Described by Bentley chairman Wolfgang Dürheimer as the most technically advanced Bentley model to date, the new 2018 model is planned for Australian delivery early next year prior to a scheuled launch for its yet-to-be-revealed open-top sister model, the Continental GTC.
Arriving 14 years after the Continental GT line was introduced to lead the revival of Bentley under Volkswagen Group ownership, the new model pushes the brand forward with a more youthful design that retains a familiar silhouette blended with more contemporary details as previewed on the EXP 10 Speed 6 coupe and cabriolet concepts.
Beneath the fresh exterior, the Continental GT rides atop a Porsche-developed MSB platform that brings an 85kg weight reduction, improved rigidity, and a lower centre of gravity for greater handling.
Another new feature made possible through the MSB architecture includes a 48-volt electrical system, while the upgraded W12 petrol engine boosts power by over seven percent with torque climbing 25 percent compared to standard version of the previous Continental.
“The third-generation Continental GT is the pinnacle of our design and engineering achievements. It encapsulates our desire to innovate as well as celebrate our heritage and takes the Bentley ownership experience to the next level,” said Dürheimer.
Partial credit for the Continental’s sharp new look comes from a new construction process borrowed from the aerospace industry known as super forming, which uses high temperatures and high pressure to create more complex forms with tighter radii and greater depth than before, according Betley officials involved in the development process.
New design signatures that characterise the third-generation Continental’s design include a more shallow mesh grille leading a less prominently bulged bonnet with more feature lines flowing on from the quad matrix LED headlights, and a crisp feature line that pulls across the front guard and into the doors, before defining the rear guards with a muscular definition.
At the rear, a fastback-style short decklid and subtle integral spoiler wrap over lighting units that have shrunk to a single elliptical form on each side, matching the exhaust outlets mounted low in the bumper surface. Overall, the new Bentley appears lower and broader than before, with wide tracks, a unique wheelbase and standard 21-inch alloy wheels helping to give it a more hunkered-down stance.
A longer and lower bonnet, and front axle pushed forward by 135mm, contributes to a more dramatic cab-rearward stance than before, with Bentley describing the new model as lower and longer than its predecessor although official dimensions are yet to be released.
Interior materials include a range of high-end finishes incorporating quilted leather, wood veneer and chromed controls, however connectivity moves forward thanks to a digital instrument panel and so-called Bentley Rotating Display - a 12.3-inch centre mounted infotainment display that rotates out of the way to reveal a traditional set of analogue dials for outside temperature, compass and chronometer.
To marks its excess the new Continental GT features over ten square metres of wood for its veneer surfaces, with nine cow hides required to trim the expansive leather surfaces inside the cabin.
Full details of interior space within the four-seater cabin are yet to be announced, however Bentley makes mention of improved accommodation for both front and rear occupants, as well as an increase in available boot space.
From launch the Continental GT will be available with a revised version of the British car maker’s uniquely configured twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 petrol engine. With 467kW at 6000rpm and 900Nm of torque between 1350 and 4500rpm, it delivers 33kW and an impressive 180Nm more than the related engine in the previous Continental GT.
Detail changes include a new fuel injection system that operates at pressures between six and 200bar, revised twin scroll turbochargers and a dual mass flywheel for improved refinement. To comply with the latest European emission regulations a cylinder deactivation system shuts down six-cylinders at urban speeds, auto start-stop, and coasting function have also been included.
A new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission takes the place of the previous torque converter transmission, with a dedicated launch control mode and a new variable torque management system that constantly varies the amount of drive to either the front or rear axle instead of the fixed 40:60 split used by the old model.
The lighter and more powerful new model is capable of 0-100 km/h sprint of 3.7 seconds, making it 0.8 seconds faster than the previous Continental GT and just 0.2 seconds behind the time of the flagship Continental Supersports limited edition.
In time Bentley will introduce a V8-powered Continental GT to slot below the W12, however it’s not yet known if that model will continue with a version of the current Audi-engineered 3993cc engine, or move to a version of the newer 3996cc engine developed for the Porsche Panamera Turbo.
Another key change for the V8 model could see a rear-wheel drive model introduced as an option, marking a first for the Continental range if it goes ahead, with all variants of the previous generation vehicles featuring all-wheel drive as standard.
Engineering changes see the new Continental GT’s double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension adopt new triple chamber air springs similar to those seen on the Porsche Panamera. The result is a 60 percent greater air volume than the single chamber air springs of the previous model in a move, resulting in a greater range of ride characteristics.
The driver can choose between four different levels of spring stiffness via a so-called Bentley Drive Dynamics control, including Comfort, Sport, Bentley (a mode chosen to blend the best characteristics of comfort and sport, according to the British car maker) and Custom.
Further developments include the Bentley Dynamic Ride system, which provide active ride control by operating on the front and rear stabilizer bars, as well as a new electric power steering system. Helping to rein in the new Continental GT’s monster performance is an upgraded brake system. It consists of 420mm steel discs with ten piston calipers up front and 380mm steel discs with four piston calipers at the rear. It is described as the most powerful steel brake set-up ever featured on a Bentley model.
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