It’s been a long time coming but thanks to some co-development and co-operation from sister company Porsche, Bentley has released its first new Continental GT in 15 years.
Porsche’s contribution is not immediately visible but the new Continental rides on a modular platform that’s shared among the VW Group’s front-engine with rear or all-wheel drive combo cars and was first seen last year under the new Panamera. We will see it pop up next, supporting the Bentley Flying Spur.
Bentley sold 66,000 units of the previous GT making it far and away its most popular model, but it dragged on too long and was in need of a major overhaul to catch the opposition especially in terms of its transmission and fuel efficiency as well as contemporary driver assist technologies likes heads up display, active lane assistance, traffic assistance, parking aides and reversing cameras.
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Thankfully all those boxes have been ticked and double checked. Under the hood resides a 626bhp, six-litre, W12 twin-turbo engine that appears familiar but is very different from those in previous Bentleys.
Debuted in the Bentayga, this W12 motor has not only shed 30kg but has also been radically re-engineered with the front drive shafts punching through the sump to make it fit into the smaller engine bay and is coupled to a new ZF transmission.
It uses a new injection system comprising both port injection from the old car for more power and direct injection to ensure it meets new emission regulations. Its two turbos have also been upgraded to twin-scroll units and it features cylinder displacement which cuts out six-cylinders when cruising.
This helps it to achieve a stated 16 percent better fuel economy with a range of 800kms and even on our test of more than 600kms though mountain passes and high-speed motorways, we saw better than 13 L/100kms average.
The transmission is an eight-speed ZF unit that uses Porsche’s PDK double clutch set up and was one of the reasons why the car’s launch was postponed from late last year as engineers needed to give it a tweak to handle the W12’s 900Nm of torque. On road it provided rapid shifting that was close to seamless through its eight cogs.
The twin-scroll turbos eliminate all lag as the surge of power felt almost limitless and despite its portly 2244kg, Bentley claims it will get to 100kmh in 3.7 seconds and on to 333kmh.
This keeps it squarely in supercar territory though it lacks the aural delights of the Aston Martin DB11 or Ferrari 812 Superfast. We get the impression that Bentley is deliberately downplaying this side of its persona in order to keep its hairy-chested exhaust pops, bangs and crackles for the V8 that is no doubt already well advanced in the development pipeline.
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Portly it may be but in addition to the 30kg lost in the drivetrain, the new Conti has also dropped 80kgs through the use of aluminium and composites in the body. The combination of more power and less weight was immediately noticeable.
The Continental pointed into corners like no Bentley before and more like an Aston Martin Vantage or AMG GT. This was no doubt helped by the 48-volt Dynamic Ride rear anti-roll suspension from Bentayga and its three chamber air suspension which gives the driver more control in the stiffness verses comfort battle.
Stopping’s not a problem either despite the fact the expensive carbon ceramic discs are no longer available. In their place are the biggest brakes used on a production car of 420mm, 10-piston units on the front and 380mm, four-piston discs on the back. On paper they sound like the same ones used on the Lamborghini Urus but they differ in that Urus uses only carbon ceramics whereas the new GT prefers iron. Gone is the car’s claim of being all-wheel drive in the sense we knew it as the previous model had a fixed 60:40 split rear to front AWD system whereas the new car is effectively a rear-wheel drive with a clutch that sends torque on demand to the front wheels as needed.
The inside is a radical departure from previous Bentleys and differs from Bentayga, feeling lighter and more spacious despite maintaining the Bentley hallmarks of timber, leather and chrome. Ambient mood lighting includes razor thin LED strips across the dash and down the doors into the rear where it imitates the outside’s coke-bottle hips.
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Not content with just one timber veneer, buyers can specify two on the dash and doors split by a chrome strip, while a new 12.3-inch nav screen can be hidden behind an optional panel that rotates to show either a trio of analogue dials or continues the clean timber look.
The front axle has moved forward 135mm not only for better weight distribution but also to give it a more aggressive look, while the 110mm longer wheelbase and 50mm wider footprint gives the car its assertive stance without sacrificing height and headroom.
For now, the new Continental GT forms the benchmark for a truly remarkable Grand Touring coupé that’s lighter, more luxurious, more technically advanced and more spacious than the model it replaces.