So now we know how the Bentley Continental GT is to bow out: in a 700bhp, 209mph blaze of Supersports-badged glory. Soon, this year I expect, Bentley will start to drop little teases about the all new Continental GT, though the biggest clue to its likely configuration and content exists already in the new Porsche Panamera, whose platform the Bentley will share. But before that, let’s just briefly look at what the current car has done for Bentley.
JAN 06th 2017
Thank Frankel it's Friday: Hello 700bhp Supersports, farewell Continental GT
It was launched in 2003 and much of the press sniffed at it, some saying it was no more than VW Phaeton in a posh frock. What few even acknowledged let alone accepted was that the Continental shared not a single significant dimension with the Phaeton – not even its wheelbase – and, more relevantly still, the choice was not between a bespoke Bentley or a Bentley using VW-derived architecture, but between a Bentley that made the most of its parent’s resources or no Bentley at all. And how quickly they had forgotten the dark old days when a Bentley really wasn’t a Bentley in any way at all, but a Rolls with difference badges and a different radiator grille.
Happily, the public were far less reserved and flocked to the sharp-suited new coupe. It was the most powerful Bentley in history, the fastest and, as something of a bonus, the cheapest in real terms too. It cost £112,750 and had 552bhp. By contrast the extant Arnage had 450bhp yet cost £170,000. Sales began in earnest in 2004 and having sold barely 1,000 cars the year before, over 6,500 Bentleys rolled off the rebuilt lines in Crewe. With the addition of the four-door Flying Spur version, sales soon topped 10,000 units.
In fact, those early cars were quite rough diamonds but Bentley never stopped working on it. Over the years the Continental lost weight, was turned into one of the best-engineered convertibles that ever existed and steadily gained power. Then a 2011 face life and the addition in 2013 of a 4-litre twin turbo V8 gave it a whole new lease of life.
So rather than carping, the press should have celebrated the arrival of the Continental GT because, without any question, it saved the company and set it on the short and direct course to the rude health it enjoys today. And I think a 700bhp parting shot is an entirely appropriate way to sign off the account.
Which is not to say the next Continental GT can’t be a considerable improvement. The Panamera platform is a lightweight construction of steel and aluminium alloys and should allow Bentley to carve huge chunks of weight from the car while power should rise to around 550bhp for the standard V8 and 650bhp for the normal W12. Remember also that even with 700bhp, the W12 is extremely under-stressed: it’s recently been completely revised and can be considered a new engine – even with 900bhp would only producing the same bhp per litre as a VW Golf R or Honda Civic Type R hatchback.
Which also makes me wonder how long Bentley is going to sit back and let others reap the riches that the current slew of hypercars have provided. Wouldn’t a stripped out, super light Conti' GT with 900bhp be just the thing with which Bentley could celebrate its centenary just two years from now? Now there’s a thought…
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