Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT

Pro­to­type prom­ises new dance moves from Crewe

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG -

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

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