New Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT

Still fast, still lush – and now with real han­dling

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Words Matt Joy and Ge­org Kacher | Photography John Wy­cher­ley

NOTH­ING LESS THAN EX­QUIS­ITE COM­FORT COM­BINED WITH SPORTS CAR HAN­DLING WOULD DO

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ARD TO BE­LIEVE now, but in the late ’90s, once VW had com­pleted its pur­chase of the Bent­ley brand, there were doubts about whether the new own­ers could up­date the creak­ingly aged model range and snare some cru­cial buy­ers – namely those yet to sport any grey hair. The doubters were rapidly proved wrong. The Con­ti­nen­tal GT – launched in 2003, re­vised seven years later – com­pletely aced the brief, de­liv­er­ing clas­sic Bent­ley magic but with sym­pa­thetic nods to the 21st Cen­tury. Shared in­nards helped make it rel­a­tively af­ford­able too.

And now it’s time for Mk3. The essence is un­changed, but there’s lit­tle car­ried over save for a vis­ual hat tip and the mis­sion state­ment: fast and lux­u­ri­ous like no other car. So how has Bent­ley gone about this high-stakes rein­ven­tion?

1 BAN­ISH ALL TRACES OF PHAETON

The orig­i­nal GT made do with the plat­form of the less-than-suc­cess­ful VW Phaeton, but the 2018 Con­ti­nen­tal GT shares its sexy pants with the new Porsche Panam­era. As be­fore, it’s pow­ered by a W12 en­gine, but the trans­mis­sion, sus­pen­sion, four-wheel-drive and elec­tron­ics are all new.

Its chas­sis is a be­spoke vari­a­tion of the mod­u­lar MSB ar­chi­tec­ture, set to un­der­pin all fu­ture up­mar­ket Porsches, Audis and Bent­leys. ‘MSB is a quan­tum leap for­ward,’ says a beam­ing chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer Rolf Frech. ‘Even though we in­tro­duced sev­eral new high-tech features, the weight has come down by 130 ki­los. In com­bi­na­tion with the more evenly bal­anced weight dis­tri­bu­tion and the up­rated three-cham­ber air sus­pen­sion, the dif­fer­ence in ride qual­ity and han­dling prow­ess is sim­ply mind-bog­gling.’

The body mixes high-strength steels with alu­minium to cut weight and boost stiff­ness. Add in acous­tic glaz­ing and the im­prove­ments to re­fine­ment are clear, with Bent­ley claim­ing a nine deci­bel re­duc­tion in noise lev­els at speed.

2 GET EVEN MORE FROM THAT W12

De­signed, de­vel­oped and built within the CW1 post­code, Bent­ley claims its W12 is the most ad­vanced 12-cylin­der en­gine in the world. Al­ready used in the Ben­tayga, the new unit is 30kg lighter than the old GT’s. High- and low-pres­sure in­jec­tion run­ning in par­al­lel cuts par­tic­u­lates but keeps

per­for­mance and econ­omy stronger than be­fore, while the two twin-scroll tur­bocharg­ers have their hous­ings welded to the man­i­fold for max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency and re­duced lag; in fact the tur­bos never stop spin­ning, cut­ting re­sponse time.

Cylin­der-on-de­mand tech means the W12 can run as a VR6 in the right con­di­tions – in gears three and eight, be­low 3000rpm and up to 221lb ft of twist. The stan­dard Con­ti­nen­tal GT gets 626bhp, just slightly down on the out­go­ing Speed, but 664lb ft of torque – only the hot-shoe Su­per­sports has more. The dual-clutch trans­mis­sion, re­plac­ing a torque-con­verter auto, varies shift times and smooth­ness de­pend­ing on the dy­namic set­tings and adds a launch mode for the first time. Max speed is in sev­enth, leav­ing eighth as a more eco­nom­i­cal over­drive. The 0-62mph sprint takes just 3.7 sec­onds, top speed is now 207mph and Bent­ley claims a range of 500 miles. CO2 emis­sions are down to 278g/km.

3 HAR­NESS THE POWER OF MSB

Noth­ing less than ex­quis­ite com­fort com­bined with sportscar han­dling would do. The old model was ham­pered by its lay­out; the big W12 sat well for­ward in the nose, en­cour­ag­ing un­der­steer in tighter cor­ners. This time the front wheels are 135mm fur­ther for­ward, which Bent­ley went to ex­tra­or­di­nary lengths to pull off. Repo­si­tion­ing the W12 has re­sulted in one of the drive­shafts now run­ning through the en­gine block, as close as 1.5mm to one of the en­gine’s main bear­ings. That was a huge en­gi­neer­ing achieve­ment, and ev­i­dence of how se­ri­ous Crewe was about sort­ing the old car’s foibles.

Un­der­pin­ning all that is a new three-cham­ber air sus­pen­sion sys­tem which prom­ises the holy grail of a more com­fort­able ride and sharper han­dling. The three cham­bers give 60 per cent more air vol­ume when in Com­fort mode for a softer spring rate. Switch­ing set­tings locks out one or even two of the cham­bers to take you to the well rounded ‘Bent­ley’ mode or full-on Sport, the lat­ter run­ning more than double the stiff­ness of Com­fort. As well as ride qual­ity, the ro­tary drive mode se­lec­tor cal­i­brates power as­sis­tance, throt­tle re­sponse, shift strat­egy and ride qual­ity. You can, how­ever, mix and match the key ve­hi­cle traits to suit your own pref­er­ences.

The GT gets an up­dated ver­sion of the 48v Dy­namic Ride Sys­tem first in­tro­duced on the Ben­tayga. It com­bats body roll by in­stan­ta­neously stiff­en­ing the springs on the4

Body is 80kg lighter, more shapely, with more boot space. Lights and tail pipes came from the same de­signer’s doo­dle

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