Bentley celebrates 20 years of the Conti GT

Anniversary marked by Bentley in Shanghai with a Continental you can't buy – we find some you can

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, 18 April 2023 / Loading comments

Bentley certainly hasn’t been shy when it’s come to special editions of the Continental GT over the years, so it wouldn’t have been silly to expect something limited-run to mark two decades of production. But they’ve gone as limited as limited can be with this one-of-one Continental GT S just revealed at the Shanghai show. There’s going to be another unique car, this time a GT Speed, at Monterey, and a ‘20 years of W12 power’ celebration at Festival of Speed may yield something else, but for now it seems like Bentley won’t be doing the typical anniversary edition. Probably not enough W12s left to go around by now.

Anyway, the show car looks a lovely thing, with ‘strikingly sinister’ dark grey paint alongside black and red accents throughout, from brake calipers to upholstery. The treadplates and centre console feature silhouettes of the original and the latest car, which is a nice touch. There’s also a ‘unique design celebrating the anniversary of the iconic grand tourer’ in the LED welcome lamp. It’s not clear yet whether this car will be kept by Bentley or destined for a very special customer, but seemingly those wanting to buy a Conti GT to mark the big birthday will be better served by a used one than waiting on an anniversary run from the factory. Obviously the PH classifieds can help with that…

The Continental GT’s unprecedented (for a Bentley) popularity at launch has made it almost dangerously affordable in the years since, early cars around at supermini money for a little while now. That’s still a reality even in the current used market, though less than £15k will now buy a car with more owners than cylinders. So don’t say you weren’t warned, however tempting those prices next to a Bentley badge continue to look. Seemingly decent ones needn’t cost the earth, though, and for a car not coveted for its looks at launch, the Mk1 GT seems to be ageing quite nicely in the right spec. This Moonbeam Silver sub-50k-example is £22,995, back at the dealer that last sold it in 2018, with stacks of main dealer and specialist history to go with its very smart condition.

Then, of course, the GT family grew and grew; £30k could buy a drop-top GTC, a really lovely Mk1 Spur or, perhaps our favourite for the money, the 610hp Speed. Again another popular derivative, it’s been seen at some point in the Conti GT range ever since, culminating in the current (and awesome) 659hp version, a torque vectoring, four-wheel steering, corner-crushing Crewe bruiser.

If sheer power is the name of the game however, there’s a Continental GT out there more powerful than any new model and anything else that will arrive before the car goes out of production: the 2017 Continental Supersports. There had been SS versions before then, with more power and more aggression than standard, but 2017 was when Bentley really upped the ante: 710hp made it the most powerful production Bentley ever. Wasn’t half bad to drive, either, even if not everyone was persuaded by the cosmetic changes. This one is certainly an unapologetic spec, though is half its new price after just 14,000 miles.

Yet the pick of the Mk2 GT range, much as it is now in fact, might have been the Conti with more than 200hp less. The standard 4.0 V8 was good, and the V8 S of 2014 even better, with a tad more power and dynamic edge. They can be picked up for less than £50k now, like this rather fetching blue example.

However, we’re meant to be discussing the really, really special Continental GTs here, those that can be compared with the new 6.0-litre one-off – and great though an old V8 S is, it’s not quite that calibre. But we can get close, in both V8 and W12 format. Back when the Conti was made into a GT3 racer with a little help from M-Sport, there was a roadgoing homage: the GT3-R. Far more than just a colour scheme tribute act, it boasted modifications like a two-seat cabin, a drastically shorter final drive and Akrapovic exhaust. This 15k-mile one is £133,950 – each of the 300 made was a quarter of a million new. Which makes it common and cheap against the Pikes Peak; yep, one of 15 made ever for the entire world is on PH, yours for £300k. Not quite a one-off, but not miles away, either. There’s a GT for almost every budget in this big birthday year, and seemingly a couple more to look forward to from Crewe as well – stay tuned…

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