Autos

Review: Bentley's 2020 Continental GT First Edition is as good as luxury coupes can get

Share
Key Points
  • The Continental GT helped turn Bentley around 15 years ago.
  • It's all new for 2020 and massively improved.
  • Everything about the Bentley feels refined, elegant and impressive.
The 2020 Bentley Continental GT First Edition
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The Bentley Continental GT is the brand's most important model. When it launched in 2003, it turned the entire company around. Built with help from Bentley's corporate owner Volkwagen, the Continental offered a lower entrance price to the high-dollar brand.

Even in its last year on sale, the previous-generation Continental GT was the brand's second-best seller behind the Bentayga SUV. While the market for luxury grand touring coupes may not be as strong as the red-hot ultra-luxury SUV segment, it's still big for Bentley. Good news for them, then, as the Continental GT is as good as luxury coupes get.

The good

Truth be told, the previous Continental GT never seemed particularly special to us. In our limited experience with it, the interior and technology felt behind much cheaper luxury cars and the driving experience betrayed the car's decade-old roots.

If you did like the other car, though, you'll love this one. Volkswagen's learning issues with luxury car parts sharing have been sorted out to the point where nothing in the Bentley feels out of place. In fact, our $270,115 Continental GT tester's interior was so gorgeous and well-crafted that it beats just about everything else on the market.

The 2020 Bentley Continental GT First Edition
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The control surfaces you touch are a great mix of butter-soft leather in any color you want, elegant knurled aluminum, and high-quality plastics. The rest is quilted leather, wood from any corner of the world you desire, brushed aluminum, polished chrome and glass. Some may find themselves partial to the cabins of a Rolls Royce or Mercedes Maybach, but everything else is so far behind, they aren't relevant.

The exterior design is also a massive leap forward from the old model. No longer bulbous or ungainly, the new Continental looks low, wide and aggressive on the road. Reactions from passersby and others ranged from "the most beautiful car I've ever seen" to "pretty handsome" with our own opinion closer somewhere in the middle. It's impossible to ignore.

The 2020 Bentley Continental GT First Edition
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The outside world, though, is easy to ignore when you're in the driver's seat. The Continental GT is sanctuary quiet around town and unbelievably composed in comfort mode. Turn the drive slector to Sport, though, and you'll quickly realize why they call this the GT.

GT — or Grand Touring — cars are built for effortless, long-distance trips at high speeds. They're an addictive mix of massive power delivered smoothly and luxurious but composed driving dynamics. Aston Martin, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW are known for making great GT cars. After a trip to Boston and back in the Continental GT, though, it seems like Bentley has them all beat.

Even in its less powerful V-8 guise, the Continental GT still packs 542 horsepower. You can step up to a 626-horsepower V-12, even if it's almost impossible to imagine someone needing more power than what the Continental's V-8 pumps out. It doesn't jerk you back in your seat, but it provides a surge of power that makes deeply illegal speeds dangerously easy to access.

The 2020 Bentley Continental GT First Edition
Mack Hogan | CNBC

And that's the key takeaway. It's not just athletic, composed and quick. It's all those things without the drama. In no small part due to the active anti-roll bar — which uses a high-voltage power system to keep the car level through heavy cornerning and bumps — the Continental GT never feels caught off guard or irritated by your pace. It's just effortlessly, impressively fast.

Consider it an express train to wherever you're going, allowing you to make the most of any gap in traffic without the kind of drama that would distract you from the massage your seat is giving you. That's exactly what we're looking for in a GT car.

The 2020 Bentley Continental GT First Edition
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The bad

With any ultra-luxury car, buyers should keep in mind that you're ultimately paying more for things that you can buy in "lesser" vehicles. In terms of technology or luxury equipment, there's not much that Bentley offers that, say, Mercedes or BMW don't. The Bentley is undoubtedly more prestigious, but if you want a luxurious V-8 coupe, there are cheaper options.

Also, we did notice more highway noise than we expected. It was a far cry from loud, but the Continental's insanely insulated in-town experience doesn't directly translate to higher speeds thanks to some noticeable tire roar.

The 2020 Bentley Continental GT First Edition
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Finally, the Bentley does a great job at balancing luxury and speed. But if you're willing to tip the scales heavily to either side, you can get luxury or speed for the price. At $270,115 as equipped, or even at the $198,500 starting price of a Continental, you can get true supercars that offer insane performance.

Or, if you're looking for luxury, the Mercedes-Maybach S650 or Bentley's own Bentayga can mostly match the Continental GT. It's only worth its price if you want a high-speed coupe that's so comfortable and luxurious that you'll want to drive it every day.

The 2020 Bentley Continental GT First Edition
Mack Hogan | CNBC

How we'd option it

Part of the reason you buy a Bentley is because the company offers nearly infinite personalization options, so long as you're willing to pay for them. Not only can you order your Bentley in any color you want, but you can also get hide-to-sample, where the company will make the leather interior of your Bentley match any object you bring them. If you want a Fanta orange Bentley with DHL yellow seats and bamboo trim, you can make that happen.

So we're not going to tell you how to option the perfect Bentley, but there are a few can't-miss options to add to any Continental GT you may order. The first is that active anti-roll bar, which Bentley offers as part of the Bentley Dynamic Ride package for $5,395. Trust us, this technology is a gamechanger when it comes to providing good ride quality without sacrificing cornering dynamics.

The 2020 Bentley Continental GT First Edition
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Second, we'd add the $6,770 Bang & Olufsen for Bentley audio system. If you're going to spend hours at high speeds in a $200,000 luxury car, the soundtrack should be as good as the rest of the car.

Final thoughts

The new Continental GT is phenomenal. It looks great, feels incredible inside and perfectly executes the mission of a Grand Touring car. You can get more technology or speed for less, but the latest Bentley finally delivers what we thought the old Continental did. It feels special.

Every drive feels like an event, every surface feels thought-out and every bit of technology is as sleek and well-implemented as you'd expect. It's a sensational car.

The 2020 Bentley Continental GT First Edition
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Ratings:

Exterior: 4.5

Interior: 5

Driving Experience: 4.5

Value: 3

Overall: 4.25

Price as tested: $270,115

*Ratings out of 5.