Maybe it’s the distractingly amazing scenery that surrounds the Storfjord hotel in Skodje, Norway, or maybe I’m still reeling from the frenetic helicopter descent that deposited me into this living postcard, but I’m just not seeing much change to the 2016 Bentley Continental GT’s sheetmetal compared to the outgoing version. Still, over cocktails before the multi-course dinner that evening, Bentley would assure me that changes abound -- from the smaller front grille and revised bumper and fender profile, to the slight aero treatment of the rear decklid, revised LED taillights and the diffuser found on V8 S and GT Speed models. The one change that is immediately visible to me is the Flying B vent embedded in the front fenders, along with the badging that sits lower on the same panel.
There are other changes too, few of which would be immediately apparent to anyone who didn’t already own one of these wheeled smoking parlors. Three new colors are available (my favorite being the light metallic blue known as Jetstream), and there are several new 20- and 21-inch wheel designs. Inside, there are two new leather colors available for 2016, and new super-soft semi-aniline leather is an extra-cost option on W12 and Speed variants. Additionally, straight-fluted seats are now standard, the instrument panel gets new dials and graphics, all lit by LEDs, and onboard WiFi connectivity is optional. A special Mulliner Driving Specification package (already standard on the Speed version, but optional on others) adds a quilted leather upholstery.
Yes, these are all incremental changes, but they help keep demand strong among the Bentley elite for an aging model. After all, could you stand being seen tooling around Beverly Hills in a Conti GT with the old taillights? A most sickening thought, to be sure.
There would be no such slumming today, as the morning brought a full complement of 2016 Bentley Continental GTs fresh from the factory in Crewe, England, to the driveway outside our hotel on the northwest coast of Norway. Three models were represented, the V8 S, W12 and GT Speed, each in both convertible and coupe variants. Our drive would take us from here on a meandering north-easterly route to the Kristiansund Airport in Kvernberget, Norway, where we’d catch a plane south to Oslo before bidding “god dag” to Norway for home.
Figuring it’s better to work progressively upwards in power rather than the other way around, I set off in a V8 S Convertible (top up, the morning air is a bit chilly still). A few straight sections of road later, and it’s evident that even the weakling of our group with a mere 521 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque is able to show exactly zero disdain for the typical 80 kph (about 50 mph), taking roughly no time at all to register double that figure on the fancy new speedometer. Despite this being the convertible variant, the body structure is impressively solid even over the rougher patches of road where the extreme winters and heavy semi-trucks have taken their toll on the asphalt. It’s also impressively quiet inside, until the throttle is flat-footed and the twin figure-eight-shaped exhaust tips (a thoughtful touch) belch out a silky grumble.
The road meanders in valleys split by fjords and lined by snow-capped mountains. The spring thaw has brought a lush greenness to Norway, and around nearly every turn is another waterfall. We stop at the top of the Stigfossen waterfall to visit the viewing platform built off the mountainside overlooking the Trolligsten -- a serpentine stretch of road that passes the 1,050-foot waterfall several times as it snakes down into the valley below. The V8 S is traded for a 582-hp W12 (up 15 hp from last year’s spec), and we’re off.
There’s never any forgetting that the 2016 Bentley Continental GT is a large, heavy, wide car -- and especially not here. Though this road was widened slightly in recent years, it’s still a narrow passage and a tight squeeze around buses that shuttle tourists up and down the mountain. Some sections are painfully slow, others open up into straights where we go throttle down on the W12 before braking hard for the next hairpin turn. Sometimes traffic is clear enough to allow for a dab of wheelspin exiting the numerous switchbacks, the Bentley is never really anything but neutral through it all.
Down in the valley, the road turns straight for a while, and we’re able to open the W12 up just to hear its baritone bellow. There’s no real need for the excess of power the massive 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged engine provides, but I can’t help but feel like the sound might get addictive. Despite the chilly weather, I wish I was top down in a convertible version, not a coupe, just to get more of that noise. New for this year is partial cylinder deactivation, said to improve fuel economy by roughly 5 percent by shutting down half of the 12’s cylinders. While cruising at lower speeds, six-cylinder mode is audibly identifiable, but never irritating. And the other six cylinders wake up in a split-second should they be needed.
At the lunch stop, Bentley has arranged for a 3-mile stretch of road to be shut down temporarily so we can jump in a GT Speed without worry about traffic or the local constabulary. If 582 hp is more than enough in a car of this type, 626 hp and 607 lb-ft of torque is definitely too much. Except it isn’t. With a clear, wide road ahead the 2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed feels like a freight train with tires, charging hard yet effortlessly down the meandering road. Step on the binders, and the big Bentley sheds speed with little trouble, though our route wasn’t long enough to induce fade. The Speed is stable and predictable, never feeling strained or out of sorts. It feels like the Speed could just keep going like this forever, warping space and time, crossing a continent in minutes, instead of hours. Then it’s over. The section of road closure reaches its end, and it’s back to 50 mph, which feels just like standing still.
Continuing on, we reach the Atlantic Road, a five-mile-long series of road and bridges that connect small natural islands together. Construction was completed in 1989, though it cost several workers their lives due to a number of hurricanes in the area while work was underway. Nevertheless, it’s a stunning stretch of road and one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions. A stop at a small cafe for waffles and a quick look around, then we’re off again. Somewhere on a lonely runway east of here sits a private jet bound for Oslo with a schedule to keep. And I’ve got just the car to get there.
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