There are few phrases in the English language - short of 'David Mellor' - more likely to elicit a groan than 'British car industry'.And few things get sneered at more than luxury cars: they are, after all, the preserve of footballers, bankers and other ludicrous individuals.
Yet British luxury car manufacturing is highly profitable and, unlike almost everything else, is doing well. Last year, 2,711 Rolls-Royce cars were sold compared with 1,002 in 2009. Last year, Bentley's sales grew 11% to more than 5,000 cars, with 80% of them going abroad. Which makes it a good time to re-release the Continental, whose introduction in 2003 represented not only the first step in Bentley's revival, but was one of the most important in the rebirth of British luxury motoring.
The new car, which doesn't share a single panel with the old model, is 65 kg lighter, has another 15 bhp and costs about £10,000 more, and looks better in a way you can't quite put your finger on - the lines that flow down the profile are slightly sharper, the bonnet a bit more purposeful, the upright grille more imposing. And it is very, very good.
Recently, the quality of Bentley interiors has been challenged by cars such as the Porsche Panamera, but this model sets a new standard. Some people have complained there is too much evidence of Volkswagen's ownership of Bentley. But that's like complaining that your wife looks too much like Frieda Pinto. The touch-screen panel used to control the satellite navigation and climate and entertainment systems is the best around.
And then there's the drive. You get all the stability and grip you expect from a refined grand tourer, but with unparalleled, almost supernatural silence. The acoustic glazing, underfloor shields and hidden anti-vibration panels do such a good job you could record a Laura Marling album in the cabin. And once you're done, you could have a lot of fun playing it back over the peerless 11-speaker Naim stereo.
It is thirsty though. But, with a 4-litre V8 due late this year, which will deliver a 40% reduction in emissions, it is, frankly, your patriotic duty to love this car.
5 out of 5
Bentley Continental GT
Engine: six-litre twin turbocharged W12
Power: 567 bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 516 lb/ft @ 1,700 rpm
Transmission: six-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 17.1 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 emissions: 384 g/km
0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds
Top speed: 198 mph