper… they’d probably say “What competition?”
Exterior: 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8
Bentley designers have made subtle yet elegant changes to the exterior of the new Continental. It’s still quite clear that you’re looking at a vehicle from the British automakers stable, and in fact it’s still very similar to the car it replaces in terms of style. However, the new car looks more taut and muscular. The lower portion of the front fascia is dark and wide, and it's set off perfectly with the signature upright Bentley grille.
The profile of the car appears more sleek than the previous generation. Large wheels help fill up the gaps of the side section, and then the rear end seems to mimic the same wide stance created by the fascia up front. The large bright taillights, in concert with the sizable exhaust outlets, complete the look.
Interior: 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8
Gliding in to the seat of any Bentley is a welcoming experience. The driver is met with a comfortable quilted leather seat, and the eyes quickly move to the truly gorgeous wood applied throughout the cabin space. A new Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus veneer is available only in the V8 models, and two-tone leather is also an option.
Central to the front seating area is the large touchscreen display. It controls everything from the suspension setting to the radio and climate controls. Above it sits a delightful timepiece supplied by the high-end watchmaker Breitling.
Powertrain and Fuel Economy: 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8
Gone is the familiar 6.75-liter V8 engine found under the hood of many a Bentley. In its place sits a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, and it’s a forced-induction powerhouse. This engine is rated to produce 500 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque. All of that torque is available from just 1,700 rpm, and it’s sent out to all four wheels by way of a paddle-shiftable eight-speed automatic transmission. Working together, Bentley says that the engine, gearbox, and all-wheel-drive system will propel the heavy coupe down the road from 0-60 miles per hour in just 4.6 seconds.
This new V8 is not just a power machine either, as it boasts an impressive amount of engineering tech. Hydraulic engine mounts make sure that the car runs smoothly as it switches between operating on all eight cylinders or only needs to run on four. That’s right, the engine can shut down half its running gear to save fuel. In fact, Bentley states that the available driving range on a full tank is over 500 miles.
The EPA estimated fuel economy figures are 15 miles per gallon in the city and 24 miles per gallon out on the highway. The convertible loses 1 mpg in city driving compared to the coupe.
Safety: 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8
While you’re certainly coddled in luxury when inside the Continental GT V8, you also happen to be surrounded by airbags and other safety systems. A seat-mounted side-impact system keeps passengers from hitting each other in the event of an accident, and the driver has knee-protection airbags as well.
Another safety system to consider is the fact that the Continental GT V8 utilizes all-wheel-drive. Traction can be sent to the wheels that have grip, and all-weather driving should be no problem.
Driving Impressions: 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8
Just walking up to the 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8 fills our brains with imposing thoughts. The car is a large coupe, and its muscular haunches signify that there’s a bit of angry athleticism hiding underneath the otherwise elegant exterior. Opening the door reveals a similar experience, where top-level luxury meets purpose. Closing the door causes the seat belt to extend forward to greet your waiting hand automatically. It’s a neat trick, and a wonderful way to begin the driving experience. Even better though, is what happens when you press the start button.
There’s a whir from the starter, than the entire car comes to life. Of course, we’re dealing with a luxury machine so there’s no immediate shouting from the engine. Still, it’s clear that there’s currently untapped power waiting right underneath our foot.
Press the “B” on top of the transmission, slide the tall shift lever rearward into drive, and the Continental GT V8 glides away like a freight train. There is no drama unless it’s drama you desire, and to achieve this it’s merely a matter of pressing the throttle more deeply into the plush carpet. Here is where the engine finds its voice, and the speedometer is forced to move far more quickly. Wonderfully, however, there’s no throwing of ones back violently into the seat. Instead, the action builds like a wave that started far out to sea, and has been gathering momentum as it heads towards land. The exhaust and engine offer up a deep rumble as the world outside flies ever faster by the window.
All of that forward momentum is hauled in effortlessly thanks to the gargantuan brakes. In fact, our tester is fitted with optional carbon ceramic units that never tire of playing the slow-down game. Carbon ceramic brakes are for folks who track their cars or simply like checking every option box on the list. Unfortunately these brakes are typically rather annoying in standard street driving. Why? They screech and squeal almost every time they’re engaged. Everyone around you thinks you’ve now got crummy brakes on your $200,000 exotic machine. You could take a moment to explain they’re actually very expensive and never fade… but you’d be wasting your breath. Get the steel brakes.
Squeaking issue aside, the Bentley presents itself as a gentleman’s grand tourer, and that’s just what it is. The steering is predictably heavy, but it’s also responsive, which is a solid combination for a GT vehicle. Couple the steering with the adaptive suspension, then add in the smooth transmission and comfortable ride, and you have a recipe for exceptional luxury and performance.
Final Thoughts: 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8
The Bentley Continental GT has grown up. The new, more muscular stance and efficient V8 are proof of that, and both work quite well for the British grand tourer. There are faster cars that cost less, and others that are just as luxurious. Still, none of those are a Bentley… and for those shopping in this segment that might be all that matters.
-New twin-turbocharged V8 is powerful and efficient.
-Interior remains as luxurious as ever.
-Muscular exterior matches the power under the hood.
-Navigation screen could be brought up a notch to mimic what’s found even in the relatively lowly Volkswagen Golf.
-It’s a porker, and could use a diet.