The Bentley Continental GT, the car that symbolizes the brand’s 21st century revival, is now 20 years old.
Unveiled in 2003, the Continental GT was the first new Bentley created under the Volkswagen Group’s ownership. Before the VW Group takeover, Bentley had mostly languished under Rolls-Royce ownership, selling rebadged versions of Rolls models, which themselves were looking increasingly anachronistic at the turn of the century.
With Rolls-Royce going to BMW under an agreement between the two German automakers, VW had to come up with a new platform for future Bentley models. The automaker’s choice for its first car under VW ownership was an all-wheel-drive coupe powered by a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W-12 engine, with a name and styling referencing the classic 1952 Bentley R Type Continental.
The first-generation Continental GT remained in production for seven years, spawning convertible and Flying Spur sedan body styles, as well as sportier GT Speed and Supersports variants. A major update, considered a second-generation model by Bentley, debuted at the 2010 Paris motor show. The most notable change was the addition of a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 version to the lineup, which formed the basis for a Continental GT3 race car.
Introduced in 2018, the third-generation Continental GT was a true redesign, with completely different exterior styling, updated infotainment technology, and a new dual-clutch transmission among the highlights. This Continental GT, which is still in production today, also added the 48-volt active roll control system first seen in the Bentayga SUV. Coupe and convertible versions remain, along with the Flying Spur, which is still based on the Continental GT but has been further distanced from it as a separate model.
The Continental GT platform has also served as the basis for coachbuilt specials, including the Bacalar convertible and Batur coupe, the latter confirmed by Bentley as its last model to feature the W-12 engine.
To celebrate two decades of the Continental GT, Bentley unveiled a one-off build during 2023 Monterey Car Week. The coupe was inspired by the first Continental GT production car—VIN 2001—sporting that car’s Cypress Green paint, Saddle leather upholstery, and Burr Walnut wood veneer interior. It also sports updates that include carbon-fiber components for the front splitter, side skirts, and spoiler on the outside and green accents and contrast stitching on the inside. It’s set to depart on a 20-stop global tour to commemorate the Continental GT’s 20th anniversary.
As for the future of the Continental GT, an updated version of the current generation is expected to debut in 2024 as a 2025 model. It will likely add the plug-in hybrid powertrain previously seen in the Bentayga Hybrid and Flying Spur Hybrid. An all-electric Continental GT may be in the cards as well, as Bentley is aiming for a fully electric lineup by 2030.
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