It feels like the last summer night in Athens. The ice is slowly melting in my G&T and my mind travels between Sloane Square and Park Lane, Bentley’s “natural habitat”.
The new, third generation of Bentley Continental GT has been revealed and with it, all the latest technologies, with regards to the power unit, as well as safety and comfort features.
The design is "conservatively" dynamic and the traditional aesthetics inspire, as always. With four individual lighting units and the familiar imposing grill, you cannot mistake it for anything else.
The new Bentley Continental GT has undoubtedly been influenced by the “non-conformist” EXP10 Speed6, presented in Geneva (2015), not only due to the multiple lines on the bonnet, but predominantly because of the high-eccentricity, ellipsoid rear lights. Out with the old square ones, in with finesse!
Following the trend for weight reduction, the new Continental GT will be lighter than the current model, by 80 kilograms. The engine is a new version of the familiar 6.0lt W12 twin-turbo (designated as TSI by the manufacturer) and the transmission is undertaken by an 8-speed double clutch unit.
The infotainment system with Apple Car Play and the appeal of an IT masterpiece, is still a novelty, contrasting the “chronoscope tradition” that Bentley honours for over 100 years. The designers have found the golden rule, in the shape of a rotating triangle, fitted in a dashboard housing.
When the switch is off, the visible side of the tringle is a seamless continuation of the dashboard. The other two sides remain hidden in the housing.
Activating the car switch, the triangle rotates and the visible side is that of the touchscreen.
Finally, for the Bentley owners with classic studies, those who like to linger on the past and either know exactly where they are going or simply discover the “joie de vivre” in aspects of driving, there is a third side. One last rotation reveals three jewels. A thermometer, a compass and a chronometer, styled in the "artifact", analogue fashion.
The technology for the lighting units is LED Matrix and the new Bentley Continental GT is equipped with digital driving instruments. Four wheel drive is standard, with an increased power distribution to the rear wheels, so that drivers, who are aware of the characteristic behaviour of a Bentley, are not alienated.
So far, the only available power unit is the W12 TSI with 466kW (634hp-same as a BELL B-429 helicopter engine). The torque is 900Nm, (or twice the torque of the brand-new Porsche Cayenne). The difference, compared to the current W12 engine is +32kW (+43hp) and +180Nm. However, the performance improvement is much more spectacular.
According to the manufacturer the new Continental GT accelerates from zero to 100km/h, in a mere 3.7 seconds, or 0.8″ quicker than the predecessor. The top speed is 333km/h, which is 3km/h slower. In comparison, for the Bentley Continental GT Speed (with 472kW and 840Nm output by the twin-turbo W12), the corresponding figures were 4.1 seconds and 336km/h.
The new, 8-speed, double-clutch, transmission is capable, not only of quick shifts, but also an impressive fuel economy result of 14.2 liters of fuel per 100km.
The shifting intervals (shift-time) are manually adjusted, depending on the driving style. With “Sport” on, the changes are instant and the acceleration unpragmatic, for a driver without racing credentials. Selecting the “Comfort” mode, makes shifting slower and seamless, despite the colossal torque.
The Continental GT is considered the epitome of comfort and this is largely due to the Bentley Dynamic Ride. A 48 Volt system, controls the anti-roll rod on both axles, so that both comfort, as well as driving pleasure are enhanced. As in the case of the transmission, the BDR is controlled by the driving style selector.
The air suspension mechanism is also “hooked” on the same 48Volts. This consists of 3-chamber shock absorbers, with 60% greater air volume, compared to the previous model, in the “soft” setting.
The new, improved braking system, consists of the wider (by 15mm) 420mm discs. The exhaust has been redesigned and an exhaust control valve has been added on the intermediate stage. This reduces noise at low engine operation, but is mostly given credit for reducing the weight of the silencer, by 50% (in case you were wondering where the 80kg of weight reduction could come from without any compromise).
Naturally, the Bentley comes with as many options for the exterior and interior of the car, as the owner needs, to soothe the insatiable desire. There are 17 standard colours and 70 hues available for the exterior. The maths employed for all the possible combinations of carpet, leather and single or double veneer for the interior, indicate the number of 2700. So, if you need 10 seconds to evaluate each one, it will take more than 7.5 hours to fully explore the options for the interior alone!
For those who need more, the Continental GT is equipped with two additional technology packages:
The "City Specification" package refers to those, who make use predominantly in an urban environment and includes, a hands-free boot opening device, pedestrian warning, sign recognition, Autonomous Emergency Braking and a 360° monitoring system.
A "Touring Specification" is available for those wishing to depart for the "Grand Tour" and includes the adjustable cruise-control and auto-braking system, traffic congestion assistance, a Head-Up-Display and night-vision.
Finally, for those with refined aesthetic criteria, there is the "Mulliner Driving Specification".
H. J. Mulliner & Co. was founded in 1897, by the famous carriage manufacturer H J Mulliner. Initially, the company was located at Bedford Park, a London suburb at the time. Mulliner’s family had a tradition in carriages, since they had a renting business, dated back to 1760.
In 1909 Mulliner sold the company to John Croall & Sons and in 1959 Mulliner ended up in the hands of Rolls Royce, having first decorated Rolls-Royce and Bentley interiors for decades.
Today, it is the customization department for Bentley and the options provided are the 22-inch forged light-alloy wheels, the unique ‘diamond in diamond’ stitching, the Bentley embroidery on the headrests, additional veneer options, jewel tank cap, sports pedals and personalized stitching and threshold plate.
The Bentley is not simply a luxury vehicle. For decades, it has been the preferred means of transport, for a niche social group, with specific ancestry and life-patterns, notably demanding, in selection and expectancy. Despite the corporate and operational changes that have occurred since 1998, the new Continental GT is proof that Bentley, not only managed to focus successfully on those expectations, but also reinvented itself, "leaning on its mighty design-pen” and accentuating the British archetype of luxury.
«And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name»
– A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare