The round lights, mesh grille, diamond-pattern quilted leather inside and, perhaps most of all, those powerful rear haunches…all shout Bentley Continental GT. They’re all here, more unmistakable than ever. But this is not the Conti we have all become so familiar with since its launch 14 years ago. This is something else entirely…
AUG 29th 2017
This is the all‑new 624bhp Bentley Continental GT
Announced today (August 29th) this is the new 2018 Bentley Continental GT. And when we say new, we mean new. Rarely are successive models as reinvented as this one has been. Which makes its sleeker, more powerful but entirely recognisable visage all the more impressive.
Key changes? An aluminium rather than a steel body. A dual-clutch automatic rather than torque converter auto. There’s now a variable torque split for the 4wd system, in place of the previous fixed 40-60 split. The power steering is electric for the first time. The dashboard is all-digital with virtual dials. It's got 48-volt electrics to power its ride control system.
As well as all this, plus a comprehensive technology update, the body gets new proportions (the front wheels are 135mm further forward than before) and fresh dimensions. This is thanks to a completely new-to-Bentley architecture shared with the Porsche Panamera and developed within the VW empire’s luxury car group of which Bentley is now a part.
A very hi-tech, alloy-bodied gran turismo on a Porsche platform represents quite a leap forward for the Volkswagen Phaeton-based Continental with which VW reinvented the marque in 2003. That was 66,000 Conti GTs ago, showing just how much of a hit the first non-coachbuilt Bentley has been.
One thing, of course, you can rely on: the 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 engine that’s been a Conti staple since the first. Here it is in latest form as used by the Bentayga, which makes it a substantially new engine compared to that which has powered its predecessor all these years.
With 664 lb ft of pulling power the new car has markedly more torque to call on than the old, and at 626bhp it boasts more horses even than the Bentayga SUV. That, though, is still shy of the 700-odd bhp of the current Conti GT performance champion, the Supersports. Incidentally a new one of those – and word of V8, diesel and hybrid models, plus of course the inevitable GTC convertible – is being saved by Crewe for another day.
The result of this comprehensive reinvention is a lighter, faster, more efficient Conti GT. But not perhaps by much. Weight, always a bit of an issue for the model, has come down from 2,320kg to 2,244kg. With a diet, better aerodynamics, more power and torque, the new gearbox and a Launch Mode, performance improves: 0-62mph comes down to 3.7 seconds and top speed goes up to an impressive 207mph.
By far the biggest effect of the revamp is likely to be found elsewhere, however. The real treat here promises to be in store for the person in the diamond-pattern quilted leather, 20-way adjustable, heated and cooled, massaging driver’s seat.
With fundamental differences – to suspension, weight distribution, body rigidity, the centre of gravity, even tyre sizes which are now different front and rear – plus the adoption of the Bentayga’s Dynamic Ride anti-roll system, it is inevitable that the way this car will be dramatically different. Already there are first reports that it is the most capable track Bentley yet while long distance cruising comfort should also benefit from a more cosseting ride.
We look forward to finding all that out for ourselves… along with trying the intriguing new dashboard. All digital now and driver-configurable, the virtual dials come complete with glinting “chrome” bezels. Just like the real thing? We shall see. But the piece de resistance promises to be the Bentley Rotating Display in the centre of the dash.
There are three sides to this: a matching veneer panel for the classy look, a 12.3-inch touchscreen for technophiles, or a row of three virtual dials (outside temperature, compass and clock) for a more traditional take on a Bentley dash.
For all of this, there is a price rise, though given the extent of the technology makeover it is not huge. The new Continental GT will be available in 2018 at prices that start at £156,700, against the outgoing model’s £150k. As before you can expect transaction prices to be a lot higher than that after a few options boxes have been ticked.
For Bentley, this British-designed engineered and made car represents the most advanced Bentley ever as well as in its words, “the definitive grand tourer”.
“The new Continental GT is the pinnacle of our design and engineering achievements,” says Wolfgang Dürheimer, Bentley Motors chairman and CEO. “It takes the Bentley ownership experience to the next unparalleled level.”
New Conti GT by numbers
300,000,000 software calculations a second by the W12’s engine computer
66,000 Conti GTs made in Crewe since 2003
50,000 engineering hours gone into the new model
20,815 solar panels on roof of Crewe assembly plant provide electricity to make the new model
2200 Watt optional Naim Audio music system with 18 speakers including bass units built into the seats
1350rpm – point from which maximum torque is available
712 stitches in each diamond shape of the quilted upholstery
664 lb ft (900Nm) of torque, 25 per cent more than outgoing car
626 bhp – 7.5 per cent more than before
500 ºC – temperature needed to Super Form car’s one-piece aluminium sides
294 components in every W12 engine that take six and a half hours to hand-assemble
207 mph top speed, 9mph up; it is achieved in sixth gear with seventh and eighth as overdrive ratios
135mm – front wheels further forward
80 kg less weight in body than old car
60 per cent more air in the air springs than before, for bigger difference between comfort and sport modes
55-45 new weight distribution (old model was more nose-heavy 58-42)
48-volt electrics to power electric actuators on anti-roll bars for the Dynamic Ride system, as already introduced by the Bentayga
28 – number of pistons in the new braking system, with 10 pistons a side in the front calipers
21-inch wheels standard, 22s optional
17 paint colours to choose from (in addition to bespoke colour matching service)
15 mm bigger front discs, now 420mm
15 carpet options (plus bespoke options)
15 hide options (plus bespoke options)
12.3-inch retina-quality MMI display in centre of dash, hidden until engine start-up by veneer panel
10 square metres of wood used in each cabin
9 dB less “passing car noise” than old model thanks to acoustic glass
8 veneer options (plus bespoke options)
3.7 seconds 0-62mph, 0-8 seconds faster than before
1.7 miles of thread used to stitch together all the leather inside
0.1mm – tolerance of some interior components
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