Used 2013 Bentley Continental GT
Edmunds' Expert Review
With the addition of a potent V8 to the 2013 Bentley Continental GT lineup, this ultra-fast and ultra-luxurious tourer is even stronger.
The adage "less is more" seldom applies to the Bentley 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.
Trim levels & features
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.
Performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
There's always more to a car than the numbers on its spec sheet. Take the new 2013 Bentley Continental V8 for example. It looks like the same coupe we've known for years, but with a smaller engine that's more efficient. Doesn't seem like a recipe for success, yet from the behind the wheel it's a shocking improvement.
But it can't be that good. Can it?
With its new 4.0-liter V8 it has only two-thirds of the displacement and piston count as a W12 Continental, but with 500 horsepower and a curb weight of 5,059 pounds, the V8 is actually quicker off the mark than the original 12-cylinder. Top speed has fallen a few mph, but really who's going to care if it can still storm from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds?
Then there's the whole added benefit of the V8's added efficiency. Not that Bentley buyers are likely to care, but it does pay off in terms of range. Even the wealthy can see that going over 400 miles on a tank is more convenient than having to stop after 250.
So What's the Secret?
For starters, the 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8's engine is very, very clever. It's built by Audi (and available in a different tune in the S8) and then sent to Bentley, where it is dressed with all external ancillaries to create a bespoke specification before it's bolted into the car.
Its neatest trick is its ability to shut off half its cylinders on part load, turning the motor into a V4. It sounds as if it might run as rough as a tractor but, in reality, is impossible to distinguish when it's running on four cylinders. This is not new technology, though, as various manufacturers have employed this technology over the years, but never has its actuation been as imperceptible as this.
The new V8 also uses two far smaller and more responsive turbos than those used in the larger W12. They produce up to 17 psi of boost compared to the W12's turbos, which only deliver up to 9 psi of boost.
Further efficiencies come from an eight-speed transmission (the W12 soldiers on with just six), better thermal management, reduced drag, slightly less weight (55 pounds), energy recovery under braking, more efficient power steering that's inactive in the straight-ahead position and lower-rolling-resistance tires. Some of these may seem small, but together they add up to a notable 40 percent improvement in fuel mileage.
Behind the Wheel
Our chance to get in the driver seat came at the Silverstone circuit in England. Bentley executives were keen to stress it was a prototype and insistent that we say as much in this story. Fair enough, but when asked what differences there were between this prototype and production cars, the answer was, "Er, none." It was good to go on the track and anywhere we chose on the roads of the British Midlands.
At first glance, there are few obvious indications it's the V8 Continental. When we look closer we realize that the rear pipes were artfully revised to look like number 8s on their side. Then there's the new front airdam, a red badge and different wheels. What you can't see is the more limited range of available interior colors and the slightly different options available on the V8. For a car that will probably cost 10 percent less than the W12, this is not such a big deal.
So we thumbed the start button and waited for it to respond to its first big test, that being the obvious, "How does it sound?" The answer, supplied by way of a rumble, a roar and a howl is that it sounds just fine. In fact it sounds brilliant, better by far than the rather nondescript voice of the W12. This may or may not be what Bentley intended.
And How Does It Feel?
Test Two. Does it respond as a Bentley should? To see for ourselves, we locked it in a high gear so it couldn't kick down, and hit the pedal. At once it pulled like an intercontinental express. No lack of torque here. Not surprising given that the V8 is rated to deliver 486 pound-feet of torque at just 1,700 rpm. Test Two passed.
Until quite recently Bentley had to limit the torque of the 6.0-liter motor to stop it from frying its transmission. The smaller 4.0-liter motor actually has more torque than the original 6.0-liter W12 and it rolls out along a horizontal curve from 1,700 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm.
Bentley is pleased with this motor. Smug might not be too strong a word. In fact, it's so delighted with it that the engineers don't want to talk about anything else. After we pushed a little they told us that the steering has been modified to improve its feel and reduce the overall amount of assistance offered, while the entire chassis from its roll bars to its air springs has been retuned to support not just the fractionally reduced weight of the new powertrain, but the more aggressive and sporting character of the car.
On soaking English lanes, an environment of changing cambers, broken surfaces and unpredictable curves, it was a revelation. For the first time we can remember, this was a Bentley driving experience not defined by the weight of the car.
This is not because it's lost a significant amount of weight, because it hasn't; instead that weight is at last being properly managed. We would stop far short of calling it nimble or even agile, but it was precise, poised and responsive in a way no other Bentleys — not even the Speed or Supersports — have been.
Makes It Easy To Forget the W12
So here's the thing. You can buy a regular 2013 Bentley Continental GT with its W12 engine and put up with its many well-known shortcomings, or you can spend roughly 10 percent less and buy a Bentley that is just as quick in the real world, more rewarding to drive and far more invigorating to listen to. Oh, and it will likely take you more than half as far again on a tank of gas. The next question is not difficult to guess: How the hell will Bentley sell any W12s now?
Bentley believes it will, saying a W12 buyer is an entirely different person compared to its target prospects for the V8. Well maybe, but so far as I can see the reasons for choosing the W12 over the V8 can now be summed up thusly: You have some small character quirk which means you have to have the ultimate engine even if it's inferior or, someone once told you bigger was always better and you believed them.
For everyone else, the 2013 Bentley Continental GT V8 is a better car than the W12 in every way that matters. Were they the same price, we wouldn't hesitate for a second before choosing the smaller engine. In this case, less really is more.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report, which originally appeared on insideline.com.
Used 2013 Bentley Continental GT Overview
The Used 2013 Bentley Continental GT is offered in the following submodels: Continental GT Coupe. Available styles include 2dr Coupe AWD (6.0L 12cyl Turbo 6A), and V8 2dr Coupe AWD (4.0L 8cyl Turbo 8A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2013 Bentley Continental GT?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.