It's hard not to fall in love with a Bentley Continental GT when you're running up Alpine roads or soaking in the warm California sun in Napa Valley. This big, stylish, luxurious grand tourer perfectly lends itself to that sort of driving -- and lifestyle.
Fast forward a couple of months, and I'm again behind the wheel of a Continental GT, this time on an unusually cold night in Los Angeles, slumming it in stop-and-go traffic on the 110 freeway in a rainstorm. This isn't the sort of carefree, beautiful motoring that best shows off the Conti's attributes. Yet, at the same time, it totally does.
Sitting in a Continental GT in traffic is like being wrapped in your own personal fortress of solitude -- and a lavishly appointed one, at that. The thick side glass mean you can't hear the other cars as they chug by, the quiet only interrupted every so often by the swoosh of the wipers clearing the rain from your windshield. At this 5-mph pace, my attention turns to the heated, massaging seats, delivering waves of relaxation up through the diamond-stitched leather. I care less about the powerful V8 engine under the Bentley's long hood and let the Naim audio system envelop me with my favorite tunes.
At a standstill, you find time to notice the finer details. This isn't my first time in Bentley's new Continental GT, but I'm still thoroughly impressed by so many little things. I like the way the knurled tips of the steering column stalks and temperature-control dials feel against my fingertips. I like the metallic Cotes de Geneva finish on the center console, and the way it warmly glows under the yellow hue of the streetlights. I find myself staring at the door panels and imagine a highly skilled seamstress hand-sewing every single one of those diamond stitches. Oh, and kudos to the engineer who signed off on the specific weight of the plungers that open and close the air vents.
With the touch of a button, the Bentley Rotating Display's 40 moving parts and two electric motors can silently flip the 12.3-inch multimedia screen behind the dash, revealing a beautiful trio of analog gauges in its place. This $6,365 option is a little extravagant, but there's something so luxurious about being able to rid yourself of screen time while driving. The gauges are set on a backdrop that perfectly matches the rest of the dashboard veneer, and after a few minutes of driving with this simplified visage, it's pretty much my preferred setting. Plus, it's not like I'll ever be at a loss for multimedia information, anyway, what with the digital gauge cluster giving me access to trip and audio info, car settings and Bluetooth phone menus.
As for the onboard infotainment tech, it's borrowed from Bentley's sportier sibling, Porsche. It's essentially a reworked version of the Porsche Communication Management software you'll find in a Panamera, just with Bentley-specific colors and fonts. I've always loved this tech in Porsche's cars, so I don't feel any differently about it in the Bentley. It's a robust, colorful experience befitting of a $200,000 luxury car, with a Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay. Porsche sadly doesn't support Android Auto, and therefore, neither does Bentley.
Surrounded by the finest luxury and a plethora of tech, it's easy to relax in rush hour. Driving aids, which include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist, can take a lot of the guess-work out of these scenarios, too. But I do find it a little ridiculous that a six-figure luxury car doesn't offer them as standard equipment.
But life isn't all rainy-day slogs on congested freeways. Eventually the warm SoCal sun breaks through the clouds, the roads dry and I've got some of the country's finest canyon passes at my disposal. As much as the Bentley Continental GT shines as a cozy, comforting companion for crappy commutes, now more than ever, it's a big coupe you'll want to drive. A more athletic chassis and one of the world's finest V8 engines really make this car come alive.
Bentley will soon offer the Continental GT with a 626-horsepower W12 engine, and though I certainly understand the allure of a 12-cylinder powerplant, it's not the one you should get. Instead, go for the twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8. It offers a not-insubstantial 542 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to move this two-door heavyweight to 60 mph in just under 4 seconds.
The main reason I like the V8 more than the W12 is that it's so much more urgent in its power delivery. Dig into the throttle and the engine responds immediately, unleashing a wave of torque before you even hit 2,000 rpm, accompanied by the sort of throaty growl you might not expect from a buttoned-up Bentley. An eight-speed automatic transmission shifts as quickly as it does smoothly. Drive the Continental GT in its Sport setting and the transmission will happily drop a gear or two under braking before a turn, and burble on overrun as it smooches the engine's 6,500-rpm redline.
What's remarkable is just how nimble the 2020 Continental GT is on winding roads. You'll never escape the sheer size of this thing -- narrow passes along canyon corners are harrowing -- but the new Conti is hardly the big galoot its predecessor was. The standard, three-chamber air suspension keeps things taut and flat in turns without upsetting the Bentley's signature ride quality. You can add trick 48-volt anti-roll suspension tech, but even without it, the Continental delivers the sort of brisk handling that belies its big stature.
Believe it or not, this car isn't half bad on gas, either. The EPA rates the 2020 Continental GT V8 at 16 miles per gallon city, 26 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. Over a week of testing, I saw about 21 mpg. That's a whole lot better than the W12 model, which is rated at 12 city, 20 highway and 15 combined, and is also subject to the gas guzzler tax. No, I'm not going to try and convince you that a Bentley coupe is a fuel-sipper. But around 26 mpg highway for something this big and powerful isn't that terrible.
And just think how good you look going down the freeway. The new Continental GT is an absolutely gorgeous car -- imposing and elegant in all the right ways. And just like the interior, the exterior design is accented with a number of little touches that help it exude an aura of grace. The crystal-like headlight housings, the simple, oval taillights, the V8-specific quad exhaust tips -- every bit is fantastic. I especially love the look of this specific test car, painted in a so-deep-it's-almost-black shade of Midnight Emerald, with dark trim around the windows and headlights, complemented by a blacked-out grille.
This car wears Bentley's First Edition spec, which includes a bunch of must-have options. You get the aforementioned rotating display, the so-called City Specification (top-view camera, traffic sign recognition, pedestrian detection and more), the Touring Specification (adaptive cruise control, night vision, lane-keep assist and more), 22-inch wheels, alloy pedals, the diamond-quilted interior pattern and a number of other fancy updos. Yes, at $47,765, this First Edition option costs as much as a fully loaded Kia Stinger GT, but it's a good way to check a ton of boxes you'd want to add to the Conti GT anyway. And I mean, who's pinching every penny and really stretching their budget to make space for a Bentley in the garage? Go on, moneybags -- live a little.
No matter how you option the Continental GT, you're getting a car that truly feels as special as it looks. This is a car that constantly turns heads, even in fashionable Los Angeles. With unrelenting V8 power and a literal wealth of luxury and tech inside, this is a car that'll make you feel like the millionaire you probably are -- even if you're just stuck in traffic.