Bentley re­de­fined

A devel­op­ment drive in the next Bentley Con­ti­nen­tal GT re­veals a real step change

Octane - - IGNITION - Words Adam Towler

YOU MIGHT BE think­ing this new Bentley is an­other weighty boule­vardier, per­haps boast­ing lu­di­crous power, but still es­sen­tially that same brutish, love­able yet flawed rogue that has done so much for the mar­que over the last 14 years. Given the tacked-on disguise of this devel­op­ment car, which apes the hunched look of the cur­rent GT, that’s un­der­stand­able. In fact, this is an all­new, leaner, sleeker car un­der­neath.

‘Lux­ury and per­for­mance’ is en­gi­neer­ing chief Rolf Frech’s view of what con­sti­tutes a Bentley. The for­mer is main­tained, the lat­ter dra­mat­i­cally in­creased – the im­prove­ment fa­cil­i­tated by the fact that this new car is based on VW’s MSB plat­form, first used by the new Porsche Panam­era (but with 200mm chopped from the wheel­base).

Catch the new GT in pro­file and you’ll see that the front wheels have been pushed fur­ther for­ward, while at the same time the en­gine has been moved rear­wards in the body. The weight dis­tri­bu­tion (al­ways a weak point of the old car) is now much more neu­tral, and the old Torsen dif­fer­en­tial with its 60:40 front bias has been re­placed by Porsche’s lat­est ‘hang-on’ four-wheel-drive sys­tem, which makes the GT rear-wheel drive for much of the time. The gear­box is now an eight-speed twin-clutch unit, not the old torque con­verter, and the multi- ma­te­rial mono­coque is not only stiffer, but also con­trib­utes to a kerb­weight around 100kg less than be­fore.

The 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 en­gine is in essence the di­rect-in­jec­tion mo­tor first seen in the Ben­tayga. No of­fi­cial fig­ures yet, but reckon on around 650bhp and 664lb ft of torque. The im­pres­sion gained from a hand­ful of laps around the An­gle­sey cir­cuit sug­gests that’s plenty. The en­gi­neers are still fine-tun­ing Above and be­low Look be­yond the ob­vi­ous camo and you’ll spot leaner pro­por­tions; Rolf Frech (on right) chats to Oc­tane’s man. re­fine­ment, as well as pro­duc­tion tol­er­ances in the cabin, but the way the GT punches out of cor­ners shows the W12 is in rude health.

The new GT uses the same air sus­pen­sion as the Panam­era, with three-cham­ber units on the rear axle, and the Ben­tayga’s 48V ac­tive anti-roll bars. Bentley aims to of­fer its usual laid­back com­fort in a pack­age that will not be dis­graced dur­ing a quick few laps of the Nür­bur­gring. And the GT is trans­formed on the cir­cuit by com­par­i­son with the old car. Its brakes stand up to the task, it feels neu­tral and steer­able on the throt­tle, and, while you’d never think of tak­ing it on a track­day, it per­forms im­pres­sively for what is still a big and heavy car.

While the finer points of the trim are still be­ing re­solved, it’s clear this in­te­rior will make the oc­cu­pants feel spe­cial in a way few oth­ers can. The driv­ing po­si­tion is much im­proved, too.

The ini­tial signs are of a car that might just rede­fine Bentley.

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