Consider, for a moment, the Bentley Continental GT’s ‘diamond-in-diamond’ leather upholstery pattern. The inner diamonds of each contain an astonishing 712 stitches, in a car that has 1.74 miles of stitching in total on a leather interior crafted from nine of the finest cows.
This gives you some idea of the attention to detail that goes into every one of these things, and that’s before we get to the Toblerone-shaped rotating display thing which has a blank side, an infotainment screen side and a side with a lovely set of analogue dials – a temperature gauge, a compass and a chronometer. It’s a thing of beauty.
You could spend all day just staring at these wonderfully-crafted elements and fiddling with the delicious heater vent controls, but that would be a shame, as you’d miss the Conti’s party piece, which is how it drives.
As you’d expect, it rides smoothly on its air suspension, making it exceptional at the very thing it’s built for – making many miles feel like just a few. But where it gets really interesting is when you put it in Sport mode and start to get more acquainted with the W12. It’s at this point something very strange happens – you forget you’re driving a 2244kg car, simply because it doesn’t feel anywhere near that heavy.
There’s a nimbleness to it which just doesn’t make sense, and it’s thanks in large part to the active anti-roll bar. Rather than use an existing system from VW Group, Bentley spent two years developing its own, and it shows. The Continental GT laps up fast changes of direction while the body stays remarkably flat, even when your demands become more unreasonable.
Steering is nicely direct and much heavier than I’d been expecting it to feel, and the traction from the all-wheel drive system at times feels endless. Get carried away, and you will be swiftly reminded of the size and weight of the car – there comes a point when the laws of physics take over and you’re in understeer territory. But, it’s truly impressive what this luxury land yacht can do. Plus, when you’re in Sport, no more than 17 per cent of drive is sent to the front axle, meaning when traction levels do run out, it’s often the rear wheels which come out to play.
The engine is a funny one. In terms of noise, the 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 doesn’t really sound like it’s packing twelve cylinders, belting out a din that’s more akin to an especially muscular V6, with some V8 overtones. You can’t argue with its potency, though; with 626bhp and 664lb ft on offer, it makes 0-62 possible in 3.8 seconds. And because there’s a reasonable helping of turbo lag, you have time to prepare for the engine’s substantial mid-range torque delivery.
The eight-speed dual clutch gearbox started out life as a Porsche PDK unit. Initially, I found the idea of Bentley using a twin-clutch transmission for a luxury car rather than a conventional automatic somewhat baffling, but actually, this box o’ cogs is one of the car’s defining features. When you’re just wafting around you barely notice it shuffling between gears – it’s unbelievably smooth.
When you’re driving quicker, though, the gearbox seems to struggle to make its mind up, with hypersensitive reactions to your changing throttle inputs. For faster driving you’re better off locking it in the manual mode, although it will – annoyingly – shift up for you at the redline. Come on Bentley, is it too much to ask to let me smash my unusual W12 into the rev-limiter every once in a while?
This is one of only a handful of minor blemishes against what might be the best luxury coupe you can buy right now. Yes, the Aston Martin DB11 AMR sounds better and arguably looks better, but it’s not anything like as nice inside, and I’m not sure the fellow Brit is as good an all-round dynamic package.
The base price is £159,100 and it’s shockingly easy to inflate that beyond £200,000. So predictably, it’s not cheap. But if you drop that kind of sum on one of these, I really don’t think you’ll feel short-changed. Just remember the stitching…