It was a cold cloud-filled London morning, but in a corner of Mayfair a small group of motoring journalists witnessed the UK debut of Bentley’s latest kilometre-crunching creation.
Drenched in blue neon, two shapes lay back to back in the basement of the Jack Barclay Bentley dealership. Two Bentley Continental GTs, the first in the United Kingdom, were waiting to be shown off for the first time and begin a new era in the history of Bentley motor cars.
The Continental GT is the successor to the Continental, a car released in 2004 and one which over the past thirteen years has been Bentley’s best-selling model. This meant that as Brand Director John Stone finished his opening remarks and the music started, there was a hum of anticipation as the sheets came off the cars.
Every element of the GT’s bodywork has been tweaked and reworked. Greatest attention has been paid to the rear of the car. The haunches have been reshaped as well as lowered and the brake lights have been shrunk from curved squares to delicate horizontal ovals.
This, coupled with a shortened rear bumper and boot lid, makes the car look more purposeful and almost retro in appearance. Similar attention has been paid to the front which now comes with a lowered engine cover and complementing wider grill to provide more air for the updated power-train.
These tweaks, though minor, mean that the Bentley is now certainly the most aesthetically pleasing car in its class.
Yet if a car that costs £154,400 is going to make waves it must also prove that it has grown under as well as on top of the bonnet. As such the 6.0 litre twin turbo W12 has been upgraded, and whereas the previous car produced 582bhp the new GT pumps out 626bhp, running through an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Along with an updated four-wheel drive system, this means the Continental GT can accelerate from a standing start to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 207 mph.
Yet it isn’t just in performance where the Continental GT has advanced. Despite this being the least of the worries of those who will buy the GT, fuel consumption has improved from 17.1mpg to 23.2mpg giving a total range of over 400 miles.
How the Bentley covers those miles can be decided by choosing one of four available driving modes: Sport, Comfort, Custom and Bentley. Sport firms up the ride, sharpens throttle response and gear changes.
Comfort, by its nature, does the opposite and softens the controls for motorway cruising whilst Custom allows you to personalise the car to your preferences, such as combining the steering in Sport with the suspension in Comfort and the air brake in its raised setting for a British B-Road, for example.
The setting we’re most interested in however is the fourth one: Bentley. This is what Bentley believes to be the best combination of Sport and Comfort, aiming to take you away from 2017 and give you a sense of being on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans in the 1920s when Bentley won the race five times.
The Continental GT though has far more technology than its racing ancestor, such as a new night vision system that scans 300 metres ahead to detect any obstacles or dangers that the headlights don’t pick up.
Inside there’s more technological multitasking available for both the driver and the passenger. When the driver utilises the satellite navigation the passenger can simultaneously tune the radio and fine tune other settings on the same screen at the same time, using the new standard split screen.
On the subject of racing and technology. Less than 24-hours after the launch, Bentley’s Motorsport Division unveiled a GT3 version of the car that will make its debut in the Blancpain Endurance series early next year.
At the moment the signs look good, with the first cars reaching their owners in April/May 2018 and one member of staff informing us that they had been contacted by Aston Martin owners wishing to either purchase or replace their DB11 with a Continental GT.
Whether the Aston Martin DB11 will be toppled is one thing, but what is certain is that the Continental GT is the perfect car for a brand new era of Bentley.