Bentley reveals restyled Continental GT luxury coupe
The third-generation Bentley Continental GT has been unveiled ahead of a scheduled public debut for the luxuriously-equipped coupe at the upcoming Frankfurt motor show in Germany.
Described by the British car maker's chairman Wolfgang Dürheimer as the most technically advanced Bentley model to date, the new two-plus-two coupe arrives 14 years after the resurrection of Bentley under Volkswagen Group ownership
The latest version brings a series of new developments, including an even bolder exterior design, luxurious new interior as well as an advanced new platform supporting innovations such as a 48-volt electrical system and an upgraded version of Bentley's uniquely configured W12 petrol engine offering over 7 per cent more power and 25 per cent more torque in standard form than before.
"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.
Stylistically, the new Continental GT retains many of the traditional lines that have distinguished the up-market coupe since its addition to the Bentley line-up in 2003. They are combined with newer cues first aired on the EXP 10 Speed 6 coupe and cabriolet concept cars to give the exterior a more sculptured appearance throughout with tauter surfacing treatment and more precisely defined feature lines.
To achieve the sharp new look, Bentley has adopted a new construction process borrowed from the aerospace industry known as super forming. It involves heating the aluminium used for the body to ultra high temperatures in a process that allows more complex forms with tighter radii and greater depth than before, according to Crewe officials involved in the development process.
The new car's key design signatures include a shallower but wider grille, more heavily sculptured bonnet, twin round matrix LED headlights and a distinct feature line that runs across the top of the front fenders and back along the length of the doors. Towards the rear, the haunches over the rear wheels have become even more pronounced while the tail lamps adopt the same elliptical shape as the tail pipes. 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.
No official dimensions have yet been revealed, though Bentley describes the new Continental GT as being both longer and lower than its 4906mm long, 1944mm wide and 1394mm high predecessor. The subtle change in external measurements is attributed partly to a new positioning for the front axle, which now sits 135mm further forward to provide for a shorter front overhang while allowing the nose to be lowered and the length of the bonnet to be extended in length. This, in turn, endows it with an even more exaggerated cab-back silhouette than before.
All exterior panels are made of aluminium with the exception of the trunk lid, which is manufactured from a plastic composite material that allows it to house the new car's antennae.
Inside, it aims to deliver class leading levels of luxury and craftsmanship with a cabin lavished with a combination of quilted leather, wood veneer and chromed controls. But in a bid to attract younger customers, it also receives more contemporary connectivity features than ever before. The newly designed dashboard incorporates a digital instrument panel and so-called Bentley Rotating Display – a 12.3-inch centre mounted infotainment display that can be rotated back into the fascia to reveal three analogue dials displaying outside temperature, a compass and chronometer or a plain wood veneer.
The car is trimmed in a total of nine bull hides and comes with newly developed front seats offering standard 12 or optional 20 way electronic adjustment. Bentley says the quilted diamond pattern of the upholstery took over 18 months to develop. The dashboard also incorporates over ten square metres of wood, according to the British car maker. Meanwhile, laminated acoustic glass is used for the windscreen and side windows for a claimed reduction in exterior noise.
Bentley has opted for a top-down strategy in terms of engine choices for its latest coupe with the only unit available at launch being a revised version of the British car maker's uniquely configured twin-turbocharged 6-litre W12 petrol engine. With 467kW at 6000rpm and 900Nm of torque between 1350 and 4500rpm, it delivers 33kW and a solid 180Nm more than the earlier specification W12 engine used by outgoing second-generation Continental GT.
Already offered in the Bentayga, the reworked W12 engine adopts a new fuel injection system that operates at pressures between six and 200bar, revised twin scroll turbochargers and a dual mass flywheel in a move Bentley claims provides it with improved refinement. As part of an upgrade to meet the latest European emission regulations, it also features a number of fuel saving functions including a cylinder shut down mechanism, or what Bentley dubs Variable Displacement, in which it switches off six-cylinders on part throttle loads at city speeds for added fuel economy and lower CO2 output. It also incorporates a coasting function, which idles the engine at near-to-stationary speeds, as well as a stop-start mechanism.
Bentley has also equipped its latest model with an all-new gearbox. The standard eight-speed dual clutch unit replaces the previous Continental GT's eight speed torque converter equipped automatic, providing the choice between sport and comfort modes.
In combination with a dedicated launch mode and revised four-wheel drive 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 new gearbox helps to dispatch the 2018-model-year Continental GT W12 from 0-100kmh in 3.7sec. This is 0.8sec faster than the standard version of the old Continental GT and 0.5sec inside the time quoted for the earlier Continental GT Speed, whose turbocharged 6.0-itre W12 engine delivered the same 467kW but 80Nm less torque than the new model at 820Nm. Top speed, which is achieved in sixth gear with seven and eighth gears acting as overdrive ratios, for what Bentley describes as improved cruising qualities, is put at 333kmh. Again, this tops the old Continental GT by 17kmh.
Below the W12-engined flagship will sit the standard Continental GT model, which will continue with a twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8. However, secrecy surrounds which engine it will use. Some insiders contend that the new coupé will retain the same Audi-engineered 3993cc unit used in other Bentley models. However, a high-ranking Crewe official insists that the model will receive the newer 3996cc engine developed by Porsche and launched in the second-generation Panamera Turbo. Either way, in its mildest state of tune, the new base Continental GT is expected to top the output of the outgoing Continental S, which offers 388kW and 680Nm of torque.
Although the W12 model will continue with standard four-wheel drive, the V8 is likely to be sold with the choice of either rear or four-wheel drive, according to Bentley sources. That will mark a first for the Continental GT, which up to now has been available exclusively with four-wheel drive, irrespective of its engine.
Also planned, although not expected to figure in the initial line-up, is a four-wheel-drive petrol-electric version called the Continental GT Hybrid. Again, Bentley is remaining tight-lipped about its exact plans, but the petrol-electric unit is said to be a development of the system used by the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. In the five-door Porsche, it combines a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine with an electric motor mounted within the front section of the automatic gearbox to provide an overall system output of 340kW and 700Nm.
The Porsche-developed hybrid system has been heavily reworked by Bentley and is expected to provide the Continental GT Hybrid with a pure-electric driving range of around 50km.
Bentley also has the option of introducing a diesel engine to the Continental GT for the first time in the form of the Audi-sourced twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8 motor already used by the Bentayga. However, with the majority of global sales concentrated in the US and China, a diesel model is not considered a priority by Dürheimer.