The last two Continentals have looked eerily similar. That's expected to change with the new one due next year.
The last couple of Bentley Continental iterations have, on a whole, been rather handsome cars. For sure, they aren't quite as ravishing to the eye as an Aston Martin or a Jaguar, and the most recent facelift has added some slightly fussier elements to the car here and there, but it's hard to argue the case that they're butt ugly cars. However, it is far easier to make the claim that the Continental clan's overall look hasn't really moved on that much since the Continental GT nameplate was introduced in 2003.
That's all set to change, though, with the upcoming third generation Continental GT. As demonstrated in these spy shots of development mules for the drop-top 'GTC' model, the next Conti model will be far more visually distinct to its predecessors than the second-gen GT was to the 2003 original. Sure, you've still got details like the elliptical tailpipes, four circular head lamps and mesh grille, and the basic proportions are still there, but the little tweaks amount to a car with a far more distinct look. The entire front end, for instance, is far more pronounced than the current Continental's, with the more upright grille, the headlight arrangement and the crinkles on the hood clearly being inspired by the EXP 10 Speed Six concept revealed last year.
Look further around the car, and more fixtures suggest the third-generation of Bentley Continental GT models will be far bolder in their aesthetic than prior versions, with the seemingly more pronounced rear fenders being the easiest extra to spot when cross-examining the current Conti and these test cars. Even the windshield appears to be that bit more sharply raked back than the current Continental, which - in conjunction with all the bolder and more aggressive styling cues - hopefully means the next Conti family will be a bit more sporting than the current versions. Not that we'd expect the next Continental model to be a razor sharp driving tool, and especially not the convertible model.
Underneath the voluptuous bodywork, the next Continental GT appears to be a mix of the old and the new. We'd be heartily surprised if the new version will drop the W12 and V8 engines in the current Conti (a quick vehicle check of the test car's registration number indeed confirms a Bentley W12-sized engine is under the hood). However, as a result of sharing parts and platforms with the recently-revealed second-gen Porsche Panamera, the next Bentley Continental will have an all-new chassis to play with, and chances are the Panamera's plug-in hybrid powertrain will make an appearance in the line-up as well. That's all we know of the car so far - though we should find out more on the next Continental closer to its official unveiling in early 2017.