2003-11 Bentley Continental GT Buying Guide

The first Bentley to be launched under VW ownership, the Continental GT is now one of the most cost-effective ways into the brand

How much to pay

• Project £18,000-22,000 • Good £30,000-45,000 • Concours £50,000-65,000 •
• Most expensive at auction: £75,500 (2011 GT Supersports)

Overview

Practicality ★★★
Running costs ★★
Spares ★★★
DIY friendly
Investment ★★
Desirability★★★

VW's takeover of Bentley caused many to worry that this quintessentially English manufacturer would lose its ‘Britishness’ – but with the benefit of hindsight, the concern was thankfully unfounded.

The Continental GT was the first model to be produced under the new collaboration, featuring the W12 engine and all-wheel-drive running gear from the recently launched VW Phaeton. With the aid of two turbochargers, the Continental GT offered strong performance and harked back to the days when Bentley produced similar grand touring sports cars for the discerning few.

The difference this time around was a German level of reliability – and far higher production numbers. A mechanically identical four-door Flying Spur arrived in 2005 (which is not covered in our guide), and a convertible GTC was introduced in 2006 (which is).

Numerous small improvements were carried out throughout the Continental GT's production, but the major changes arrived in 2007 with the introduction of the 600bhp GT and GTC Speed variants. An even more focused Supersports version was made available in 2009, which raised performance to monocle-popping new heights. A comprehensive facelift was carried out in 2011, but these essentially new models are outside the scope of this guide.

The continuous development effort put into the Continental GT makes the later versions more accomplished machines, but there are great bargains to be had if you can find a well maintained early car.

Your AutoClassics Bentley Continental GT inspection checklist

Engine

Based on the Phaeton W12 unit, which in turn was developed from two VR6 engines, the Continental GT added two turbochargers into the mix, resulting in a powerful and reliable motor. Regular oil services help ensure that it keeps running smoothly, and fresh oil also extends the life of the turbochargers; blue smoke can spell a pending turbo failure.

Sparkplugs are expensive and a pain to access, so check that they have been replaced every four years.

Cars with very low mileage should be approached with caution. Most specialists tend to agree that there are more issues with infrequently used examples than with ones that have been driven and serviced regularly.

Coil packs tend to fail on occasion, and a small number of head-gasket issues have also been reported. A damaged or corroded radiator core can contribute to the head-gasket problem, so check that all is in order as the head-gasket repair is an engine-out job.

A recall was issued on cars built up until mid-March 2008. This was to rectify an issue where the fuel filter could corrode, resulting in the possibility of fuel leaking out.

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Gearbox

The six-speed automatic gearbox is a sturdy unit, despite the level of torque on offer. Issues can usually be traced down to faulty electrical connectors. If the car has a jerky downchange or exhibits a delay between gearchanges, then get a specialist to take a closer look.

Suspension and brakes

All Continentals have air-suspension with adjustable dampers; post-2008 models feature slight revisions to some of the components, but all should be relatively trouble-free maintenance wise. Worn rubber bushes can make themselves known by any undue knocking noises when traversing bumps.

Brake discs are massive steel units on most models and should not require any special attention. Replacement discs can be pricey, but nothing like what a set of the optional carbon-ceramics will cost if they are damaged.

A recall on all cars built up until early 2008 was carried out to resolve a potential issue of loss of brake pressure due to a faulty engine clip and brake pipe.

A second recall was issued on cars fitted with the carbon-ceramic brakes, where the screws holding the rear rotors could work loose on the rear axle. One worth checking up on.

The electronic parking-brake unit tends to give problems, and replacements are available from the official agents for a price. Tyre-pressure sensors have a five-year lifespan due to their integrated batteries running flat, so check that they are functioning correctly.

Bodywork

The steel bodywork should be rust free, although the flat front end is a magnet for small stones. GTC models have a complex roof mechanism that doesn’t seem to have any inherent issues. However, if the fabric hood is damaged or the hydraulics or ECU are malfunctioning, prepare for some big bills.

Interior

The Continental GT was packed with electronics, and issues tend to come through corroded switches or damaged wiring.

Evidence of damp in the footwells could mean issues with the electronics in the future, as a lot of the wiring is routed through this area. Electric seat controls can malfunction, too, so check that they all work correctly.

The interior is superbly built and should be in good condition, even on high-mileage cars. The vast choice of personalisation available to owners means that colour matching can be tricky if panels need repairing.

History

  • 2003: 552bhp twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 Bentley Continental GT introduced.
  • 2006: Convertible GTC introduced.
  • 2007: 600bhp GT and GTC Speed arrive to complement standard model.
  • 2009: 621bhp GT and GTC Supersports with no rear seat and carbon-fibre trim introduced.
  • 2011: Drastically updated and facelifted Continental GT replaces first-generation model.

AutoClassics say…

The prospect of a bargain-priced Continental GT can be very tempting, but buy a poor-condition vehicle and you will soon be out of pocket. Take your time and find the right one – there are plenty to choose from.

The inherent reliability and mechanical solidity of these models does mean that well maintained high-milers are sometimes preferable to garage queens that may require a fortune to get right.

All versions feature four-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic gearbox. The most desirable first-generation cars are the racy, stripped-out Supersports models, which did without rear seats.

If you intend to use your Continental as a grand tourer, then the less compromised 2009-on Speed models may be a better bet. GTCs tend to command a premium over the coupes and offer similar levels of performance; keep an eye out for the optional Mulliner Driving Package, as this added a number of desirable extras such as diamond-quilted seats and unique alloys.

Specifications

6.0-litre W12
  Power 552bhp
  Top speed 190mph
  0-60mph 4.7sec
  Economy 16mpg

6.0-litre W12 Speed
  Power 600bhp
  Top speed 200mph
  0-60mph 4.4sec
  Economy 15mpg

6.0-litre W12 Supersports
  Power 621bhp
  Top speed 206mph
  0-60mph 3.8sec
  Economy 14mpg

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