Bentley Continental GT
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 lies a twin turbo W12 TSI engine, as before, but this one is the lightly revised unit that first made its debut in the brand's Bentayga SUV. The big news though, is that this time round, it's been 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 third 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 is clear from a glance, the shape of this third generation Continental GT model represents an evolvement from the original but actually, much has changed. This model'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 range
Aston Martin DB11
The DB11 is the Aston Martin of choice for those craving something sleek and graceful rather than overtly aggressive. This, arguably the classiest car in the Aston range, is primarily a consummate sporting luxury GT, but can play the sportscar when required thanks to clever adjustable damping. It's very desirable indeed.
In its top AMR V12 form, the DB11 gets an Aston Martin-designed 5.2-litre V12 developing 630hp. There's definitely something about the gloriously fearsome bark of the twin-turbocharged engine when it barks into life - or at least there is if you start it in 'full woofle' mode; there's also a 'quiet start' option, should you want to make a soft getaway. That noise is instrumental in preparing you for a unique experience as you nose out into the traffic. A thoroughbred sportscar deserves a thoroughbred engine and this is exactly that, with an exhilarating roar under hard acceleration, yet with a growl that becomes muted and melodic when cruising.
The alternative powerplant is a 4.0-litre V8 borrowed from Mercedes-AMG (the same as that used in the Mercedes-AMG GT) putting out 503hp. With both engines, 62mph from rest takes about 4 seconds, but the top speed of the V12 is a little higher than that of the V8 (200mph as opposed to 187mph). In both cases, drive is dealt with via a super-smooth paddleshift eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox mounted at the rear and driving the rear wheels. And there's a drive mode control system that independently controls the powertrain and the chassis via 'GT', 'Sport' and 'Sport Plus' options, all of which are quite viable for road use.
Aston Martin tells us that it aspires to make the most beautiful cars in the world. Is this one of them? There are many who would say so. Prior to the DB11, modern era Astons, though sleek and elegant, had all tended to look rather similar. Here too, you get the usual long bonnet, sweeping roof line and short rear overhangs, but this time round, stylist Marek Reichman and his team wanted to build on these established design cues to create a car with a bit more of its own identity. Yet one still respectful of a historic DB line design legacy that's given us icons like the DB2, the DB4, the DB5 and, more recently, the DB10 developed specifically for the James Bond film 'Spectre', a model that provided the aesthetic inspiration for this car.
We tested the coupe body style. The alternative Volante convertible features a special eight-layer fabric hood. It takes just 14 seconds to lower and 16 seconds to close and can be operated at speeds of up to 31mph. Whichever version you prefer, distinctive touches are plentiful, starting with this sharply-sculpted clamshell bonnet that features twin cooling vents.
Equal effort has been expended in the interior, which is trimmed in gorgeous leather and features classy trimming that is exactly what it looks like. It is a bit disappointing that the single column stalk off the steering wheel is very obviously borrowed from a Mercedes, as is the centre-dash infotainment screen. Through the wheel, you view a fully digital instrument panel and there's a proper start button with keyless go, rather than the previous Aston system that required you to clunkily put an 'emotional control unit' key into the dash. There are a pair of small child-sized rear seats. And a 270-litre boot.
And in summary? Well the founders of this brand, Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, had a clear vision. To create sportscars with a distinctive character. Cars built to a high standard, exhilarating to drive and to own. Cars with power, beauty and soul. Over around 100 years, Aston Martin has made motorcars just that way, building well over 50,000 of them, 80% of which are still in use, cherished, driven and raced by enthusiastic owners all round the world. In all of this history though, no model line has been more significant to the future of this marque than this one.
The DB11 as we've said is the first Aston of the modern era. The first to show that the company can now take on its German and Italian rivals head-to-head, wheel-to-wheel. Faster, more sporting models will in future follow this one from the Gaydon factory, but arguably, there's nothing quite like a DB11 when it comes to pure GT-style elegance. There are certainly quicker, higher-tech or more sharply handling options in the market. But when you've miles to put on the clock and want the journey to feel special rather than just effortlessly rapid, it's hard to think of anything much better.Click here to find out more about our Aston Martin DB11 range
Honda tried to bring buyers in the supercar segment something a little different with its second generation NSX. Recent embelishments include chassis upgrades and mild tuning of the Sport Hybrid technology that offers an electrified boost to the throaty 3.5-litre V6, hence the impressive performance. It's a desirable package.
The engine is a specially developed 3.5-litre V6 that in this improved model features upgraded injectors and enhancement to the heat response of the turbocharger. It still offers the same 500bhp output, which on its own wouldn't be quite enough for supercar class competitiveness, so just behind this twin turbocharged unit sits a 48bhp electric motor. Plus there are two further 37bhp electric motors, one for each wheel. The peak revs of all these various power sources don't arrive simultaneously, so peak power is 573bhp. Power is transmitted through a dual-clutch paddleshift auto gearbox with nine speeds - the first for launching you away from rest, the ninth for cruising on the highway and the seven closely-stacked ratios in-between for driving duties.
You control all of this via the NSX's drive selector. In so-called 'Quiet' mode, it'll pull away in its silent electric-only setting, but you'll be more interested in the three other options you can select - 'Sport', 'Sport+' and 'Track'. On the move, the prodigious weight of the complicated powertrain will delay you a little - this Honda tips the scales at a portly 1,725kgs - but not too much, 62mph from rest flashing by in 2.9s en route to a maximum of 191mph. And of course, plenty of aural fireworks are promised from the throaty V6. The NSX rides on two-stage magnetorheological dampers, the firmness of which depends on your drive mode selections. The brakes are track-ready, though many owners will want to opt for the extra cost ceramic stoppers.
Changes to this revised model aimed at further sharpening the handling include the adoption of larger front and rear stabliser bars, stiffer rear hubs and control-arm toe link bushings, the adoption of new Continental SportContact tyres and a recalibration of the software controlling the Sport Hybrid power unit, the steering and the stability systems. As a result of all of this, this revised NSX is said to be two seconds a lap faster than the current model around the world famous Suzuki Grand Prix circuit in Japan.
You can see that to some extent, the NSX designers have been influenced by an Audi R8 in the styling of this car but this Honda still manages to have its own distinctive style, with more angular lines that must incorporate all the scoops and vents necessary for no fewer than ten different radiators. Under the skin is a mixed-material spaceframe that incorporates a two-seat cabin and an engine positioned to sit longitudinally just behind it. The car's extremely wide - 2,217mm if you include the mirrors - which might make it fell a little more unwieldy than, say, a rival Porsche 911 Turbo on tighter roads. Exterior upgrades to this revised model see the chrome finish of the upper front grille surround now colour-matched to the bodywork, while a smarter gloss-black finish is applied to the mesh in the front and rear bumpers.
Inside, the finish is quite nice, apart from a few plastics with metal finishes, but storage space is at something of a premium and, like many Hondas, this one has an infotainment touchscreen that lags behind the best standards set in this class. The Garmin navigation system element is particularly poor. The steering wheel needs a bit more adjustment but the sports seats are comfortable and the instruments are clear.
This segment is full of compelling supercars. But this Honda continues to offer something a little different. There's so much technology in the hybrid drivetrain that this model might easily have become something of an engineering exercise rather than a raw, involving super-sportscar. That this hasn't happened is due to the fact that it's clearly been developed by people who love their driving.
A team who bought themselves just about every desirable rival they could lay their hands on, then tuned each NSX element to try and make this Honda just that little bit better in every area. Must have been fun. Drive the end result and you'll find out just how much.Click here to find out more about our Honda NSX range