New Bentley Continental GT prototype review: Faster, cleaner Brit bruiser

    Swaps the famed W12 motor for a hybrid V8 with loads more power.

    Published on May 29, 2024 04:30:00 AM

    6,182 Views

    Make : Bentley

    414. That’s the total number of cars Bentley sold in 1998; the year Volkswagen bought the British carmaker and set about reviving it. The Continental GT was the first car launched under the new ownership and it jump-started Bentley’s fortunes. Between its first showing in September 2002 and the final unveil in March 2003, over 3,000 orders were bagged and Bentley went on to sell over 7,000 units in the first year of its production.

    It’s a seminal car for Bentley for sure and with this new update – built on the current VW MSB platform – the company is super keen we sample it early on, mainly because there’s a mega shift in what lies beneath. For the first time in its history, the new Continental GT not only drops its W12 engine but also gets electric drive. Yes, you read that right. The famed 12-cylinder engine debuted with the Continental GT and was used even when the platform was changed in 2018. It’s now powered by a hybridised version of the current car's 4.0 litre V8.

    2024 Bentley Continental GT

    So it’s understandable why Bentley is so keen we drive the new car. So keen, in fact, that we were allowed behind the wheel of camouflaged cars for early first impressions. ‘Prototype’ is the official lingo describing the car you see here, but this is no early stage model. It's pretty much a signed-off setup, so driving impressions would remain relevant to the final car that’s set to arrive later this year. We were also allowed to feast our eyes on uncamouflaged cars, but for now, we can’t speak about how the outside or inside looks. So it's up to you to imagine the design under the disguise.

    Bentley Continental GT Speed performance

    2024 Bentley Continental GT

    On to the driving then. We were at the Parcmotor Castelloli racetrack on the outskirts of Barcelona. It’s a short track with a lot of elevation so it should have given us an idea of how this Grand Tourer would perform out on the twisty mountain roads it's intended for. Trouble was, each person was allotted just two hot laps, and as my record goes with Europe, race tracks and sports cars, it poured. This meant a wet and very cold track that I had never driven before.

    The Continental GT comes with four-wheel drive and a Bentley employee familiar with the track was always riding shotgun. So I gave it all I could, and boy was it one hell of a ride. The GT is a heavy car – well over two tonnes – and you feel that weight when pushing it on a wet track. Yes, this is a Grand Tourer driven on a wet racetrack, but I’ve had this combination before with the Maserati GT Folgore at Vallelunga racetrack in Italy, and that had some measure of sure-footedness.

    2024 Bentley Continental GT

    At one particular corner I ran wide and nearly off track; I should have scrubbed speed earlier, but I was focused on the new track and keeping the GT’s turn of speed in check. The Continental GT is fast, like really really fast; claimed 0-100kph of 3.2 seconds is faster than the W12 Continental. It’s not just the sprint, but the roll on times are incredibly quick too: 150-200kph feels like a 50-100kph dash, and that meant I arrived too fast for the corner. The brakes are fantastic though, they stop you quickly and confidently, with 420mm front discs and 380mm rear ones. They're probably still the largest cast iron brakes on any production car; the previous GT boasted of that too.

    Bentley Continental GT Speed engine

    The Parcmotor track isn’t an F1 track, and thus the straight is not very long. Despite this, I saw 211kph on the speedo and the acceleration was still strong. Although Bentley is yet to release the times, it says roll-on speeds of this Speed trim are quicker than the W12. Combined power from the hybrid twin-turbo V8 and gearbox integrated electric motor stands at 782hp and 1,000Nm of torque; 100hp more than the 6.0-litre W12, which put out 659hp and 900Nm. Besides the peak values, the power and torque curves of the new hybrid are also higher throughout the rev range, and while power would taper off around 5,000rpm in the W12, this one climbs till 6,000rpm.

    2024 Bentley Continental GT

    And that’s the hope Bentley has for the new GT’s fortunes. Without the W12, there’s certainly some vanity value gone, but to counter that, Bentley has made sure the new powertrain delivers far more performance. And the hybrid bit will appeal to the new generation looking for cleaner motoring. More power and fewer emissions; who can argue with that?

    Also see:

    Bentley Continental GT Prototype video review

    Bentley Bentayga EWB review: Modern British royalty

    Bentley Batur Convertible revealed, production limited to 16 units

    Tech Specs

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