2019 Bentley Continental GT first drive review: the stuff of dreams

The day begins in a Sequin Blue 2019 Bentley Continental GT at the exclusive Kitzbuhel Country Club in the Tyrolean region of Austria. Set against verdant rolling hills and tooling through storybook villages, it would be easy to think one is lost in a fairy tale.

This car’s cabin is outfitted with two-tone Portland (cream) and Imperial Blue leather upholstery with Liquid Amber wood over Piano Black veneer trim.

It’s hand-crafted and beautiful, and the front seats coddle occupants with 20-way adjustments in pod-like alcoves akin to first-class airline seats on overseas flights. It’s useful, too, as Bentley provides rails for storage along the sides of the center console in addition to the console bin and door pockets.

The two back-seat positions can be used, even by adults, but that will require intense negotiations with front seat occupants over leg room, and nobody will be happy with the settlement. The trunk is fairly roomy, too, with 12.6 cubic feet of cargo space—about as much as you get in a compact sedan.

While this cabin is brilliant, Bentley offers more adventurous trim and upholstery options for its third-generation Continental GT, like the new diamond-in-diamond quilted leather. Each diamond features 712 stitches and the cabin has almost two miles of thread.

The new Côtes de Genève trim also holds more visual interest than Piano Black. A 0.6 mm-tick machined-aluminum panel inspired by the mechanical beauty of Swiss watches, Côtes de Genève won’t show finger smudges like black, either.

The Liquid Amber wood looks wonderful. Each Conti GT has more than 10 square meters of wood, and company craftsmen spend nine hours hand-setting the wooden inlays.

Look further to uncover some true surprise-and-delight elements. Available diamond-knurled dials serve as both a tactile treat for the fingers and a link to Bentley’s past. By contrast, the modern three-position center display puts on a show as it switches from a wood face to a row of performance dials to a 12.3-inch touchscreen. More than 40 moving parts rotate the screen.

That screen, as well as the digital instrument panel display, come by way of Audi thanks to Bentley’s Volkswagen Group ownership. The two provide the functionality of today’s best infotainment systems, including such features as Apple CarPlay, Google point-of-interest search, and real-time-traffic information. The digital cluster may be useful, but something is lost by the lack of watch-like instrument dials of Bentleys past.

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Enough appreciating this beautiful cabin. Time to focus on the drive.

From behind the wheel, the Continental GT imparts a solid, seemingly weighty feel, like it was carved from a single block of steel, or, more appropriately, aluminum.

The roads of this Tyrolean tour make for slow going, though, as they link one quaint village to another. Among these rich green hills, baroque chalets, and the occasional gothic church, a slow pace suits the drive. The scenery provides the entertainment. Now is a good time to test the driver assistance systems, which are also likely on loan from Audi.

Bentley outfits the car with adaptive cruise control, active lane control, traffic jam assist (a combination of those first two), blind-spot monitors, night vision, and forward-collision warnings. The systems work as advertised. The news is that the Continental GT gets a full spate of safety features, bringing it in line with modern luxury cars.

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