Bentley have done something quite special with the Continental GT.
They have taken a bold design concept, so shockingly radical that it was barely recognisable as a Bentley, and have injected just enough DNA to bring out the family resemblance without sacrificing any of the concept’s appeal.
When the experimental ‘Speed 6‘ was unveiled in Geneva in 2015 the assembled media and guests were very impressed by the car, but the consensus prevailed that it looked more Aston Martin than Bentley. Jump forward to Frankfurt 2017, and the New Continental’s unveiling has revealed much more of the ‘Speed 6’ than anyone expected, but with the most subtle of pen-strokes redefining the shape to remove any doubt this car is from Crewe.
It’s not always easy to pin-point what defines the Bentley DNA that makes the difference between a Bentley and other high performance luxury GTs. On the production car, that slightly rounded roof-line evokes the early 1950’s R-type Continental, the taller nose gives the superior presence a Bentley deserves, and the more refined treatment of the rear lights, exhaust pipes and bonnet makes this one of the most attractive Grand Touring coupe’s ever produced. It is also one of the most technologically advanced.
The entire side of the car is fashioned out of one lightweight piece of Aluminium using a modern production process called Super Forming. This is a technique that allows more interesting shapes and details to be pressed into a single sheet of metal. It speeds up the assembly process, while increasing the strength and stiffness of the finished product. If you thought Bentley still used English Wheels and hammers to beat out the shapes, I’m afraid that era is long gone.
But the hand-finishing tradition continues on the inside where the craftsmanship of the Crewe artisans is ubiquitous. The steering wheel, the veneer, the seats, the switches and dials are beautifully made to the exceptionally high standards Bentley – and each customer – demands.
When it comes to the cabin, Bentley has moved the game along. While, the new Continental’s interior is far more restrained than the concept, it still shows evidence of fresh thinking and a desire to broaden the norms of how a car interior should look and feel. There is a pleasing blend of the traditional with the avant-garde. For instance, a twin-veneer fascia hides a state-of-the-art 12.3″ multi-media screen, wide enough to split into three separate displays. When the screen is no longer in use, the panel can rotate again to reveal three classic dials – a stopwatch, a compass and an ambient thermometer. The whole mechanism is reminiscent of the type of gadget James Bond would have insisted on, had his Bentley remained in service.
Ahead of the driver, the instrument cluster has been designed to look like a crisp, analogue dashboard, but the entire panel is a digital screen. The display can be configured to suit the driver, but there is sufficient space to show a clear navigation map, rather than just direction arrows, along with the usual speed and rev-counter gauges.
The tri-tone leather is stitched together in new and creative ways to look great from outside the car and feel comfortable inside the car. An enhanced seating option allows adjustment up to 20 different ways, allowing any possible position to be programmed into memory.
So it’s a beautiful place to sit on a long journey, but the improvements to the Continental GT are more than skin deep. Under the newly-sculpted bonnet, there’s a whole new Bentley engine. It’s a 6.0-Litre W12 ‘TSI’ unit, a highly efficient petrol motor that uses all 12 cylinders when maximum power is needed, but runs on just six during more sedate driving. Efficient it may be, yet it’s still powerful enough to launch the Continental to 60mph in less than four seconds. Even the First Edition of this car, with all its refinement, comfort and luxury, will hit 207mph in 6th gear, with two more gears to go in the silky smooth 8-speed automatic transmission.
Performance is not a problem. As Bentley prepares to enter its second century we can also expect to see plug-in hybrid versions of this Continental, bringing with them the performance and efficiency improvements associated with electric powertrains.
Bentley recognises that not all GT owners go on grand tours, so a City Specification includes options focused around day to day driving like, traffic sign recognition to flag up speed limits, braking assist to protect pedestrians from low speed impacts, and rear crossing warning to alert the driver to any unsighted hazards when reversing.
For those who do enjoy a road-trip, Touring Spec includes Adaptive Cruise Control, which can predict when the car needs to slow for corners and adjusts the speed accordingly, and Night Vision, which identifies pedestrians or animals in the route ahead and highlights them on the screen in front of the driver.
Speaking at the launch of the new Continental GT in Frankfurt, Bentley Chairman, Wolfgang Durheimer called the new model a “defining moment” for Bentley, saying, “Today we introduce a car that is the ultimate in extraordinary design, technology and innovation.”
The new Continental GT is now available to order with deliveries beginning in the Spring of 2018.