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2016 Bentley Continental GT First Drive Review

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/11/2015 Frank Markus
2016 Bentley Continental GT First Drive Review

The wealthy are so easily bored. If you don't dangle new shiny-pretty in front of them every year or so, somebody else's shiny-pretty might lure them away. So for 2016, Bentley has made a roster of minor tweaks and adjustments to its top-selling Continental range of muscular grand touring coupes and convertibles. To pique the interest of the decidedly un-wealthy corps of hacks that would be writing about its shiny-pretty, Bentley wisely staged the launch of the 2016 Continental range against a backdrop of spectacular mountains and fjords in western Norway along a 230-mile test-drive route that included both the famed Trollstigen (Troll's Steps — Scandinavia's Stelvio Pass) and the dramatic bridges and curves of the iconic Atlantic Road.

2016 Bentley Continental GT V8 S© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Bentley Continental GT V8 S

But before you get lost in the gallery of scenic glamour shots and click away to start Googling flight bargains to Oslo, let's run down the spotters' guide to distinguishing a 2016 GT. Up front the fender line is sharpened, the grille area is slightly smaller, and the lower center opening now stretches clear across the car. It's all meant to look even tougher and more surefooted, if that's possible. Moving around to the sides, new fender vents get finished in symmetrical flying "B" motifs (meaning the driver's side one looks backward), the V8 S and W12 fender badges are chromed to match those adorning Speed variants, and there's a new roster of 20- and 21-inch wheels to choose from. The rear fascia gets a full-width chrome strip running from wheelwell to wheelwell with more aggressive diffusers distinguishing the V8 S and Speed variants. A more pronounced trunk spoiler leaves the drag and lift coefficients unchanged. Three new colors are available: Jetstream, Marlin, and Camel (aka light blue, dark blue, and gold).

2016 Bentley Continental GT V8 S© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Bentley Continental GT V8 S

Inside, the steering wheel sprouts sporty thumb rests, and the larger, knurled-surface shift paddles feel more expensive. The dials get new graphics, and there's more chrome on the console. Seat stitching now features longitudinal sew lines, unless you go for the Speed model or Mulliner Driving Specification setup that buys diamond stitching. Alcantara headlining material is now available in all 17 interior colors, and for just $1,330 extra you can have a Wi-Fi hot spot just like in your nanny's Chevy Spark LT.

2016 Bentley Continental GT W12© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Bentley Continental GT W12

Under the hood, the big news is cylinder deactivation on all engines. It's a software solution that kicks in during low-load cruising conditions in gears above third and cuts the fuel and spark in half the cylinders for up to 55 seconds then switches them all back on for 2-3 seconds before idling the other half to keep the catalysts warm. On V-8s an inner and outer pair on each bank trade off; W-12s alternate the left and right VR banks. It's far less efficient than systems that also deactivate the valves, but it increases the load on the working cylinders enough to crack open the throttle and lower the pumping losses. EPA results are mixed, with W12 coupes gaining a point in the city (convertible ratings are unchanged). Finally, output is also increased in the cooking-grade W-12 from 567 to 582 hp and from 516 to 531 lb-ft. The change is entirely attributable to tuning (turbo boost is up very slightly), closing the gap a bit with the Speed model's upgrade (in 2014) to 626 hp/607 lb-ft.

2016 Bentley Continental GT W12© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Bentley Continental GT W12

Once out on Norway's spectacular road network, it was a constant struggle to reroute mental energy from my visual cortex to my usual car-critical sensory receptors. On brief occasions when I managed to do this, my ears noticed the VR6-mode in the W-12 with the Naim audio system off. I never noticed V-4 mode in the V8 S model, perhaps because it never went into that mode; it's harder to tow a 2.5-ton car with a 2.0-liter V-4 than it is with a 3.0-liter VR6. I was also pleased when my sense of touch discerned a difference in steering effort between the heavier Speed and slightly too light lesser models later in the day when my eyes were becoming inured to the relentless scenic majesty.

2016 Bentley Continental GT V8© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Bentley Continental GT V8

When it was my turn to steam down Trollstigen, I became keenly aware of how differently this impressive megacruiser handled compared with the last car in which I terrorized the Troll's Steps: its mid-engine corporate cousin, the Audi R8 V10 Spyder. The Bentley drives big. Big enough that not even its high cornering limits, brutal acceleration, and retina-detaching braking force can really "shrink it around you." Sure, when we paused for a photo op at the bottom of the grade, the brakes were a tad smelly, but I experienced no grinding understeer, no brake fade, no moments of incipient pants-soiling, and plenty of driving satisfaction. Also bitter disappointment that Mazda never launches Miatas on this road. To prevent mass eye-rolling, I'll spare you the assertion that I could feel the W12's 2.6 percent power increase (nobody could), and I'll go back on record claiming the V8 S, with its 70-pound-lighter nose, is the best Continental for this sort of duty.

2016 Bentley Continental GT V8© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Bentley Continental GT V8

I like the new color, trim, and interior upgrades. I'm less enthusiastic about the exterior enhancements, which smack of change for change's sake, and of course the average 7 percent price rise is never a welcome development. But with net worth portfolios on the rise, I'm sure the folks at whom this shiny-pretty upgrade is aimed will take such developments well in stride.

2016 Bentley Continental GT V8 S© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Bentley Continental GT V8 S

2016 Bentley Continental GT
BASE PRICE$198,500-$263,400
VEHICLE LAYOUTFront-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe or convertible
ENGINE4.0L/500-521-hp/487-502-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8; 6.0L/582-626-hp/531-607-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 48-valve W-12
TRANSMISSION8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT5,050-5,450 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE108.1 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT189.2 x 76.5 x 54.8-55.3 in
0-60 MPH4.0-4.7 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON12-15/20-24/15-18 mpg
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY225-281/140-169 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB1.08-1.33 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S.July, 2015

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