Higher-output options of both the V8 and W12 engines complement the recent addition of a standard eight-speed transmission.
Any fear that adding a V8-powered Bentley Continental GT to the lineup would dilute the brand has proven unfounded. In fact, that move has brought more people into the fold, offering what amounts to a $20,000 discount, better fuel economy, and depending on your selection, even better driving dynamics.
Worry not, 12-cylinder loyalists. Bentley will still sell you a 2014 Continental GT with one of two versions of that engine in an infamously mind-boggling W12 configuration (rather than the traditional V12). Considering the 2014 Bentley Continental GT weighs more than 5,000 pounds, the burly W12 engine seems the perfect match, with little criticism accompanying it. Yet downsizing to a smaller V8 is far from being a step down. In fact, the new V8 feels and sounds like the engine the Continental GT deserved from the start.
With either 500 or 521 horsepower from the twin-turbocharged V8, there's no lack of grunt under the hood. True, the W12 makes between 67 and 95 hp more. But it's unlikely anyone will miss them given that the V8 version is just as quick and holds a slight advantage when it comes to handling dynamics thanks to its lighter and more optimally distributed weight. It also has improved throttle response thanks to smaller, quick-spooling turbos.
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, such as minuscule rear seats and astronomical option prices, stay put as well.
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 2014 Bentley Continental GT further cements its place as a front runner in this class, proving that less can indeed be more.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Bentley Continental GT is a four-passenger coupe that may be ordered with a 12-cylinder engine or with an equally potent V8. There's also the convertible version, the 2014 Bentley Continental GTC.
Starting with the GT V8, standard features include 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension, keyless ignition and entry, automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights, heated and power-folding mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, a heated 14-way power driver seat, driver memory functions, a 12-way front passenger seat, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, premium leather upholstery, wood veneer trim and Bluetooth connectivity. The standard eight-speaker audio system includes a CD player, satellite radio, digital music storage, an iPod interface and voice-controlled features. A navigation system with Google Maps compatibility and real-time traffic is also included.
Stand-alone options include ventilated and massaging front seats, a privacy phone handset in the center armrest, carbon-ceramic disc brakes, a CD changer and a premium Naim audio system (includes CD changer).
The more powerful V8 S is essentially identical, but rides on a lower, more firmly tuned suspension, has unique wheels and features aero-optimized bodywork.
An optional Convenience package adds adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera and a valet key (also available individually). Two Mulliner packages are also available that add 21-inch wheels, a jeweled fuel cap, knurled gearshift knob and unique interior trimmings including quilted and perforated seating. A Touring package further adds separate front center armrests, a rear center console, a trunk pass-through for skis and a power trunk lid. Finally, two Sports packages selectively add carbon-fiber interior trim, red brake calipers and a sport exhaust.
The W12-equipped Continental GT is equipped in a very similar fashion. Mulliner is called Driving Specification for the 12-cylinder GT, and to that, the Extended Driving Specification adds ventilated and massaging front seats. The Elegant Specification includes the Convenience package and adds the privacy handset, Naim sound system, ventilated and massaging front seats and deep pile floor mats.
Besides having the most powerful engine offered, the range-topping Continental GT Speed is equipped as a standard GT but also includes 21-inch wheels, drilled pedals, a jeweled fuel cap, knurled gearshift knob, ski pass-through, power trunk lid and twin front armrests. Yet all other options for the GT Speed are served à la carte, which is to say, one at a time and without bundled packages.
Over the entire Continental GT lineup, most items are also available as stand-alone options. And, 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 customized "Personal Commission" items -- for a price, of course.
Powertrains and Performance
The Bentley Continental GT and GTC are offered with a choice of either a V8 or W12 engine, both twin-turbocharged and both available in two outputs. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission offered, and all-wheel drive is standard across the line.
The V8 variants are powered by a 4.0-liter V8 that produces 500 hp and 487 pound-feet of torque, or 521 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque in the GT V8 S that also utilizes cylinder deactivation when cruising to optimize fuel economy. EPA-estimated fuel consumption is 18 mpg in combined driving (15 city/24 highway) for the coupe and 17 mpg combined for the GTC convertible. At our test track, the "lesser" GT V8 coupe sprinted from zero to 60 mph in only 4.2 seconds.
The W12-powered Continental GT and GTC carry over, meaning they sport a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 engine producing 567 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. For the Continental GT Speed and GTC Speed, Bentley boosts this output to 616 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. At our test track, the GT Speed coupe was only marginally quicker than a GT V8, with a 4.1-second sprint from zero to 60 mph, making us question the added cost for the larger engine. The EPA-estimated fuel economy for both coupe and convertible stand at 15 mpg combined (12 city/21 highway).
The 2014 Bentley Continental GT comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, side airbags for all seats and driver knee airbags. GTC convertibles also have a rollover protection system that automatically deploys from behind the rear seats.
In Edmunds brake testing, a GT Speed (with optional carbon-ceramic brakes) came to a stop from 60 mph in 116 feet. The Continental GT V8 (also with optional carbon-ceramic brakes) stopped a little shorter at 111 feet. Even with a car of this scale (over 5,100 pounds regardless of model), we expected even better.
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 hand-crafted in Bentley's dedicated woodworking shop, the interior pays homage to old-world craftsmanship that truly defines "world class."
High-tech convenience contrasts with that classic 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, as space is quite tight back there. We guess these rear quarters will more often carry the overflow from the 13-cubic-foot trunk than passengers, though. The GTC's trunk is smaller, holding only 9.2 cubic feet, but at least it can accommodate a standard golf bag with the woods removed.
The remarkable thing about the 2014 Bentley Continental GT is how normally it drives. You might be disappointed if you're expecting an exotic car. But if you're looking for an exquisitely crafted grand touring 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 incongruously effortless and involving.
No matter the engine choice, a torrent of propulsion is available anywhere in the rev range, pushing the car past extralegal speeds with ease. 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 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. Truth be told, it also sounds better, with a distinctive V8 growl. All things considered, the V8 is our pick.
Around turns, the Continental GT is capable, certainly. But it's also not a sports car. Those looking for exotic style as well as incredible handling are better served by an Aston Martin or Ferrari.
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