What's New for 2013
A new V8 engine debuts on the 2013 Bentley Continental GT, besting the W12 in both acceleration and fuel economy.
The adage "less is more" seldom applies to the Bentley (http://www.edmunds.com) brand. Rather, "too much is almost enough" seems more appropriate. When rumors surfaced that Bentley was developing a V8-powered Continental GT, those rumors fostered plenty of skepticism.
Considering the 2013 Bentley Continental GT weighs about 5,000 pounds, the burly W12 engine seems the perfect match, with little criticism accompanying it. Downsizing to a smaller V8 sounds like a penalty, but not in this case. Far from being a step down, the new V8 feels like the engine the Continental GT deserved from the start.
With 500 horsepower put forth from the twin-turbocharged V8, there's no lack of grunt under the hood. The W12 makes 67 hp more, but it's unlikely anyone will miss them given that the V8 is both quicker and more fuel-efficient. It also has improved throttle response thanks to smaller, quick-spooling turbos and comes with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The W12 continues with a six-speed.
No matter which engine you choose, though, the expected levels of opulence and craftsmanship remain blissfully intact, from the GT's elegant design to its impeccable materials and contemporary electronics. Unfortunately, most of the drawbacks -- miniscule rear seats and heavy curb weight among them -- also remain. The V8 manages to feel a bit lighter, though.
With these faults in mind, some competitors are worth consideration. The Aston Martin DB9 handles better, while the Maserati GranTurismo still turns heads with its seductive styling. The Mercedes-Benz CL600 and hotter AMG variants also merit a look, despite feeling a little less exclusive than a Bentley. In the end, the new V8-powered 2013 Bentley Continental GT further cements its place as a front-runner in this class, proving that less can indeed be more.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Bentley Continental GT comes in one very well-appointed trim level. Standard features include 20-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights, a concealed rear spoiler, automatic wipers, heated and power-folding mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, heated 14-way power front seats with memory functions, 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 Maps compatibility and real-time traffic is also included. Opting for the W12 also adds a trunk pass-through for skis, a power trunk lid and twin front armrests.
The optional Elegant Specification package adds 21-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, a premium Naim sound system, ventilated and massaging front seats and a valet key. A privacy phone handset in the center armrest is included for the W12 only. Most of these items are also available as stand-alone options, as are carbon-ceramic brake rotors, a jewel fuel filler cap, a veneer-matched removable case to hold personal effects, a wood-trimmed steering wheel, alloy pedals and a six-CD/DVD changer.
As with all Bentleys, buyers can choose from a dizzying array of exterior and interior colors, wheels, embroidery, stitching, piping and wood or metallic trim. The truly discerning buyer can also specify custom colors -- for a price, of course.
Powertrains and Performance
For 2013, the Bentley Continental GT is available with a new 4.0-liter V8 that produces 500 hp and 487 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission offered. All-wheel drive is standard. Bentley estimates a 0-60-mph time of only 4.2 seconds, which is actually quicker than the W12. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 18 mpg in combined driving.
A twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 engine carries over, producing 567 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is the only available gearbox and utilizes the same all-wheel-drive system as the V8. In Edmunds performance testing, the W12 GT went from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 12/19/14 mpg.
The 2013 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 108 feet, which is a short distance for a car of this size with summer tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
As with any Bentley, the Continental GT's cabin features only the finest available materials. From supple leather that covers most surfaces to the rich wood veneers crafted in Bentley's dedicated hand-crafted woodworking shop, the interior is an homage to old-world craftsmanship that truly defines "world class."
High-tech convenience contrasts with old-world charm, however, keeping the Continental GT competitive with its contemporaries. The infotainment touchscreen interface is clear and its operation intuitive, and the instrument panel features a sharp digital display flanked by legible analog gauges.
Front seat comfort is excellent, but rear-seat adult passengers are still right to criticize. Despite an increase in legroom last year (thanks to scooped-out front seatbacks), space is still at a premium. We guess these rear quarters will more often carry the overflow from the 13-cubic-foot trunk than passengers, though.
The remarkable thing about the 2013 Bentley Continental GT is how normally it drives. You may be disappointed if you're expecting an exotic event car for weekends, but 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 make driving both effortless and involving.
Then there are the engines. The 6.0-liter W12's horsepower is impressive. But its 516 lb-ft of torque, all of it available from just 1,700 rpm, is awe-inspiring. The new V8 is no slouch either. It manages to improve fuel economy by a generous 30 percent and its performance is livelier than that of the W12. It also sounds better, with a distinctive V8 growl. All things considered, the V8 is our pick.
No matter the engine, a torrent of propulsion is available anywhere in the rev range, pushing the car past extralegal speeds with ease. Still, the Continental GT isn't a sports car. Those looking for exotic style and incredible handling are better served by an Aston Martin or Ferrari.