What's New for 2012
The Bentley Continental GT returns in 2012 with slightly refreshed bodywork, more dynamic handling, improved comfort, additional interior storage and up-to-date electronics. Power has been increased slightly and an updated transmission debuts.
Like an aging Hollywood star, the 2012 Bentley Continental GT has "had a little work done." This isn't a full makeover that makes the GT unrecognizable from its former self, just a little nip and tuck here and there. Frankly, before going under the knife, the GT was looking a little tired after spending the better part of a decade in the limelight.
Exterior changes are subtle, with the most prominent updates being LED running lights that encircle the headlights and a more pronounced trunk bustle. Besides the cosmetic work, the new Continental GT has also hit the gym to shed 143 pounds and gain a bit more athleticism. The latter comes from a slight increase in power from the turbocharged W12 engine, widened front and rear tracks, and new, lighter suspension components.
Inside the cabin, the general design of the elegant cockpit with its double-stitched leather and cool-touch metal switches remains, but redesigned cupholders, additional storage bins and revised electronics make it a more livable car. Buyers can also now opt for a classy Naim premium audio system featuring 30GB of internal memory for digital music.
Many of the GT's drawbacks remain, however, including less-than-accommodating rear seats and a portly 5,115-pound curb weight. While competition at this lofty level is sparse, the sleek Aston Martin DB9 provides more driving excitement at a similar price. The Maserati GranTurismo is arguably one of the most attractive cars among the bunch and rings in at $60,000 less. And while the Mercedes-Benz CL600 and its hopped-up AMG derivatives might feel a bit less special than the Bentley, their many amenities and more favorable pricing will be hard to ignore.
However, the 2012 Bentley Continental GT is a different sort of exotic. There is a level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that trumps even those well-heeled competitors. It's easy to live with and drive as well, making it a high-end grand touring car that's meant to be driven every day rather than just on the occasional weekend jaunt through the countryside. The Continental GT may not have been reinvented, but as with true Hollywood icons, a reinvention really wasn't necessary.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The four-passenger 2012 Bentley Continental GT comes in one very well-appointed trim level. Standard features include 20-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights, heated outside mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a power trunk lid, heated 10-way power front seats with memory functions and four-way lumbar adjustment, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, premium leather upholstery, wood veneer trim and Bluetooth. The standard eight-speaker audio system includes a CD player, satellite radio, 15GB of music storage and an iPod interface. A navigation system with Google Map compatibility and real-time traffic is also included.
Optional items include a Convenience Specification package that adds adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, a valet key and a privacy phone handset in the center armrest. These items are also available as stand-alone options, as are 21-inch wheels, carbon-ceramic brake rotors, a jewel fuel filler cap, ventilated front seats with massage functions, a veneer-matched removable case to hold personal effects, a wood-trimmed steering wheel, alloy pedals, an 11-speaker Naim audio system and a six-CD/DVD changer. The Mulliner Driving Specification package includes special 21-inch wheels and unique leather and interior trim.
As with all Bentleys, buyers can choose from a dizzying array of exterior and interior colors, embroidery, stitching, piping and wood or metallic trim. For the extra particular, custom colors may also be specified -- for a price, of course.
Powertrains and Performance
Initially, the 2012 Bentley Continental GT will be powered by a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 engine that produces 567 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque -- an increase of 15 hp and 37 lb-ft over the previous model. A new six-speed automatic transmission is the only available gearbox and Bentley says it cuts shift times by 50 percent compared to the last unit and allows for double downshifts. The GT's updated all-wheel-drive system features a 40:60 rear-torque bias to the rear wheels for performance-minded drivers.
In Edmunds performance testing, the GT went from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy figures (should you care) are understandably unimpressive at 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 14 mpg in combined driving.
The 2012 Bentley Continental GT comes standard with stability control, traction control, antilock brakes with brake assist, side airbags for all seats and driver knee airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, a GT came to a stop from 60 mph in a very impressive 108 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
Much like the Bentley Continental's exterior, the interior changes may not be readily apparent from the last model. The same dash motif, inspired by the winged Bentley logo, is only slightly revised. There's also a three-spoke steering wheel to replace the predecessor's four-spoke item. However, look a little closer and you'll see there have been worthwhile changes. The center stack now houses a new and greatly improved infotainment touchscreen interface (even if it's sourced from Volkswagen), and the instrument panel now features a sharp digital display flanked by easier-to-read analog gauges. The cupholders are now more useful and reside by themselves in the center console rather than being inconveniently located under the center armrest. The seats have also been redesigned, sporting a more shapely form.
As expected, the cabin makes use of only the best materials available. From supple leather that covers most surfaces to the rich wood veneers crafted in Bentley's dedicated hand-crafted wood-working shop, the Continental GT's interior is an homage to old-world craftsmanship that truly lives up to the term "world class."
Front seat comfort is excellent, but the rear seats may draw criticism from adult-sized passengers. Despite an increase in legroom (thanks to scooped-out front seatbacks), space is still at a premium. It's more likely that these rear quarters will be used to handle the overflow from the 13-cubic-foot trunk.
The remarkable thing about the 2012 Bentley Continental GT is how normal it feels to drive. This could be a negative if you're expecting an exotic event car for weekends. However, if you're looking for an exquisitely crafted automobile for your daily drive or weekend road trips, this car is for you. Its superior visibility, buttoned-down ride and composed handling manage to make driving both effortless and involving.
Then there's the engine. While a 6.0-liter W12 engine making 567 hp is impressive, the fact that all 516 lb-ft of torque is available from 1,700 rpm is even more awe-inspiring. From pretty much anywhere in the rev range, a torrent of propulsion is available, pushing the car past extralegal speeds with ease. Still, this isn't a sports car, and those looking for an exotic that offers incredible handling would be better served by an Aston Martin or Ferrari.