Bentley Continental GT
Prototype promises new dance moves from Crewe
WHEN the original Bentley Continental GT was conceived, sportiness and agility were not yet among the marque’s top brand values. However, stepping into the new car is like entering a different world. With its DNA now developed in conjunction with Porsche, the new Conti (codenamed BY634) drives like no other Bentley – that’s a promise.
The underpinnings are borrowed from the Panamera, but there’s also a new transmission, suspension layout, all-wheel-drive system and electronic architecture. Oh, and it wouldn’t be a next generation without a boost to power and torque, Bentley extracting a further 31kW/180Nm from its W12.
The new generation 6.0-litre twinturbo engine now musters 465kW and 900Nm resulting in a 0-100km/h time of 3.9sec – 0.4sec slower than the bonkers Supersports – and the top speed is in the vicinity of 340km/h. At the same time the on-paper efficiency has improved to 10.4L/100km, which in reality is nowhere near plausible. While the old model might struggle to bridge the gap between luxury cruiser and GT, the 2018 Conti is a proper GT with a sporty twist.
The chassis is a bespoke variation of the modular MSB architecture which is going to underpin all future upmarket Porches, Audis and Bentleys. Weight has been cut by 130kg, despite the addition of uprated three-chamber air suspension, and has been more evenly distributed for improved ride quality and handling prowess. Like the Panamera, its sibling employs double wishbones up front and a multi-link rear axle. No, this layout is not rocket science, but in combination with the much stiffer aluminium-intensive body, MSB has got what it takes to generate a real driver’s car – in a Bentley.
From the start it is clear to see that our pre-production prototype is a proper precision tool. Input equals output as far as direction changes, deceleration manoeuvres and torque feed are concerned. The electronically-operated anti-roll bars ensure a stable posture, the suppler air suspension fuses comfort and solidity while the electronic aids work much closer to the brink. The rotary drivemode selector offers three different calibrations of power-steering assistance, throttle response, shift strategy and ride quality: Comfort, Sport and Bentley’s own preferred setting are there to choose from.
In its raciest guise, a yellow warning light within the Conti’s cluster signifies that traction control is disabled, the automatic upshift function no longer applies and the fully variable torque split puts the rear wheels on fire from the get-go. Press on hard and the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission will dial in gears with whiplash vigour and velocity. The first three ratios are now more closely placed, meaning riding the torque curve in higher gears is necessary for effortless, elegant cruising when the mood calms.
On track there’s traces of power oversteer as the big Bentley indulges in smokey second-gear slides and encourages the AWD system to pull 2.2 tonnes out of bends at an incredible rate. The previously passive steering is now right on the case, changing direction with tempo and transparency – although Panamerastyle rear-wheel steering will be offered at a later stage. Even through tricky corners, the 21-inch Michelins hang on like hungry bloodsuckers.
On the open road the GT lives up to its nomenclature by being a superior long-distance express, always alert and very fast, but never pushy. In essence, this luxury liner is all about refinement and compliance, however it can shed its mink coach when the performance itch needs to be scratched with an abundance of torque. The steel brakes may not be the last word in wisdom when it comes to lap times, but they work fine in traffic where modulation, effort and effect strike a delicate balance.
The winged cockpit looks fresh, the infotainment is now finally up to modern standards, the ergonomics are on point and the seats are comfortable and supportive. Ultimately, the cabin remains as plush as you’d expect – this is still a Bentley.
After 14 years, Bentley has at long last reinvented its mainstay model, the Continental GT. The footballers’ favourite has always been a goodlooking and beautifully executed motor car. However, now thanks to the cooperation of Porsche, the driving pleasure is also state of the art.
Monster W12 will be joined by 404kW 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and plug-in hybrid further down the track