Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT The world shrinks a lit­tle more

The mo­tor car re­placed the horse, just as the horse had been less effort than walk­ing. And now there’s a new Conti GT, to make miles eas­ier still. By

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Gavin Green

NOW THAT THE prob­lem­atic SUV launch is out of the way, Bent­ley can get on with what it does best. Grand tour­ers. And what a fine car the new Con­ti­nen­tal GT is.

It’s blis­ter­ingly fast, su­perbly com­fort­able and beau­ti­fully ap­pointed. As this is the first new Bent­ley af­ter the Bentayga, it’s also a re­lief to see that it’s a hand­some beast, too.

There is surely no more com­plete GT car, es­pe­cially if grand tour­ing is your mis­sion. Its sup­posed call­ing in life – cross-con­ti­nen­tal high-speed tour­ing – may be whim­si­cal ’30s nos­tal­gia, as rel­e­vant to mod­ern travel as the Bent­ley Boys are to 21st cen­tury mo­tor­sport. (Bent­ley cus­tomers nowa­days go to Nice by BA Club World, or pri­vate jet.) Yet, given the choice of any car for a Lon­don-to-Nice dash, I can’t think of a bet­ter choice. Nor could there have been too many bet­ter cars for my all-day drive across the moun­tains (in­clud­ing the Gross­glock­ner Pass) from Aus­tria to Italy.

But don’t go think­ing it’s just a big soft high-speed cruiser, all mus­cle and mass, like the old charmer. That old Bent­ley had char­ac­ter and com­fort in spades, but when the road got tight and speeds got high, it al­ways felt more lux­ury limo than two-door coupe. This new one can en­ter­tain, as well as pamper. It’s a lux­ury GT that can play the high-speed sports car.

It may look rather like its long-hooded pre­de­ces­sor, but un­der­neath it’s all­new. Even the W12 en­gine is dif­fer­ent, though the ca­pac­ity (a whop­ping 6.0 litres), the com­pact W con­fig­u­ra­tion, and the twin turbocharging, may be fa­mil­iar. Power is a mas­sive 626bhp, up 7.5 per cent on be­fore. Torque is in­flated by 25 per cent and, what’s more, its meaty max­i­mum of 664lb ft is de­vel­oped all the way from 1350rpm (barely above idle) to 4500rpm.

It can hit 60 from rest in 3.6 sec­onds. If the gen­darmes aren’t look­ing, you can do 207mph on the Au­toroute du Soleil, on your way south to the sun. Fuel econ­omy isn’t great – what do you ex­pect? – but at least six of the 12 cylin­ders can rest when not needed. A V8 comes later. (In fact, on the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, it pow­ered the bet­ter car.)

Out goes the old VW Phaeton-car­ry­over plat­form, and in comes a new one, co-de­vel­oped with Porsche (some un­der­pin­nings are shared with the lat­est Panam­era). While the Phaeton plat­form was a hand-me-down, the Bent­ley en­gi­neers helped cre­ate this ar­chi­tec­ture. They got what they wanted, not what was avail­able. The dif­fer­ence is man­i­fest. Though an im­proved car in every way – from looks, to lev­els of lux­ury, to live­li­ness – it’s the new chas­sis, and its ex­tra agility, that re­ally trans­form this car.

Of par­tic­u­lar note is the new four-wheel air spring sus­pen­sion and 48-volt elec­tronic anti-roll con­trol – which re­duces body roll and boosts sup­ple­ness. Ride qual­ity and body con­trol are out­stand­ing. We find an en­gine sited 150mm fur­ther back and a new eight-speed dual-clutch gear­box, crisp shift­ing and sat­is­fy­ing. It’s the ex­cel­lent Porsche PDK sys­tem, cus­tomised by Bent­ley for more torque. The body is alu­minium and its pan­els are ‘su­per formed’ – heated to 500°C be­fore be­ing shaped. This al­lows for more com­plex and sharply de­fined body lines. In­side, we find an exquisitely crafted cabin, with 10 square me­tres of var­nished wood and 15 leather hides. A new cen­tral ro­tat­ing dis­play can serve up a min­i­mal­ist plank of var­nished wood, three trad in­stru­ments, or a large touch­screen, as you please. This is a nice piece of drama, never mind it costs an ex­tra £4700. The rear seats, though beau­ti­fully fin­ished, are best avoided. It’s a 2+2, at best.

At 2244kg – about 80kg or so less than the old bruiser – it’s still no feath­er­weight. Yet it doesn’t feel any­thing like this heavy, es­pe­cially on wind­ing moun­tain roads. It may not dance over the tar­mac, light-footed like a su­per­car, or even like the (less weighty) DB11. Rather, it pow­ers seam­lessly for­ward, firmly planted and sure-footed.

We find three driv­ing modes: Com­fort (two-door limo mode; sit back and re­lax); Bent­ley mode (rec­om­mended by the en­gi­neers; fast and ma­jes­tic); and Sport (el­e­vates the Conti into a whole new di­men­sion of en­ter­tain­ment: just 17 per cent of drive goes to the front wheels, the ex­haust note now barks and bur­bles and, if you’re so in­clined and brave enough, you can even do pow­er­slides).

So it can play the comfy GT so­phis­ti­cate, the lux­ury limo and also the thrilling two-door sports coupe. Does any other GT have quite this band­width? I don’t think so. What’s more, a cheaper, lighter and al­most cer­tainly more nim­ble V8 ver­sion (en­gine cour­tesy of Porsche) is on its way. And that will prob­a­bly be even bet­ter.

And the screen’s… gone! The trad am­bi­ence ver­sus tech con lict re­solved

Not for Gavin the tire­some glare of an in­fo­tain­ment screen Ac­tu­ally rel­ishes moun­tain roads, thanks in part to 48-volt anti-roll con­trol

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