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Bentley Continental GT

Bentley Continental GT Published: 2nd Apr 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: GTC
  • Worst model: Anything suspect
  • Budget buy: Early high miler
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L4808 x W1918mm
  • Spares situation: Fine but expensive
  • DIY ease?: None whatsoever
  • Club support: Actually quite good
  • Appreciating asset?: Not yet, still depreciating
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Bang-up-to-date Bentley Continental offers terrific metal and muscle for your money with all-wheel drive grip and security. VW origins makes it a no-goer for traditionalists and they can be incredibly expensive to maintain. Unfortunate WAG image and questionable future classic status

The next time you’re asked to name a famous Belgian, just say Dirk van Braeckel. He’s the designer who penned the Bentley Continental GT, and if you’re wondering how he came up with such a shapely car then bear in mind that he owned an E-type at the time! How a Belgian ended up at Bentley is the result of the company being owned by Volkswagen since the end of the last century.

Which brings us to the most contentious issue which dictates whether you’d even contemplate owning ‘The Peoples’ Supercar’ and that is when is a Bentley not a Bentley? When it’s a Volkswagen! Because peel back the sexy skin on the GT and you’ll essentially find a VW Phaeton W12 saloon underneath. That’s treachery and even blasphemy to many traditionalists yet the bastardization of the Bentley name hasn’t hurt the GT’s – or ‘Baby Bentley’ as it quickly became known as – popularity, particularly to a new generation of well heeled if not bred buyers who probably care little about Bentley’s rich history and heritage anyway.

As a modern classic the Conti is almost in a class of its own. Their sheer numbers churned out since its launch back in 2003 means that values have been dropping like anvils to the point where you can now pick one up for under £20,000 – or the price of a top TR6! We’re not saying that a modern Bentley will be as cheap to run as the Triumph because it won’t. But if you own say a Mulsanne Turbo or an X300 XJ then the jump won’t be that great. Tempted?

History

1998 The VAG group always has a platform or two under development and at the time the German scooped up Bentley (with BMW taking Rolls-Royce) it was progressing with a big saloon labelled Group D1 that was to become the flagship Volkswagen Phaeton. As a showcase for the company, this large, luxurious limo used a 450bhp 6-litre W12 engine to give it supercar pace, allied to an all-wheel drive drivetrain to harness it all.

2003 The basic DNA of the Phaeton was too good not to be put to good use elsewhere and a new and far more modern Bentley was concocted to appeal to a new younger buying base. Thus the contentious Continental GT was born. Turbocharged

Good Buy Or Good Bye ?

A bargain but depends how you like your Bentleys

Driving And Press Comments

If you want to get a taste on what a Continental is like to drive but are afraid to wander into a posh Bentley dealership, pop down to a VW agent instead and take a W12 Phaeton out for a spin as they are surprisingly similar; if anything the Volkswagen saloon is the smoother and more refined transport!

Comments that the GT isn’t a real Bentley and comparisons with the Mulsanne-based Continental are inevitable . 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 1960’s-based Silver Shadow origins. Don’t let the Continental’s Volkswagen hardware prejudice your judgement. The GT is a wonderful experience that does justice to any badge quite frankly.

Iron fist in a velvet glove springs to mind although early models did lack the sort of refinement you expect from the very best; the ride can be jarring on rough surfaces, tyre noise is disappointingly loud, especially with the lorry-like 20inch wheel option and early W12 engines lost their smoothness at high revs – it depends what you are used to – but apart from Audi’s R8 supercar, there can’t be an easier 500bhp

Prices

Using a specialist contains costs. Taylor’s of West Sussex, for example, quotes £540 for a 50,000 mile service, £388 to replace front brake pads and just under £1200 if discs are required – all prices for pre 2007 cars and excluding VAT, incidentally but using Bentley replacement parts.

However other repairs,and quite simple ones can be pricey. Such as indicator renewal where the bumper has to be removed – a six hour job. And almost £2000 to replace the high level rear brake light because the screen has to come out. In fact, some repairs are becoming so expensive that it may render the car as scrap. Happily, experts like Intro Car (now relocated to Wimbledon) specialises in both new and used components (0208 546 2027/ http://www.Introcar.com).

Independent Chris Lees who is based in Buckinghamshire (01494 675211) says running a GT is pricey and has caught many ex BMW and Jaguar drivers trading up, on the hop. The basics are fine, it’s the electronics which are expensive to repair which is why it is imperative to buy a good car from the outset – check the V5 for how many owners it’s been through, it advises, adding post 2007 models are better built and more durable.

The GT is still a rapidly depreciating classic which is both good news and bad news. The former because it means that you can pick one up retail for under £25,000 and perhaps £17K at auction. The improved 2008 line is available from £45,000 which is just above the values of the first convertibles and on par with original Speeds.

Steve Brown of Hanwells of London (020 8567 9729) predicts that values won’t fall much below £15,000 before levelling and says you have to be careful of what you buy, chiefly due to those electronics and mind boggling repair costs – it’s a modern after all.r all.

What To Look For

BODY

  • Check that big bulky body for damage, 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 calibre of car.
  • Similarly, look for stone chip damage at the front, broken grilles, and cracked headlamps – all of which are horrendously expensive to replace. Chipped windscreens shouldn’t be dismissed lightly, either.

An auto only, but suits car. Console houses damper controls – work in all modes on test drive to check for more than 550bhp, the Coupé was priced comfortably under the prices of the traditional Bentleys at £120,000 and such was the demand that production was soon cranked up to 11,000 a year at Crewe where the car was co-developed and the W12 engines hand built. 2005 A drophead badged the GTC is added, broadly similar to the Coupé along with an often overlooked longer wheel-based Flying Spur saloon.

2007 As if the car isn’t bespoke enough, special versions were introduced, such as the ‘Speed’ models where its 600bhp and 553lbft of muscle made mincemeat out of established supercars. The Speed was the first Bentley to beat the 200mph barrier but for some this wasn’t enough…

2009 And so a lightened two-seater Speedsports was produced.

By shaving 110kg from the Continental’s considerable weight and upping the ante to 621bhp, 0-60mph took less than four seconds which made even the ‘Bentley Boys’ traditionalists sit up and take notice!

GENERAL

  • Given its young age and status, you wouldn’t expect to find a ratty looking Conti, but they exist all to well. The question is whether a cheaper buy will work out dearer in the long run to put right. And the answer is yes. Contact the owners club for advice –www. bdcl.org (Bentley Drivers’ Club).
  • 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 at any price plus it raises the possibility of expensive repairs later on.
  • The Continetal originally ran on 19-inch rims as standard but many cars have the larger, sexier 20-inch alloys. Optional chrome-plated wheels look great but require regular cleaning and are much harder to repair when kerbed.
  • 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 scuffing. A kerbed car also shows careless ownership, so there may be more trouble lurking in the suspension and steering geometry.
  • 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.
  • Talking of tyres, the GT comes with clever tyre pressure sensors which are battery powered (lasting around four years). Sounds minor but to replace these at almost £150 per wheel and have the tyres and rims re-balanced a frightening four figure bill may be the end result for a trivial fault…

slingshot to drive ridiculously fast or possess such all round usability and driving ease than this Continental.

Even the most enthusiastic of enthusiasts can’t fail to be impressed by the GT’s all round ability either. 0-60mph in under five seconds and a 198mph top speed is fast by anybody’s standards and the Speed is even quicker! Discerning drivers may feel that, like the Mulsanne Turbo, the sheer size, bulk and weight of this two tonne GT means it’s not exceptionally agile but it’s a minor point for the majority of enthusiasts and the GTC, despite being a convertible, feels just like the stiffer Coupé to drive. Volkswagen left it to Bentley to deal with the details, so the cabin is pure old-school British craftsmanship.

You can’t fault the build, ambience and comfort. It’s roomier than the old Continental, too and more economical although you’d be lucky to regularly touch 20mpg unless you simply want one to waft around in – and there’s nothing wrong in that.

The press liked the car but with one common reservation, chiefly due to the GT’s size and weight. “This isn’t the car you’d take to a track day… Even on a fast road, the Bentley isn’t as exciting as perhaps it could be,” cited one road test although it praised the impressive grip that “only outright clumsiness will unstuck either end” and recommended that the standard and comfort settings on the adjustable dampers “are all you need for most conditions”.

What Car? magazine commented that, “It might be fast, but the GT is by no means a raw sports car”, because the car is almost “library quiet”.

Engine

  • The engine and running gear are reliable if serviced to schedule and no major issues have been reported, although maintenance is time consuming (the spark plugs (£160’s worth) are a nightmare to replace) and complex and so expensive. Happily, there’s no cambelts to replace but woebetide if a head gasket goes as it’s a sealed engine and a replacement costs £16,000!
  • 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 across their ranges and while its relatively easy to diagnose and – in Bentley terms – not dear at £350 a set.
  • Turbos are durable although only top quality lubricants must be used and is dear to service.

ELECTRICS

  • As with most modern cars, the electrics can have the occasional wobble but on a GT it can work out expensive. Check that everything works as it should. Flat batteries (and the GT relies upon a pair of them) are very common due to all the motors and things used as well as 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.
  • With all those sensors and relays, fault finding is complex and specialist so don’t dismiss any fault as trivial. A defective starter motor, for instance, requires the engine to be removed to gain access!
  • The automatic transmission and all wheel drive system is very robust. Faults are mainly electrical caused by duff connections and relays etc, both at the transmission and the engine’s ECU, but have it checked out by a Bentley specialist to be sure.
  • RUNNING GEAR
    • L/H footwell is where a multitude of electronics and relays reside and water ingress is common – you know the rest! This can require a complete rewire which even a specialist will ask around £15,000 to do!
    • Service item costs such as brake discs and pads are heinous and they do get through these due to the performance and weight (especially the fronts) then you won’t see change from five grand.
    • Adjustable dampers don’t appear to cause any problems although check the individual settings on a test drive. It’s hefty but spring sag shouldn’t be a worry but like on all moderns, watch for broken ones.
    • An annoying knocking on the move is usually nothing more serious than tired anti roll bar bushes and in particular the drop links. This is a common ailment on many moderns and the Continental is no different, although happily it’s one of the cheapest repairs you’ll find at around £50 a go.

Three Of A Kind

ROLLS-ROYCE CAMARGUE
ROLLS-ROYCE CAMARGUE
This was the Baby Bentley of the 1970s although it was the dearest in the Rolls range. Drives much like the Shadow it’s based upon but no two are the same spec. There are plenty about in dodgy colour combos. Fashionable after years in the wilderness, 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 – it’s also a far better car all round. Based on the Shadowderived Mulsanne, road manners can be a little crude, but performance isn’t lacking; Zytek models are most wanted, Cabrios, in particular SCs, lovely but can leak.
ROLLS-ROYCE CORNICHE
ROLLS-ROYCE CORNICHE
Classiest choice of the whole lot, it didn’t become a Corniche until 1971 and survived for almost a quarter of a century. A bit quicker than the Shadow while Corniche S used Mulsanne Turbo power but these dignified delights are more for cruising. A lot dearer to buy and run than a Shadow saloon.

Verdict

The Continental GT is a fabulous car and early models look incredible value for money, but whether it will become a classic is an on-going argument which rages in Bentley circles and we’d say that the majority of specialists feel that it won’t be and instead suffer the ignominy of following in the tyre tracks of the Mulsanne before picking up and becoming collectible. In the end it depends what you consider to be a classic.



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