We find out if the third-generation of the Continental GT is Bentley’s finest grand-tourer yet
They called them the Bentley Boys. The motley bunch of wealthy playboy racers were a rambunctious lot who lived like rock stars and drove hell for leather each time they stepped into their modified Bentley racing machines. They first won the Le Mans in 1924 and then on four consecutive occasions between 1927 and 1930. These were the gentlemen that lent Bentley, which was only a decade old at the time, its earliest identity as a racing marque which was primed for the privileged.
It was during the Roaring Twenties when the marque’s founder Walter Owen Bentley, a Bentley Boy himself, coined the term “Continental”. All of Bentley’s cars were built in Cricklewood, North London, and a select few which were taken over to mainland Europe and personally tested by W.O. received the continental moniker.
The continental series were, therefore, flagship statements of Bentley’s engineering and design prowess. Applied to several cars over the decades, each new launch is a cause for celebration. The latest addition is the all-new 2018 Bentley Continental GT, unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
The Continental GT is built on the Porsche Panamera (remember parent Volkswagen owns both brands) platform. But this is no copy-paste job. Bentley says that 83 per cent of the parts have been modified to build the Continental GT. As a grand-tourer, speed is a prerequisite and so it stripped around 75 kilos off the outgoing model.
The two-door model still has space for two rear seats as well. This one’s good to take the family along. The glass is acoustic-laminated which means you can keep the noise of traffic outside, and the beats coming from your Bang & Olufsen 16-speaker sound system inside. Acoustic deadening material has been added to the underbody of the car to reduce the road noise and the Pirelli P Zero tires have an additional layer of sound-absorbing material too.
The ride quality borrows from the Bentayga SUV. It’s called the Bentley Dynamic Ride and uses a complex set of algorithms and clever engineering to continuously adjust the ride height, shock damping, stiffness and grip of the car to ensure that it drives like a track-honed machine even during your daily commute. There are four driving modes: Comfort, Sport, Custom and Bentley. The first three are self-explanatory. But the last one, and we suggest you keep it in this mode always, is one that has been specifically designed and customised by the Bentley team.
The beating heart of the machine, a twin-turbo W12 was first implanted into the Bentayga. In the Continental GT, it has been tuned to deliver 626hp of power and 900Nm of torque. That kind of power-torque ratio means that despite a gross weight of around 2,700 kilos, the car will sprint from 0-100kph in 3.7 seconds and has a top speed of 333kph. Just make sure the kids are buckled in tight before you start teasing the throttle. With that much power and speed though, expect a brilliant set of brakes too. You get 420mm brakes upfront – the largest fitted into any production car that can easily scrub off speed.
One of the most striking physical appearances of the car are those brilliant crystal glass headlights. The 82 LEDs in each one has been programmed such that it can split the beam and direct it away from blinding occupants in oncoming cars, and it will do the same when overtaking another car as well.
The interiors are as blue-blooded as you’d expect from a car that operates at this level of the social pecking order. There are eight wood veneer options to choose from to kit your cabin with and the hides of precisely nine Northern European bulls are used inside each car. The centre console metal can be finished with a Cote d’Geneve pattern that is used to design the movements of high-end timepieces from Patek Philippe to Vacheron Constantin. In the centre of the dashboard, mounted on a rotisserie, is a panel that flips to reveal a 12.3-inch infotainment screen on one side and three analogue dials on the other that sits flush in the dashboard and can be alternated with the flick of a switch.
Deliveries of the new car begin this year. Bentley has created a luxury touring machine that can go the distance. To anthropomorphise the new Continental GT, it’s all grown up now.