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A Bentley For Bond

Published on Sat, Feb 22, 2020

By: John Grafman

Ian Fleming in developing a dashing, suave leading character for his Casino Royale novel turned to the Bentley Continental for influence. Fleming himself owned a 1953 Continental, a motorcar awash in style. The clean, sensible design of the Mid-Century Modern movement is reflected in the Bentley. And, the solid principles of the car are also mirrored in Ian’s fictional character, James Bond.

In the novels, the Bentley Continental is refined in successive stories. The 4.5-liter is modified to 4.9. The supercharger with clutch activation was one of those discrete additions. That would be in keeping with the nature of an agent working on behalf of the crown. Of course, in the cinema versions, Aston Martin is the car we most associate with Bond.

The modifications roaming around in the British author’s mind ceased with the Mark ll Continental conjured-up in His Majesty’s Secret Service. Nevertheless, Bentley Motors has been continually improving its offerings. The real-life legacy is the new Bentley Continental GT First Edition.

The third generation Continental GT is in-keeping with the creative vision of Ian Fleming

Bentley Continental GT V8
Bentley Continental GT V8 Photo: James Lipman /

Bentley Continental GT V8
Photo: James Lipman /

For 2020, the third generation Continental GT is in-keeping with the creative vision Ian Fleming was well-known for. Perhaps, it’s not the beauty, power, or the gadgets that make this version so magnificent, but rather the elevated level at which these are executed at. Refinement and quality are equal parts of the Bond mystique.

The 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged, V8 does not leave anyone wanting for more power, yet there is still a V12 for those so inclined. At 542-horsepower, with 568-lb.-ft of torque between 2,000-4,500 rpm, the curb weight is a non-issue, at least in typical situations.

Blasting to 60-mph takes a scant 3.9-seconds in this GT. The all-wheel drive allows the power to be extracted and transferred effectively, favoring the rear wheels. This falls into a rarified field of supercars that can accomplish sub-four second 0-60 sprints, hold four adults, and operate on petrol.

At 542-horsepower, with 568-lb.-ft of torque between 2,000-4,500 rpm, the curb weight is a non-issue

Bentley Continental GT V8

Fleming’s Q undoubtedly would find the cylinder deactivation a marvel. This seamlessly turns this into a fuel efficient 4-cylinder in an impressive 20 milliseconds when the 8-cylinder power is not required. On our drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs the Bentley Continental GT managed to only consume a nominal 26-mpg while holding steady at a moderate 80 mph. However, a slight blip of the throttle quickly vaporizes the gains.

The eight-speed, dual clutch automatic transmission is unique in how it allows the car to disengage when coasting. With an aerodynamic body and a large mass, this Bentley feels like it can just glide on for forever once enough momentum is achieved. Paddle shifting is both available and for the most part unnecessary. The automatic does a superb job and conforms perfectly to the BDR.

The theoretical range on this grand tourer is over 600 miles with the 23.78-gallon tank on a jaunt out to the desert. Driven extremely conservatively and relying heavily on the adaptive cruise control, it’s relatively frugal. On city streets, the miles between refueling will be substantially less. However, flexing the Bentley’s 4.0-liters capabilities is one of life’s greatest pleasures, sort of like dating a smart super-model. In other words, don’t expect to be getting anywhere near this kind of economy.

Fleming’s Q undoubtedly would find the cylinder deactivation in the new Bentley Continental GT a marvel

Bentley Continental GT V8
Bentley Continental GT V8 Photo: James Lipman /

Now, that range might seem less than impressive until considering the Bentley Continental GT tips the scales at a 4,773 pounds, which is stuffed into body that’s just 55.31” tall and 190.94” long. The Continental GT is not bloated, but rather a rock solid, muscular motorcar.

The area stretching from Palms Springs to La Quinta is accommodating with long straights and flat ground. The city planners also have our best interests at heart with numerous streets with 50-mph speed limits. What more could we ask for?

Roaming the coastal terrain of the Santa Monica Mountains shows the Bentley Continental GT is engineered for agility and adventure. The front and rear hollow, lightweight anti-sway bars coupled with the Bentley Dynamic Ride adaptive chassis allows for a dynamic, confident drive. During the tighter sections of the canyons, the Bentley does indeed feel like a two-ton motorcar, yet it’s also very much in control. No strange or disturbing lateral rolling takes place; however, the feeling of  mass is hard to ignore. This is an exercise in contrast, as cars of this size aren’t supposed to handle anything like this.

The Bentley Continental GT is engineered for agility and adventure

Bentley Continental GT V8

The Continental GT, designed, engineered and handcrafted in Crewe, Great Britain, lives up to its reputation. The buttery smooth operation is spiked with blistering fast action. A squeeze of the peddle on the right almost immediately presses us back into the seat and brings on a tunnel-vision effect. Bentley boys and girls need to focus further down the road than they normally would in most cars, as the distance comes up surprisingly quick.

Racing is in Bentley’s blood, and the Continental GT is no stranger to the track. The iron disc brakes and black painted caliper that consume the void in the 22” wheels are a testament to the decades of heritage. The massive brakes are able to haul this grand tourer back to zero in a hurry, and the response comes in a very predictable fashion, smoothly and effectively.

The functionally elegant design of the interior is complimented with sensory treats, like the Diamond Knurling Specification surface of the Bentley Dynamic Ride (BDR) control on the center console. The knob is tactilely delicious, and the BDR is equally wonderful. The shape and finish were inspired by a ring and is found on the BDR, as well as the organ stop controls, clock bezels, and the bulls-eye vents.

The throaty tone is vaguely reminiscent of the Merlin aero engine

Bentley Continental GT V8

Certainly, the controller is fancy, but it’s what this actually does that capture’s the imagination of any enthusiast. Not only will a turn of the BDR knob adjust the height of the three-chamber air suspension to one of four levels, but it affects how the power comes on, and the rewarding, popping burble coming from the tailpipes. The throaty tone is vaguely reminiscent of the Merlin aero engine. Oh, it should be mentioned that bringing on the power has a tendency of devouring the fuel in a most rapid fashion. The BDR conveniently changes the demeanor of the this. This feature is also an extra charge of $5,395.00.

This model is not only a First Edition, but it’s also a Centennial Edition. This celebrates one hundred years from 1919-2019 with badges on the hood, trunk, wheel centers, and the key fob. This is identifiable by a Centenary Gold metallic detail that encompasses the iconic Bentley “B” on badging. And, it’s hard to miss the welcome (puddle) light illuminating the ground beneath, while the treadplates provide a further reminder of the history of the brand. This added bling comes in the form of the $1,850.00 Centenary Package. While hundreds of car manufacturers have come and gone in the past century, Bentley Motorcars is one of the very few to stand the test of time.

The discrete Union Flag badging on the side of the fenders, tread plates, and on the dashboard indicate the First Edition model, which symbolizes, as the name implies, this is the first of the new model. This is combination of several optional packages; the Mulliner Driving, City, and Touring Specifications. That’s the cold, factual meaning. If asked what the First Edition means in a sensory, single word the answer would probably be “Brilliant”.

Bentley Motorcars is one of the very few to stand the test of time

Bentley Continental GT V8

The combination includes nearly an A-Z of what Bentley can offer. Features in the Mulliner Driving Spec include primarily appearance related upgrades. These are 22” lightweight forged alloy wheels with black or bright paint in either hand or fully polished finishes, the stylish Diamond-In-Dimond  quilted stitching on seats, door and rear quarter panels, a wider selection of veneers, the drilled alloy foot pedals, indented leather headliner, and the jeweled-finished fuel filler cap.

The City Specification groups the key options for around-town convenience. This entails the top view camera, traffic sign recognition, pedestrian and reverse traffic warning, city assist, automatic dimming mirrors, and hands-free boot opening.

Complimenting the City Spec is the Touring Specification option package for those longer drives. The most appreciated head-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, night vision, and the Bentley Safeguard Plus (which intervenes if there is a potential frontal collision).

One of the most expensive optional packages from any OEM at a breathtaking $47,765.00

Bentley Continental GT V8

The combined options create the First Edition package, which is certainly one of the most expensive optional packages from any OEM at a breathtaking $47,765.00. That being said, these features are wonderful, as we note in our coverage.

The raked back windscreen and trailing roofline are one uninterrupted form. Besides the attractiveness of the flowing shape, this proves friendly at triple-digit speeds. In fact, this model is capable of 198 MPH. Assisting stability is a recessed, integrated rear wing that is automatically or manually deployed. And for the record, we didn’t come close to the top speed on public streets and highways, however the thought did cross our minds.


Bentley Continental GT V8

From the front, the gracefully sculpted fender with refined character lines showcase the design talent at Bentley. The oval, LED taillamps are a dead giveaway that this is not the same as the prior model. Furthermore, the rear of the car is what most are seeing anyway given the power of the V8. These feel very at home with the curves of the body, albeit the lamps do not directly mimic the body.


Bentley Continental GT V8

The interior certainly does not disappoint. The Bentley Continental GT First Edition offers one of the finest interiors imaginable. Standard, one can pick from five premium leather colors sure to satisfy, however optional choices like the Linen colored hides against Beluga dyed leather captivates immediately as the door opens. The door panel and seats are magnificent with the elaborate Diamond-In-Diamond patterned stitching. As the seats are works of art, it’s questionable if anyone should ever be allowed to plop their rear into these quilted and leather embossed masterpieces. The 20-way adjustable controls include massagers with various, easy to change on the touch screen settings. As expected, the controls also adjust the side bolsters, lumbar support, and the headrest. The cooling and heating settings reside on the center console.

Bentley Continental GT V8

Surprisingly, the dash is very much what Ian Fleming would conceive of. The exceptionally clean dash and instrument panel are by virtue of a well-integrated center screen. This is a slap in the face of the floating, tablet-esque screens that seem far too prevalent. What Bentley does is open up the design by screen placement. But wait, there’s more. With a push of a button the screen rotates, like the license plate on James Bond’s DB5. Viola! The screen disappears and in its place a set of gauges materializes in the center console.

This marriage of new technology and old is wonderful, even if used sparingly. As most of the functionality lies on the screen, which includes everything from audio, to climate, to navigation, it’s clear that the gauges will only be used for special moments. But, this does draw further connectivity between the 2020 model and those that Fleming fell in love with.

The new Bentley Continental GT First Edition screen rotates, like the license plate on James Bond’s DB5

Bentley Continental GT V8

However, for the vast majority of the enthusiasts out there it isn’t the keyless entry and start that will keep them from running away with the new Bentley Continental GT First Edition… it’s the price. While the basic price for the GT is a relatively reasonable $198,500. Optioned up with all the goodies, this breaks the bank at a $284,659.00.

As the saying goes, what separates the men from the boys is the size of their toys. And as you can imagine, Santa might just have a tough time getting this toy onto his sleigh or down the chimney. On the other hand, old Saint Nick probably won’t be too upset if he has to personally hand deliverthe Bentley Continental GT First Edition himself to garages of a few fortunate boys and girls. And by the way, don’t be too surprised if Santa Claus arrives just a few days late!

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