It was two years ago when Bentley first earned a spot on the Wards 10 Best Interiors list for the Bentayga, a boldly proportioned SUV with a lavish cabin that paid homage to the brand’s legacy interior design cues while blending in fresh features permitted by a tall roof and room to spare.
This year, a new chapter on British super-luxury is being written by the Bentley Continental GT, a 2019 Wards 10 Best Interiors winner.
The Continental is a breathtakingly beautiful four-passenger coupe that lacks the Bentayga’s perceived roominess but arguably outshines its bigger brother with a flowing grace and sinewy design language that better incorporates the central display screen and center console, both of which slope away from the driver for good ergonomics.
Perhaps the Continental’s most striking interior design element is the expertly finished decorative wood planks that sweep dramatically across the instrument panel. This trim, available in two types of wood separated by a thin, bright strip of chrome, tapers like stretched taffy as it extends along the doors back toward both B-pillars, enveloping the front-row occupants.
We could talk all day about the details that make the Continental interior unforgettable: exquisitely knurled knobs, the diamond-within-diamond stitching on the seats and doors (pictured below), the artistically machined aluminum in the center console, the 10 northern European cowhides covering most of the interior’s surface area.
And let’s not forget the old-school touches, such as the chrome organ pulls to open the circular, louvered vents. Bentley’s development team took advantage of the latest digital design tools but also incorporated the past in validating the final product and fabricated a full clay model of the interior, trimmed in real leather.
The Continental also benefits from Bentley’s 20-year ownership by parent Volkswagen Group in the application of new technologies that make this coupe thoroughly modern, such as lightning-fast phone pairing, massaging seats, a responsive haptic 12.3-in. (31.2-cm) touchscreen and the reconfigurable high-resolution Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster.
Wards editors praise the Continental GT for being “as quiet as an empty church” and declare the “industry is better with Bentley alive and kicking.” In assessing the fit-and-finish, we could not find a single seam out of place.
It takes 1,000 workers 100 hours to handcraft a Continental GT interior at the plant in Crewe, U.K., including nine hours to assemble the book-matched veneer.
Well-heeled buyers can order one exactly as desired, as if fitted by a Savile Row tailor. There are literally thousands of combinations of wood, carpet, leather and metallic materials, which explains the $276,730 sticker price of the European-spec model we tested.
These are the times we as Wards editors thank our lucky stars we decided many years ago to place no price cap on nominees for the 10 Best Interiors competition.
In fairness, customers are getting a whole lot more for their money than just interior finery, such as specially polished alloy rims ($13,000) and the melding of two V-6s under one hood to form a 626-hp W-12 that makes this car shockingly fast.
It doesn’t take much to rack up $50k in options when buying a Bentley. “You can look at all the handwork and craftsmanship to understand the cost,” editor Drew Winter writes on his scoresheet. For the record, half of Bentley owners lease rather than buy.
Inside and out, the Continental GT delivers rarefied levels of craftsmanship, comfort and luxury, while oozing grace and sophistication. One great example on the dashboard is the “Bentley Rotating Display,” a $6,270 option that spins at the touch of a button like a spiffy James Bond car to show the touchscreen or plain wood or three metallic-trimmed gauges.
Like Britain’s most famous secret agent, the Continental GT is both debonair and lethal.