The all-new, third-generation Bentley Continental GT is an entirely new car inside and out, which the luxury automaker hopes will redefine the very essence of the modern-day grand tourer.
Bentley is part of the Volkswagen Group and, while its latest GT is based on the Porsche Panamera platform – that’s a good thing – that platform was actually co-developed by both brands, with the British-based automaker putting forward their requirements at the early design stage.
That meant things like the wheelbase, dimensions, engine position and wheel size are all specific to the Bentley.
It might be an all-new design, but even at a glance the car is instantly recognisable as a Continental GT, such is the strength of the model’s generational lineage.
Three key power lines defined the Continental GT’s shape from day one – running from the front wheels, the muscular haunch of the rear wheels and the tapered roof line – all of them originating on the 1952 Bentley R-Type Continental, in its day the world’s fastest four-seat coupe.
Compared with the previous generation, the new GT moves the front axle forward by 135 mm to deliver a shorter front overhang and longer bonnet. The exterior panels are all aluminium, with the exception of the composite boot lid. The new aluminium body side is actually the largest ‘super-formed’ panel in automotive world.
Weight saving measures also mean the car is lighter by 80kg, with at least 50kg coming out of the body shell. The chassis is a combination of aluminium and high-strength steel, with 50,000 hours spent developing the car’s structural performance.
Under the bonnet is a further development of the Bentley’s 6.0-litre W12 engine with two twin-scroll turbochargers, together with the combination of high-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port injection, to produce 467kW and 900Nm of torque from just 1350rpm.
That’s 25 per cent more torque and 7.5 per cent more power than the previous generation. It can scoot from 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 333km/h.
The W12 TSI engine also includes cylinder deactivation, meaning it can run on just six cylinders in gears three to eight, below 3000rpm when up to 300Nm of torque is required, for better fuel efficiency and emissions.
In fact, the new Continental GT is 16 per cent more efficient than the previous model and meets Phase 2 of Euro 6 and US LEV3 targets. With its 90-litre fuel tank it has a range of up to 800 kilometres.
Each W12 powertrain features 294 individual components and requires 6.5 hours of assembly by hand.
The engine is mated to a ZF eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, replacing the previous model’s torque converter automatic. Power is sent to all four wheels, this time through an active all-wheel drive system providing variable torque bias to either front or rear axles.
Bentley Driving Dynamics allows drivers to switch between various drive modes including Comfort, Bentley, Sport and Individual, each of which changes engine character, gearbox mapping, spring rates and damping, steering, roll control and torque distribution.
In the Comfort and Bentley settings, up to 38 per cent of torque can be sent to the front axle, but in Sport it is limited to just 17 per cent.
The air suspension system uses new three-chamber air springs, delivering 60 per cent more air volume in the Comfort setting than the previous system.
Bentley’s (and the Volkswagen Group's) 48V Dynamic Ride system is able to instantly counteract roll on the GT with actuators in the anti-roll bars, able to deliver up to 1300Nm of torque in just 0.3 seconds, thereby resisting body roll when cornering.
The new Continental GT is fitted with the largest braking system ever fitted to a series production car, with massive 420mm brake discs up front and equally large 10-piston brake calipers.
Aerodynamic efficiency was also at the forefront of the new Continental GT’s development, both with performance and refinement in mind. Despite the car’s sizeable proportions (4850mm x 2187mm x 1405mm) and 2244kg heft, the new-generation Continental GT boasts a drag coefficient of 0.29.
In fact, 2.3 million CPU hours were logged in aerodynamic simulations, while another 340 hours were spent in wind tunnels.
Also contributing to the car’s refinement is new laminated acoustic glass, good for a -9 dbA improvement to noise intrusion from things like passing cars.
The latest Bentley Continental GT also introduces a ton of new on-board tech built around an electrical architecture including 2300 individual circuits, more than 8km of wiring, up to 92 ECUs and 100 million lines of code.
The showpiece of the new infotainment system is the Bentley Rotating Display, effectively a 12.3-inch three-sided rotating screen with three different displays able to be shown at the press of a button.
It’s straight out of a James Bond movie and took two years to develop, using 40 moving parts including two motors with high-precision gearboxes and individual cooling fans.
The main instrument display is also now fully digital and configurable, and it’s joined by a driver’s head-up display.
Customers can choose between three audio systems, commencing with the 10 speakers and 650 Watts of power. The middle-ranked unit is by Bang & Olufsen and includes 16 speakers, four DSP sound modes and a 14-channel, 1500 Watt amp using for the first time in an automotive application, the company’s Beo Sonic control interface.
The top-spec system is supplied by Naim and gets 18 speakers, 2200 Watt 21-channel amplifier, eight DSP sound modes with Active bass and two active base transducers.
Every Continental GT involves up to 1000 production and craftspeople, and 100 hours of work before completion. It’s a properly hand-crafted grand tourer.
Over 10 square metres of wood are used in each Continental GT – and it takes nine hours to create and fit the inlays by hand. Each leaf of veneer can be traced back to the very tree it came from. Customers can choose between eight types of wood, including the highly-prized Koa from Hawaii and Eucalyptus from Australia.
Every cabin is upholstered using nine northern-European bull-hides accounting for 12 per cent shrinkage caused by the embroidery. Not only that, the interior boasts 310,675 stitches and 2.8km of thread.
Even the new diamond-look quilting is special and a product of 18 months of development of the special diamond-in-diamond embroidery. Interestingly each diamond is a different size, dictating new levels of hand-craftsmanship.
Even the headlights are special, the latest LED Matrix technology allowing the driver to use main beam without blinding oncoming traffic. So powerful is the beam that headlight washers aren’t necessary. Moreover, in each cut crystal-inspired headlamp there are 82 individual LEDs.
The new Continental GT also gets a suite of the latest active safety kit via two technology option packs: City Specification and the Touring Specification.
Collectively, the packs include hands-free boot opening, pedestrian warning, traffic sign recognition, top-view camera and city braking systems. There’s also adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, active lane assist, heads-up display, night-vision with infrared camera and pre-sense braking.