Review: 2016 Bentley Continental GT

Jun 22, 2015 10:00 AM EDT | Nick Jaynes

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The most surprising thing about Norway isn’t its expansive, wind-whipped fjords, snowy peaks, aqua-blue glacial runoffs, or perpetual summertime sunshine. It's the black stripes of rubber left on virtually every road surface in the country.

Wherever I went, I saw remnants of smoky burnouts on nearly every stretch of highway, which is a shocking sight to discover in a country sparsely populated by soft-spoken Volvo drivers. Wholly perplexed by the preponderance of pavement graffiti, I asked a local about it. He informed me there are three things to do in Norway: fish, fornicate, and tune cars. And in winter, fishing is terrible.

If there were a car that could competently compete with Norwegian majesty, beauty, and apparent prominence of wheel-overwhelming horsepower without being straight overshadowed, it's none other than the 2016 Bentley Continental GT. It’s one of the few cars lines capable of making even a Norwegian blush, with its new aerodynamic and stunning front fascia, uprated W-12 power, and sumptuous interior.

Models

The 2016 Continental GT family consists of eight models: V8, V8 S, W12, and Speed. Each of these models is available in coupe and convertible body styles. The V8, for example, is the more accessible model, the V8 S is the sports car of the range, the W12 is luxury-focused, and the Speed is at the top of the range.

But this review focuses on the V8 S Coupe. Not only is it the near-middle range vehicle in the GT line, it is also perhaps the most fun. It's powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that produces 521 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque, which is routed to all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. It’ll tackle 60 mph from a standstill in 4.3 seconds, and will hit 100 mph six seconds later. Its top speed is 192 mph. Drooling yet?

Full-Width

Although it might not seem updated, the Continental GT has received some significant exterior changes for the 2016 model year. A smaller radiator shell (Brit-speak for "grille") and new bumper gives way to a pair of full-width air intakes. These lines lead into the sharper fender crease, giving the GT a much more assertive stance. Just behind the front wheel arch haunches of the front end are two new Flying B emblems, which bring the GT in line with the forthcoming Bentayga SUV. The trunk lid's more aerodynamic lip makes the ’16 instantly recognizable from the rear. Specific to the V8 S is a rear diffuser, which immediately differentiates it from the rest of the model line.

Keeping this sporty new shape planted on the pavement are some new wheel options. The V8 and W12 models have a range of new 20-inch wheels to choose from, while the V8 S and Speed can have a new five-spoke, 21-inch directional sports wheel bolted up.

Unrivaled

The Continental line already benefitted from having some of the finest cabins the ultra-luxury segment, and for 2016, the interiors have only gotten better. Quilted leather of the bespoke Mulliner Driving Specification trim—standard on the Speed—has been tightened, making it appear more premium and sporty. The most distinctive seat trim comes in the form of a straight-fluting pattern, which is standard on all four seats of the non-Speed Continental range. It’s a mix of modernity and classic style that only a brand like Bentley is capable of capturing in a single design.

For 2016, the Continental GT line receives a techy twist, in the form of onboard 4G LTE Wi-Fi capable of supporting up to eight devices, LED cabin lighting, as well as a hidden storage compartment between the rear seats—large enough to hold a tablet, replete with power outlets for charging. Bentley now offers an optional Alcantara roof liner, which is colored to match all 17 interior leather treatments.

Trollstigen

Starting in Alesund, Norway, our caravan of Continentals made its way down south. Carving through thick forests and barren tundra-like landscapes, we eventually made our way onto the crest of a fjord. Pulling over to survey the landscape, we witnessed a road that twisted and serpentined down the steep, rocky face below. Called the Trollstigen ("troll’s footpath") mountain road, the strip of pavement zigzags down a near-vertical descent down to the lush valley below. As driving enthusiasts, we wasted little time soaking in the scenery.

The sweeping hills and turns of the Norwegian roads that lead to the Trollstigen perfectly demonstrated the 2016 GT’s ability to soar like a Lear Jet. In V8 S guise, it could also pull switchbacks like a sports car. Laying on the throttle in Sport mode, the torque took us through the bends, as the crackling sound of dying carbons echoed off the stone walls and back into the cabin.

It was a magical but hair-raising ride down the fjord, as the Trollstigen perfectly encapsulated the majestic, sporting essence of the V8 S. Gripping lightly the new sport steering wheel in my hands, we quickly fell in love with the savage quickness of the grand touring coupe.

The Continental GT V8 is lovely and the Speed is brutally fast. But the V8 S just rides that middle line between overwhelming brute and sports machine. For such a heavy car, the steering is light, the brakes are strong and the self-leveling air suspension is forgiving yet stiff.

Atlantic Road

Not long after we descended the Trollstigen, we found ourselves on another infamous Norwegian thoroughfare, the Atlantic Road, which runs along the Norwegian Sea connecting the island of Averoy to the mainland.

The tight turns of the Trollstigen accentuated the GT’s gargantuan heft, but also highlighted its all-wheel drive-enabled surefootedness. The Atlantic Road, however, with its arching, corkscrew-like bridges and breathtaking scenery perfectly mimicked the sweeping lines and dramatic power of the Continental.

With the Norwegian summer sun bright over head and the sound of a rollicking twin-turbo V8 echoing in my ear, we had a moment to relax and ponder the Continental GT’s place in the world.

Unlike some of its competitors, which lean heavily on either technology or pure luxury, the Continental offers both with an unmatched British sensibility. Especially in V8 S form, the GT can be an enviably stylish sports coupe but also an immaculately detailed luxury grand tourer. It can drive to the sea or to the mountain. It can pull up at a palace or at a racetrack and seem somehow perfectly at home at either destination.

The 2016 Bentley Continental goes on sale in July, starting at $198,500.

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