Meet the Bentley Continental GT S, Robb Report’s 2023 Car of the Year
Nearly 20 years ago, Bentley introduced its W-12-powered Continental GT, breaking new ground with an ultra-luxe “personal” GT that delivered blistering performance in keeping with the marque’s prestigious pedigree. We well remember inviting the brand-new Bentley Continental GT to participate in the 2004 Robb Report Car of the Year (COTY). Our editorial team knew it was a groundbreaking car for Bentley, the brand recently acquired by the Volkswagen Group at the time and making a best effort to catapult itself into the 21st century.
We shouldn’t have been surprised when it was named that year’s winner, given the brilliant 12-cylinder engine, German-infused precision and a rakish profile that tipped its hat to the glory days of the automaker’s R2 Continental. Never mind that most of today’s Bentley owners weren’t even alive—much less driving—when the first Continental hit the road in 1952.
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Our readers’ infatuation with the Continental had only just begun, and because the world loves a convertible, the Continental GTC took Car of the Year honors in 2007, the model’s first year on the market as a drop-top. The Continental Supersports checked in for the 2010 COTY session, and based on the sheer excess of power it so beautifully put to pavement, some might have wagered that it’d have taken top honors. But that Bentley Brutalé ended up mid-pack, we suspect due to its purpose-built racing-style seats, lack of rears and an uncompromising deference to handling over sublime comfort.
The 2019 model year ushered in an all-new car, with a redesigned W-12 mill and updated styling that was altogether more sculpted and aggressive than the first-generation cars. Throughout the years, Bentley’s Continental was also named Robb Report’s Best of the Best, and by 2022, it was once again the Car of the Year champion in the guise of the flawless GT and GTC. (We had a convertible in California and a coupe in Florida, and astute Bentleyphiles will know that both cars are essentially identical apart from the roof.)
Those entries checked all the boxes for performance, luxury, quality and comfort, kind of like the very first Bentley Continental GT did when it claimed the COTY title in 2004. The engine’s fat torque curve is as satisfying as the vehicle’s opulent interior, a padded luxury cocoon that ensconces its occupants in leather, wood and carbon trim, as well as lots of tasteful metallic details to delight the eye. The rear seats are essentially useless, but the front chairs invite day-long drives without fanfare or fatigue. Our judges recognized the Bentley Continental GT and GTC as the quintessential grand tourers, thanks to the combination of power and agility matched by the comfort and capacity of a luxury sedan. That car’s signature is its twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter power plant producing 650 hp and even more torque to all four wheels, taking the more than 5,000-pound GT to a top speed of 208 mph.
So, without prejudice or preconceived notions, the editors thought it would be an interesting exercise to invite the Bentley Continental GT S, the V-8-powered variant (and the convertible GTC S) to the COTY party for 2023. To the uninitiated, they look nearly identical to their more muscular stablemates. And these were new Continentals, having more sporting pretensions than their eight-cylinder predecessors, with 542 hp and 568 ft lbs of torque.
Would they show us how to solve the same Continental equation with four fewer cylinders while shaving a year of ivy-league college tuition off the MSRP? They would, and if you like your motoring pleasure delivered in quilted-leather finery, then the Continental GT S and GTC S may be the best-kept secrets to come from England since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle talked to Oprah.
Coupe or convertible, the latest Continental GT combines bold sports styling with an agile drive, resulting in a luxury grand tourer with a thrilling edge. Instantly recognizable, thanks to its dark exterior detailing, this S iteration is a leaner, meaner take on the Continental GT. Of course, a few judges with keys to a W-12 version in their pocket were not as wowed by the V-8, and that’s to be expected. Plus, our editorial trio wasn’t quite as enamored as were our judges, unanimously choosing the Maserati MC20 as their COTY winner.
Viewed objectively, though, the lighter, nimbler Continental GT S had so much good going for it that it won by a relative landslide. Response was almost universally positive, resonating with comments like, “This car is still king of the hill” and “You can drive it every day and never be bored.” Or simply, “Best car I’ve ever driven!”
Click here for more photos of the Bentley Continental GT S, Robb Report’s 2023 Car of the Year.
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