Bentley Continental GT Convertible
The third generation Bentley Continental GT coupe aims to be the kind of rewarding driver's car its predecessor always should have been. That's thanks to engineering from Porsche and an all-new MSB platform. Yet at the same time, it claims to deliver even more luxury thanks to an exquisitely design cabin with a range of very special touches.
Under the bonnet, buyers choose between either a twin turbo W12 TSI 6.0-litre engine with 626hp or a 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 with 542hp. The W12 was the powerplant we tried, mated to a far more modern automatic gearbox, the twin clutch PDK transmission used in Porsche's Panamera. In fact, much about this car is shared with the Panamera, including the new lighter, stiffer, stronger MSB platform, though in this case, it's 200mm shorter in keeping with this model's Coupe remit. This chassis, Bentley hopes, will play a major part in making this second generation Conti GT model the rewarding driving machine its predecessor never truly was. That's not only because it's torsionally stiffer - though that obviously helps - but mainly because it supports an engineering format that sees the wheels pushed further forward and the engine moved rearward, so considerably improving weight distribution.
Another key change lies with the introduction of a new all-wheel drive system. The old set-up featured a fixed 40:60 split between front and rear wheels and left the car understeering rather easily when you tried to push it along. In contrast, the new Active All-Wheel-Drive' package can constantly vary front-to-rear torque split depending on the driving situation and deliberately leaves the car using rear wheel drive as much as possible. As before, there's air suspension, now a three-chamber system that works in conjunction with the clever 48V electro-mechanical anti-roll bars first seen on the Bentayga. Suspension feel is one of the things you can influence via three provided driving modes - 'Sport', 'Comfort' and 'Bentley'. Steering feel and throttle response also get tweaked with the settings.
As usual with this model, there's a choice of either a Coupe or a Convertible. In terms of aesthetic design, both at first glance seem to represent merely a subtle evolvement from the previous generation models but actually, much has changed. This MK3 version's aluminium skin is crafted using what Bentley calls 'Super Formed' technology, a precision technique that sees this light, strong metal heated to over 500-degrees C. It's a method that allows for the creation of more complex, sharply defined body lines and a deeper, sculpted haunch muscle.
Inside, as you'd imagine, the cabin is exquisite. Over 10 square metres of wood are used in each Continental GT and it takes nine hours to create and fit the wooden inlays by hand. The dashboard is sculpted by long, flowing wings that mirror the shape of the Bentley badge, while a floating leather top flows seamlessly to the doors. Perhaps the cabin highlight though, is the clever 'Bentley Rotating Display'. When you first get in, there appears to be no screen on the dashboard. Press the engine button though and the veneer in the middle of the fascia rotates to reveal a huge 12.3-inch touchscreen with a configurable home screen with three windows able to display your preferred functions - navigation, media and 'phone for instance. The instrument binnacle dial pack is a configurable all-TFT display too. As before, the Continental GT is a proper four seater, although a broad transmission tunnel still runs down the centre of the cabin.
In bringing Bentley into a new era, the Continental GT has proved to be a hugely significant car and this third generation version is more desirable still. Purists may grumble at the Teutonic influence, but one can't help feeling that if WO Bentley is watching, he'd now be mighty proud of the coupe that bears his name.
This model seamlessly blends Bentley's glittering heritage with the latest technology to create a highly desirable package. If you have the means, sports coupes don't come more classy and capable than this. Its substantial mass ensures it's no hardcore track weapon but if you've got a continent or two to cross in double quick time, there can be few better options.Click here to find out more about our Bentley Continental GT Convertible range
Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe
Jaguar describes this improved F-TYPE Coupe as the most capable and involving car it's ever built. A fixed-top version of the F-TYPE Convertible, this model cements the Coventry brand's reputation as an ever more credible rival to Porsche, reviving memories of some of the company's legendary classic coupes. It handles. It goes. And it delivers.
There are now three main engines available to power the F-TYPE, a 2.0-litre four cylinder unit with 300PS, a 3.0-litre supercharged V6 and a 5.0-litre V8. Even the 2.0-litre variant has quite a turn of speed, managing 60mph in just 5.4s en route to 155mph. Many though, will continue to desire the silky roar of the supercharged V6, these days available with either 340, 380 or 400PS. The 380 and 400PS models get the option of AWD. With the 340 and 380PS variants, buyers can choose between manual and Quickshift auto transmission; with the '400 Sport', its 'Quickshift' only. You'll also be limited to the auto 'box if you opt for one of the 5.0-litre V8 models - and these potent variants only come with AWD. The F-TYPE R gets this powerplant in 550PS form, while the flagship SVR derivative uses this engine with 575PS on tap. Got all that? I'll be asking questions later.
Whichever variant you choose, performance is striking. Even the feeblest 300PS model makes 62mph from rest in just 5.7s, while the V8 F-TYPE R covers off that sprint in just 4.2s. As before, the 380PS F-TYPE variant most buyers choose gets a mechanical limited-slip differential, while the V8 gets an electronic item. Across the range, you get an all-aluminium chassis, double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link-suspended rear.
The visual changes made to this improved model are small but significant, centring mostly on a front end now embellished by full-LED headlights that sit above a re-styled bumper. Jaguar's distinctive J-Blade daytime running lights are retained, and these now double as the direction indicators, with the lamp's 'eyelid' indexing with the bonnet's cutline to further accentuate the lights' multi-layered graphics. Otherwise, it's as you were. Aesthetically, there are some lovely details such as the pop-out door handles and, inside, the single flying buttress that swoops down from one side of the centre console. Then there's the neatly styled gear selector, the giant TFT display in the dash and the deep-set driving position.
We still think that visually, the F-TYPE Coupe bodyshape works really well, with its short wheelbase, power-packed set of rear haunches and elegant roof line. It manages to make the Porsche Cayman seem rather hall-of-mirrors in its proportioning and while it's not as instantly beautiful as an Aston Martin Vantage, it looks as if it would thoroughly work the Vantage over in a bar fight. The boot is relatively big, giving the F-TYPE Coupe genuine GT potential. You'll get 315-litres in up to the parcel shelf and 407-litres to the window line. A 72-litre fuel tank gives a realistic cruising range of over 340 miles. You can even specify the car with a panoramic glass or carbon fibre roof.
And in summary? Well, as before, the F-TYPE Coupe takes all that was great about the Convertible version and builds on it with a stiffer chassis and a more affordable asking price. The result is a very special car indeed, especially in this improved form. Even if you can only stretch to a four cylinder version. After all, compared to a rival Porsche 718 Cayman S, Jaguar has brought us a machine that's arguably better looking, unarguably better equipped, more powerful and endowed with a greater sense of occasion, inside and out. While it won't match the Porsche's delicacy of response at the limit, the F-TYPE Coupe looks as if it's got its chief competitor's measure in enough areas that count to really give the German brand something to worry about.Click here to find out more about our Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe range
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe is an exquisitely finished two-door Grand Tourer with an unusual and rather refreshing reluctance to attract attention that sets it apart in a luxury coupe market filled with flamboyance. This improved version gets an uprated entry-level V8 engine and some even more sophisticated technology.
The starting point for the S-Class Coupe range is now the 585bhp S560 variant. Unlike the previous S500 model, this one doesn't get a 4.6-litre V8 under the bonnet: you'll have to settle with a 4.0-litre biturbo unit, but you're not going to feel hard done by thanks to a 469bhp output (up from 455bhp before). Rest to 62mph takes just 4.6s en route to 155mph. Power goes to the rear wheels and the twin-turbocharged engine develops some 700Nm of torque. The alternative is the 4.0-litre 612bhp V8 BiTurbo S 63 AMG model which spirits you to 62mph in just 4.2s and features 'MAGIC BODY CONTROL' to iron out imperfections in the road ahead. There's also a 630bhp V12-engined AMG 65 variant at the top of the line-up.
The S-Class Coupe is offered with the 6DVision camera system and one option that many will choose to tick is the frankly incredible Magic Body Control system. The Road Surface Scan part of this uses stereo cameras to scan the road surface ahead and automatically alter the stiffness of the hydraulic dampers in order to improve the ride comfort. When it detects a ripple of more than 3mm in the road, the car calculates how long it'll take to get to it and then the active suspension is able to make the damping harsher or softer within fractions of a second in advance for each separate wheel. Then there's Active Body Control where four spring struts are fitted with hydraulic cylinders to enable the force in each spring strut to be adjusted individually. As a result, the vertical, rolling and pitching movements to which the body can be subjected are almost completely compensated for, in effect leaning into corners like a bike.
As for design, well there's no doubt that this is the most distinctly-styled large luxury Mercedes coupe of recent times, characterised by typical rear-wheel-drive proportions that are emphasised by the sculpted lines of the long bonnet with its pronounced powerdome and the low glasshouse with its high beltline. The result is a car that's now visually unique in the Stuttgart maker's line-up and quite exclusive enough to stand alongside the Bentley and Aston Martin rivals it's directly aimed at.
The cabin features a sporty three-spoke steering wheel, plus some beautiful diamond-quilted seats that are available in some quite shouty colours like Porcelain White and Bengal Red. I think I'd stick with black or tan. The lovely switchgear and huge screens are carried over from the saloon and the touch pad controller allows the driver to make smartphone-style gestures to control the key infotainment functions. There's also a head-up display, and a standard panoramic glass roof which can switch between opaque or transparent at the touch of a button. An optional 'Driving Assistance Package' adds all the latest camera-driven safety features.
And in summary? Well, you'd be forgiven for initially being a little sceptical about this car's charms. After all, if you've earned enough to pretty much buy a Bentley, isn't it logical to simply ahead and get one rather than opt for what critics would see as a coupe version of a mere £70,000 luxury saloon? The thing is though, this S-Class Coupe is far more than that thanks to the fact that Mercedes has given its super luxury Grand Tourer its own unique appeal.
From the jewel-like Swarovski crystal LED headlamps to the sculpted silhouette and the little touches like the stylised finish of the switchgear and the Burmester speaker covers, it's modern, memorable and magnificent, with a level of technology that embarrasses the traditional exotic brands. Those makers will spend years trying to emulate the MAGIC BODY CONTROL suspension and figuring out the cleverness that lies behind this car's unique active tilting cornering system - by which time Mercedes will doubtless have brought us something even better.
Bentley and Aston Martin customers want to be noticed. S-Class Coupe customers don't need to be. Which in its own way I think, like this car, makes them more exclusive still.Click here to find out more about our Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe range