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Bentley GT

Wags to Riches Published: 12th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Bentley GT

Fast Facts

  • Best model: GTC
  • Worst model: Anything sub standard
  • Budget buy: GT
  • OK for unleaded?: Of course
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 4804x W 2102
  • Spares situation: Still produced
  • DIY ease?: No chance!
  • Club support: They welcome ‘em!
  • Appreciating asset?: No, but becoming great value
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Depends how you like your Bentleys
Fab interior, but check the spec you are getting Fab interior, but check the spec you are getting
Awesome engine has to come out to change plugs Awesome engine has to come out to change plugs
GT has enormous presence and even earliest cars should still be in exceptional condition GT has enormous presence and even earliest cars should still be in exceptional condition
What a badge to sit behind – and prices falling fast What a badge to sit behind – and prices falling fast
Contis old and new, some regard GT not the real deal Contis old and new, some regard GT not the real deal
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Bentley’s svelte GT may have the wrong image but it’s becoming a seriously good neo classic

Pros & Cons

Looks, awesome engineering, all-wheel grip, pace, value for money, VW relaiblilty
Unfortunate image, hugely expensive to run, VW parentage

When is a Bentley not a Bentley? When it’s a Volkswagen! Peel back the sexy skin on the GT and you’ll essentially fi nd a VW Phaeton W12 saloon underneath. To Bentley traditionalists that’s treachery and blasphemy all rolled into one, but it hasn’t stopped the undeniable popularity of the GT all the way from Chelsea to Cheshire. The all-new buying base regard the “Baby Bentley” as the bees knees – despite the fact that most of them know nothing about the company’s heritage. Or care, for that matter. In the six years that the GT has been in production, it’s been a runaway success story – until the credit crunch hit home. Now, values of earlier models have been dropping like anvils to the point where you can now pick one up for around £35,000 – that’s about a quarter of list price! Tempting though it is, can the GT really be called a classic? No, but it’s certainly classical and will eventually gain full status. Perhaps the time is perilously close to snapping up a good one and sitting on it, because, whatever your views on this Bentley, there’s no getting away from the fact that it is a wonderful car.


We’ve all heard the quip about does anybody know a famous Belgian. The next time you’re asked, just say Dirk van Braeckel. He’s the designer who penned the GT, and if you’re wondering how he came up with such a shapely car then bear in mind that he owns an E-type. How a Belgian ended up at Bentley is simple – since 1998 the once famous British name was owned by the German Volkswagen Audi Group, which intended to gobble up Rolls- Royce during the infamous sell-off, only to be beaten to it by BMW.

Now the VAG group always has a platform or two under development and at the time it was progressing nicely with a big saloon labelled Group D1 that was to be the showcase for Volkswagen. Called the Phaeton, it was large, luxurious and the top version had a heroic 6.0-litre W12 engine to give it supercar pace, allied to an all-wheel drive drivetrain for ultimate user-friendliness. Then somebody had the bright idea of using the basic DNA and making a new and far more modern Bentley to appeal to a new younger buying base, so the Continental GT was born. Launched in 2003, the GT was pitched comfortably under the prices of the traditional Bentley models at £120,000. Such was the car’s instant popularity that buyers were already stumping up £20,000 over the odds to secure them. With production cranked up to 11,000 a year it was no wonder that the Baby Bentley boom spread everywhere – in fact, if you want exclusivity buy the Volkswagen Phaeton instead! With its twin turbochargers the standard GT kicks out a mighty 552bhp and the thick end of 500lbft of torque – more than the Phaeton which has ‘only’ 450bhp. But this was put in the shade in 2007 by the 600bhp Speed offshoot with 553lb ft of muscle to make mincemeat out of the fastest Ferrari. Of course, a convertible just had to follow and the GTC arrived in 2005.


If you want to get a grasp on what the Continental is like to drive but are afraid to wander into a Bentley dealership, pop down to a VW agent and take a W12 Phaeton for a spin! They are surprisingly similar – and the saloon is the more refi ned in many ways. Don’t let the Continental’s Volkswagen hardware infl uence your judgement. The GT is a truly wonderful experience that does justice to any badge. It’s not so much the awesome pace that impresses the most, but the sheer usability thanks to all wheel drive, the biggest brakes ever fi tted to a production car at the time and typical VW attention to detail. Apart from Audi’s R8 super car, there can’t be an easier 500bhp slingshot to drive ridiculously fast. Comments that the GT isn’t a real Bentley and comparisons with the Mulsanne-based Continental are inevitable, but are they valid? It’s down to personal preference as well as prejudice. Both are great cars, the difference being that the GT feels far more modern and planted on the road, whereas the Continental can’t hide its aged 1960s-based Silver Shadow origins. No-one can fail to be impressed by the GT’s ability – 0-60mph in under fi ve seconds 198mph top speed – and the Speed is even quicker! Volkswagen may have provided the dynamics but it certainly left it to Bentley to deal with the details, so the cabin is pure old-school British craftsmanship. You can’t fault the build or ambience of the GT and comfort and convenience are, of course, sublime. It’s roomier than the old Conti and a whole lot more reliable thanks to the VW engineering, but two things let the GT down. The ride can be jarring on rough surfaces and tyre noise is disappointingly loud, especially with the 20-inch wheel option. Also, its popularity with over-privileged footballers has sullied the car’s image – especially the pimped-up and luridcoloured examples.


While the GT has been seen going under the hammer at mid twenties at dealer-only events, you’ll not fi nd a retail proposition for less than £35,000 at the moment – and that for a 2003 model with upwards of 50,000 miles and several owners under its belt. Mainstream prices are around £40,000 for a 2004 example at a dealership, with generous spec and a tasteful colour combination (very important) and then climb all the way up to £85,000 for a 2008 model with under 10,000 on the clock. The trouble is that they’re shedding around £3,000 a month at the moment, so it makes more sense to buy an early car where the bulk of the depreciation is out of the way.

What To Look For

  • Given its young age and status, you wouldn’t expect to find a ratty looking Conti, but unfortunately they do exist. The question is whether a cheaper buy will work out dearer in the long run to put right.
  • A service history is paramount and preferably one with main dealer stamps as it’s a complex car to keep. Any missing stamps probably point to skipped services rather than deliberate penny pinching. Don’t buy without one or you’ll have the devil’s own job reselling the car and it raises the possibility of expensive repairs later on.
  • Check the big body for wounds, especially the colour-keyed bumpers and the flanks. Light damage can be addressed by a smart repair specialist, but anything major needs dealer repairs – and they don’t come cheap with this car.
  • Similarly, look for stone chip damage at the front, broken grilles, and cracked headlamps. Chipped windscreens shouldn’t be dismissed lightly, either.
  • The Continetal wears 19-inch rims as standard but many cars have the large, sexier 20-inch alloys. Optional chrome-plated wheels can look great but require regular cleaning and are much harder to repair. The wheels take a pounding on the GT, so look for kerb damage. The 20-inchers cost the thick end of a grand each, so negotiate the price down if there’s any scuffi ng. A kerbed car also shows careless ownership, so there may be more trouble lurking in the suspension and steering geometry.
  • Interiors are beautiful and should still be even after hard use. All that cross-stiched leather is a joy to sit on, but worn and shabby trim will cost thousands to put right. Ditto for the luxury pile carpet and chromed accessories.
  • Check what you’re getting. At this level the customer is king and in 2005 Bentley introduced the Mulliner pack which enabled the most popular extras to be added as one. The most obvious upgrade is the 20-inch two-piece, seven-spoke alloy sports wheels with bespoke 275/35 R20 tyres.
  • Also part of the Mulliner package were drilled aluminium sports pedals and footrest, a gear lever fi nished in knurled chrome and hide, bold two-tone leather and veneer combinations with diamond quilted hide to facings, doors and rear quarter panels, ‘Bentley’ marque emblem on the seat facings and dark-stained Burr Walnut or Piano black veneer – and much more…
  • The engine and running gear are reliable if serviced to schedule and no major issues have been reported, although maintenance is timeconsuming and complex.
  • Service item costs such as brakes and exhausts are heinous. If a new set of discs and pads are routinely required (they do get through these due to the performance and weight) then you won’t see change from fi ve grand.
  • As with most modern cars, the electrics can have the occasional wobble. Flat batteries are very common due to the key sensor left too near the vicinity of the car overnight.
  • The electronic parking brake module has been known to fail so check that the fault has been cleared up.
  • Lumpy idle and poor running has been reported, which is usually down to the individual coil packs playing up. This is an old VW/Audi foible and while its relatively easy to diagnose it’s still costly to rectify.
  • Call badge it snobbery if you like but there’s a distinct split among the Bentley boys who regard the GT as mass produced and not a proper Bentley. Steve Brown of Bentley specialist Hanwells (0207 436 2070) is one of the traditionalists and says that the GT attracts a different type of buyer to the Continental R. Indeed, he has had clients buy a GT and return to the fold.
  • Fellow Bentley specialist Chelsea Workshop’s Peter Eatenton says that he has also found enthusiasts drifting back to a Continental R, reckoning that the GT is really a posh Volkswagen and not a real Bentley adding that they are more expensive to keep and lose money fast: “Given a choice between a Continental R and a GT I’d take the R,” says Peter.
  • Frank Dale & Stepsons tries not to become involved with the car, especially when it comes to servicing because of the specialist equipment required. It’s not a fast seller in the independent sector mainly because it’s still associated with main dealers and again the London-based company prefers the more traditional models.

Three Of A Kind

Rolls-Royce Camargue
Rolls-Royce Camargue
Fashionable again after years in the wilderness, the Camargue was the original rich man’s Rolls. No two are the same spec, but who said money buys taste? There are plenty about in dodgy colour combos – a case of history repeating itself? That said, Camargue values are starting to rise so now is the time to buy.
Bentley Continental R
Bentley Continental R
Bentley’s take on the Camargue with classical styling, country house luxury and a more youthful image. Based on the 40-year-old Silver Shadow fl oorpan, road manners are a little crude, but who cares when there’s 420bhp on tap in the T version? Good ones usually cost serious money; Zytek models are most wanted.
Aston Martin DB7 V12 Vantage
Aston Martin DB7 V12 Vantage
The V12 made the DB7 into a serious contender and sold thousands for its trouble. Probably the nearest in concept to the Continental GT, with stump-pulling torque and fearsome power. Early straight six cars are now becoming very affordable.


Comparing the GT with the old Conti is rather pointless – their designs are four decades apart and it shows. Unlike the old stager, there are no creaks or groans, the GT just gets on with it – and that’s its strength. For modern conditions the GT is peerless and it will take anything you throw at it. In a dark colour with light leather and no chavvy tune-ups, it still says you’re a person of taste. The classic Bentley crew might not see it that way yet, but give it time.

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