2020 Bentley Continental GT V8 First Drive

When a High-End Grand Tourer Just Isn't Special Enough

What Is It?
The 2020 Bentley Continental GT is the fully redesigned version of one of the most popular grand touring exotics on the market. Available in coupe or convertible body styles, the Continental GT seamlessly blends performance and luxury. It's powered by your choice of two brawny turbocharged engines — a 542-horsepower V8 or a 626-hp W12 — and offers more customization options than you knew were possible. While there are several fantastic high-end coupes out there, few feature the craftsmanship and brand panache of the Bentley Continental GT.

2020 Bentley Continental GT V8

Why Does It Matter?
The Continental GT is an important vehicle in Bentley's lineup. Considering Bentley's other vehicles are the Bentayga SUV and a pair of limousines, the Continental GT is the only one that could be called "sporty" with a straight face. And while not terrifically expensive by Bentley standards, the Continental's superlative cabin materials and features are more exotic than what you'll find in the small number of competitors.

2020 Bentley Continental GT V8

What Does It Compete With?
While there are several grand touring rivals that compete in spirit, most are either far less or more expensive than the 2020 Bentley Continental GT. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a richly detailed coupe or convertible that is also available in eight- and 12-cylinder configurations. While it doesn't offer the bespoke options of the Bentley, the non-AMG S-Class variants are significantly less expensive than the Continental. The BMW 8 Series is another luxury tourer. This all-new BMW features a stunning design that will coax a double take from even the most jaded luxury buyers.

On the upper end, the Aston Martin DB11 is a sporty two-door driven by a massively powerful V12. It costs roughly the same as the Bentley. If money is no object, the Rolls-Royce Wraith (coupe) and Dawn (convertible) — which cost about 50% more than their Bentley counterparts — are the pinnacles of luxury. Driven exclusively by a 6.6-liter V12, these siblings are the final word in high-powered cruising.

How Does It Drive?
Even though this Bentley is a substantial car with large-diameter wheels (our convertible rolled on 22-inch wheels, for instance), the Continental GT's driver-adjustable multi-chamber air suspension makes almost any road feel glassy. In the B (the default Bentley mode) and Comfort driving modes, the Continental glides over all but the roughest pavement without transmitting harshness to the occupants inside. But compared to some of the latest luxury vehicles that have road-scanning suspensions, the Continental doesn't quite do as well when driving over ruts and bumps.

2020 Bentley Continental GT V8

Dynamically, the Continental GT behaves exactly as you'd expect from an ultra-luxe grand tourer. The active stabilizer bars, all-wheel drive, torque-vectoring system, and air suspension work in harmony to give the big two-door surprisingly capable handling characteristics, especially when you select the GT's Sport mode. You wouldn't confuse it with a sports car, but the GT holds its own in tight corners. Regardless of driving mode, the steering response isn't quite as sharp as a similarly priced sports car's, but it ultimately fits in with the Continental's more relaxed character.

The twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 has been upgraded for 2020. Power output now stands at 542 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque (versus the previous model's maximum of 521 hp and 502 lb-ft in the GT V8 S trim). Also, Bentley swapped out the previous eight-speed traditional automatic transmission for a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. The carmaker says the dual-clutch transmission gives the car a sportier feel and enhances acceleration.

This new powertrain decreases the Continental GT V8's 0-60 mph time from an estimated 4.7 seconds to 3.9 seconds (4.0 seconds for the convertible). And while fuel costs are likely unimportant to Bentley buyers, know that both engines feature cylinder deactivation technology for reducing gasoline consumption under light loads.

Overall, the V8 feels and sounds fantastic. Throttle tip-in is linear, so you never accidentally give it too much gas. Once you shove the accelerator a bit more, the engine lights up and produces enviable acceleration. The optional W12 is slightly quicker, but it would be hard to tell in anything but a back-to-back comparison. A standard active exhaust keeps the engine quiet in light throttle application. But you can hit the pedal or select Sport mode to produce pleasant burbles, snaps and pops from the exhaust. This Bentley is sporty, and it wants you to know it.

2020 Bentley Continental GT V8

The dual-clutch transmission calibration deserves a special mention. Many dual-clutch transmissions, even the PDK transmission from Porsche that serves as a donor on the Bentley, put performance first and comfort second. The unique properties of these transmissions can make cars that use them feel a little sluggish leaving from a stop and can exhibit jerky downshifts. That would be unbecoming of a Bentley, so the engineers have gone to great lengths to stamp out any harsh feedback from the transmission. The result is a trans that delivers lightning-quick and buttery-smooth shifts, even at full throttle, and natural acceleration from a stop.

2020 Bentley Continental GT V8

What's the Interior Like?
Nearly every surface within the Continental GT's cabin is leather, wood or metal; plastics are only used in a handful of controls and buttons shared with other high-end Porsches and Audis. As expected, the leather is soft and supple, and it comes in a variety of shades you can mix and match to your liking. As in other Bentleys, you can choose from among an abundance of leather and stitching colors, along with several lacquered wood veneers. There's even an available three-dimensional metal surface on the center console that mimics the striped pattern on luxury watches.

2020 Bentley Continental GT V8

The Continental's interior artfully balances old-world elegance with modern technology. Front and center is a new 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Also on deck is a new option: a rotating console for where the infotainment screen is. Don't want to look at the screen? Hit a button and this rotating three-sided spindle will switch between the touchscreen, a gauge panel (with a thermometer, compass and chronograph), or a flat panel with wood veneer. On the audio front, our tester's midlevel Bang & Olufsen sound system was wonderfully clear at low volume, even with the convertible top down.

How Practical Is It?
The Continental GT's cabin technically has four seats, but the rear seats are really only suitable for small children or short adults if the front passengers are a similar size. The GT's wide stance gives it ample room for two occupants, so you never feel squeezed next to your front passenger.

2020 Bentley Continental GT V8

The convertible's trunk is just large enough to accept one full-size and one carry-on piece of luggage, though not without some effort. In the coupe, the same amount of luggage is much easier to fit, with room to spare.

What Else Should I Know?
As with many high-end luxury vehicles, many of today's advanced driving aids are optional and expensive. Adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, a night-vision display, and a head-up display are bundled together in the Touring Specification package ($8,385). A 360-degree parking camera and rear cross-traffic alert are both included in the City Specification package, which retails for a cool $5,360. Bentley owners are unlikely to scoff at a $14,000 price tag for such features, but we think it's a little silly not to include them in a car at this price range.

2020 Bentley Continental GT V8

Edmunds Says
Though it's the smallest and least expensive car in Bentley's range, the 2020 Continental GT is far from a consolation prize. Its beautifully trimmed cabin is a clear step above those from most competing grand touring vehicles, and it offers far more customization options than rivals. The V8's strong power delivery and substantial cost savings give it significant advantages over the W12.

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