Gina Baksa drives the new Bentley Continental GT W12 and Bentley’s luxury Bentayga V8 to the highest fine-dining restaurant in the Emirates – at the summit of Jebel Jais.
Offered the chance to test not one but two Bentleys on a whirlwind trip to Dubai – my Christmases have all come at once. I’m a huge Bentley fan, so this review reflects my passion for this iconic British marque that’s still designed, handcrafted and manufactured in the UK at Crewe.
This is my first visit to Dubai and I’m staying at the swanky Al Habtoor Polo Resort with its balcony overlooking a grassy polo field – quite an incongruous sight among the surrounding ochre desert.
We’re here just before the start of the polo season, so the hotel is unusually quiet. I didn’t get to meet the ponies; the horsepower I was interested in was parked in the hotel’s forecourt. Continental GTs to the left of me, Bentaygas to my right. Here I am
Sitting in the cockpit of the all-new two-door Continental GT – in dazzling Portofino blue – with sexy linen hide and new Koa veneers. This 6.0 litre W12 TSI-engined beauty takes just 3.6 seconds to reach 60mph and has a top speed of 207mph. I’m dying to get her on the road up to Jebel Jais, the UAE’S highest mountain. She looks quite different to the previous iteration: her rear has been given a radical restyle, with the taillights now shaped into ellipses, reflecting the silhouette of the exhaust tailpipes below them.
But first, a look at the Continental GT’s refined interior: natural leathers, hand-polished chrome, hand-crafted wooden inlays. Around 1,000 craftsmen, 10 hides and 100 hours go into every single car. The sculpted dash with leather top provides a seamless connection with the doors, while the aeroplane-style gauges and levers – some with bronze inserts – enhance the classic yet functional aesthetic.
The duotone and heated (not that we need it for Dubai) steering wheel with paddles for extra growl as we move up the revs. Cooling feature for the seats is a must in the Middle East, and I love the diamond quilting on the seats (310,000 stitches per car), which has handy adjustable side bolsters. There are 20-ways you can adjust your seat and various massage options.
But first and foremost, the new Continental GT is a car to drive.
Start your engines – and this third-generation Bentley Continental GT purrs and growls – the sound of those V12s kicking into life is orgasmic. As soon as I touch the start button the veneer in the middle of the dash slides forward and gently rotates to reveal a 12.3” retina-quality digital MMI display with three windows for navigation, media and phone. My iPhone welcomes the nifty Apple CarPlay for full connectivity via the USB port.
The Bentley Continental GT is an alluring thoroughbred and attracts admiring glances as we drive in convoy, heading north from Dubai towards Sharjah and the road to Ras Al Khaimah. On reaching the mountain turn-off, I can finally put my foot down on the curves and straights leading to Jebel Jais. Revs up and the Continental GT takes off like a bullet – hugging the corners like Hamilton as we climb ever higher towards our gourmet meal from chef Colin Clague – executive chef of Rüya, one of the few authentic, contemporary Anatolian restaurants in Dubai.
I try the three different drive modes: Comfort, Bentley and Sport (a stiffer ride meant for the track but equally fun on the mountain road bends). Suspension, gearbox and engine all respond to match the selected mode. The road leading to the summit of Jebel Jais is very Wadi Rum and Indiana Jones… the dust cloud from the Bentley in front; the golden-hued rock against a cerulean sky. No trees just scrub, rocks, and a superbly tarmacked surface.
We pass vertiginous rock formations and curious sheep as we love-ride the curves of the road towards our destination.
Such a fun ride calls for aural accompaniment from the (optional) Bang & Olufsen 1,500 W, 16-speaker system with illuminated speaker grilles. To keep the sound in, Bentley has cleverly used laminated acoustic glass on the windscreen and side windows, resulting in a ‘nine-decibel reduction in exterior noise ingress’. Pretty impressive.