Taking Bentley luxury touring to the next level
Bentley has unveiled its new Continental GT with more luxury and more technology
You would think that two companies in the same group would talk to each other, wouldn’t you? Although, if that group is the Volkswagen Group, then maybe there is a precedent for a lack of communication. Even so, it was very strange that while Motor News was in Stuttgart last week attending the unveiling of the new Porsche Cayenne, elsewhere in the world fellow VW Group company Bentley was unveiling its new Continental GT, at the same time.
We could understand if these models were not that important to their respective brands, but both are of major significance.
Strange as the timing might be, here is the new Continental GT, which ironically sits on the same platform as the latest Porsche Panamera. It takes a number of cues from the design of the EXP10 Speed 6 concept, although as we expect, the production model is slightly more reserved than the concept.
It looks lower, flatter and wider, with an even more dynamic appearance than the last generation, although it still looks every part the Continental GT. The grille is wider and lower and on either side, and the headlights now sit at the end of sculpted tubes reminiscent of old Bentleys and Jaguars.
At first glance the rear tail lights looks a little odd with their oval shapes surrounded by more defined lines than the outgoing model. However, look closely and they wrap around the corners of what could probably be described as a fastback tail that’s a little bit Audi Sportback. It is a big improvement on the more bulbous look of the previous generation.
"Bentley has been at the forefront of luxury grand touring for nearly one hundred years," says Wolfgang Dürheimer, chairman and CEO of Bentley Motors. "The new, third-generation Continental GT is the pinnacle of our design and engineering achievements and marks the next step in Bentley’s journey.
"We are the world leader in luxury mobility and our products and services define new luxury in the automotive world. The new Continental GT encapsulates our desire to innovate as well as celebrate our heritage and take the Bentley ownership experience to the next, unparalleled level."
At its heart is an all-new, enhanced version of Bentley’s 6.0l, twin-turbocharged W12 TSI engine, mated, for the first time, to a dual-clutch eight-speed transmission. It produces 466kW and 900Nm of torque, with the company claiming a 0-100km/h time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 333km/h. It will also have a dedicated Sport Launch mode for when a race-style start is required.
A new active all-wheel drive system replaces the traditional 40:60 power delivery split between front and rear wheels respectively, instead varying the front-to-rear torque split dependent on the driving situation. Bentley says the vehicle will use rear-wheel drive as much as possible during normal driving for optimum efficiency and dynamic performance.
Through Bentley’s Drive Dynamics Control different modes can be selected: Comfort mode, Bentley mode or Sport mode; the suspension, engine, gearbox and other chassis systems will modify to match the selected drive mode. Alternatively, the driver can personalise their own dynamic settings.
The air suspension has been revised and uses three-chamber air springs which give the car 60% more air volume in the softest setting than the previous model. This allowed Bentley’s engineers more scope for tuning the suspension to improve the ride comfort and character.
While exterior looks are important in ensuring the new model continues the sporting legacy of the famous marque, it is the interior that truly needs to reflect the brand’s heritage when it comes to luxury. There are big changes for the four-seater tourer inside, with a new dash line that almost seamlessly wraps around into the doors in a way similar to that of yachts. There are high-quality natural leathers; rare, sustainably sourced veneers; and hand-polished chrome details. For the first time, unique dual-veneer options are offered. More than 10m2 of wood is used in each Continental GT, and it takes nine hours to create and fit the wooden inlays by hand.
The traditional wings still emanate out from the centre console into the dash, although in a slightly less obvious way than the outgoing model. The centre tunnel sits higher than before too, creating a clearer separation between the driver and the front passenger. That entire centre console is totally new and contains flush-fitting haptic buttons that provide feedback to the touch.
At its top sits a clever piece of technology in the form of an infotainment system that disappears behind a piece of polished veneer. That infotainment screen is the same as the one in the Panamera, but it can be turned at the push of a button to hide behind the wood or again to reveal three inlaid dials displaying outside temperature, a compass and chronometer.
A new, unique quilt is available for the upholstery: called a "diamond in diamond" quilt, the effect is of a floating quilted surface in a sea of leather, which is extraordinarily soft to touch. The new interior pattern features both stitching and embroidery.
Eighteen months were spent developing the embroidery, individually optimising and programming the exact alignment of each of the 712 stitches that make up each diamond shape.
It all looks good for the new Continental GT and we will be sure to have a look at it in all its handcrafted glory at the next week’s Frankfurt motor show.