Motoring write IAN LAMMING shares the dream in the new Bentley Continental GT

DARLING? Should we take the Bentley? I’ve always wanted to say that and now I have.

Granted it prompted a quizzical raised eyebrow from t’other half who is not used to such spontaneous displays of demonstrative affection, and from my mate Andrew when I offered him a ride out. But it’s not every day you get to drive such a legendary brand, so live dangerously I say.

Driving Bentley’s latest Continental GT was a bit like driving a taxi service. Even the quasi-in-laws drove 85 miles from North East to North West just to be chauffeured to lunch in style.

The oohs, the aahs, the groans of overt satisfaction, were more than enough to tell me that Bentley has done something special with the new model, in fact it was difficult enough getting out of the car park without being approached by people wanting a closer gander; men, ladies, old and young, the response was truly astonishing.

The last time I drove the Continental it was at an airfield where I was forced by instructors to pilot it in a most unseemly fashion to demonstrate the values of its electronic driving aids. It involved smoking the tyres, spinning doughnuts and standing the Bent on its nose. In a cringe-worthy sort of way it was as fun as it was wrong on so many levels and it was a bit of a distraction from the point at hand.

Not so this time for this grandest of tourers. This time there was time to enjoy the sheer opulence of the interior; the gorgeous tan leather, the beautifully tactile steering wheel from which the Bentley winged moniker winks forth.

The interior is a feast of British craftsmanship – it’s amazing to see what can come out of Crewe. It is just plain lovely, lavish, affluent. It’s like a kid leather glove as you slip inside the glorious cockpit to gorge your senses on chrome and alloy, tradition and the latest technology.

The perfect example of how Bentley has melded tradition with technology is offered by a simple switch on the dash that reads ‘screen’. Press that and the wide touchscreen satnav and infotainment centre flips James Bond-style to reveal three traditional clocks – temperature gauge, stopwatch and compass. The interior really is peerless and the nod to history manifesting itself in the chrome pull-push plungers for the air-vents are a delightful touch.

The exterior is non-too-shabby either. New Continental retains the broad shoulders of its predecessor, its swooping coupe lines, its immense presence. But the taillamps are now a tad tidier and the enormous mesh grille so much more aggressive and sporty. It’s a great new look, as the gentlemen visiting our local gastro-pub appreciated when he had to climb into his older model. It still looks good, but I could see envy in his eye.

Most passengers would have been happy staying in the car park, sitting in the sumptuous gentleman’s club of an interior. But that would have been a shame because this car is also built to be driven.

Look at the spec. Under the long, long bonnet is a completely new 6.0 litre, twin-turbocharged W12 engine. It is mammoth producing 635PS, enough to propel this solid GT from 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and deliver a phenomenal top speed of 207mph.

To do this it uses an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, for smooth and very rapid gear changes putting the immense power down through all four wheels. Acceleration is stupendous but supremely controlled so there’s no hint of torque steer or loss of traction. All very refined, all very Bentley.

Handling is solid and confidence-inspiring too. It’s sleek but also a big solid lump which only goes in one direction – where you tell it. You sit relatively low and it is very long and wide which makes you instinctively take extra care, particularly on relatively narrow country roads. But the electric steering is light and offers plenty of feedback encouraging spirited and rewarding driving.

Hurling it around hot-hatch style would be unseemly of course, it would be the equivalent of gobbling down your lobster thermidor like a Big Mac.

Bentley Continental GT is fine dining personified, a tasty treat to be savoured and shared with as many people as possible.

Fact File
Bentley Continental GT
Engine: 6.0 litre W12
Power: 635PS
0-60mph:  3.6 secs
Top speed: 207mph
Combined MPG: 23.3
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
CO2 g/km: 278
Price: from £160,000.00