Bentley has launched the fetching all-new Continental GT, in what is the largest overhaul the car has had in its lifetime.
Ditching the Volkswagen Phaeton-based chassis for new, 85kg lighter aluminium underwear similar to what you’ll find on the latest Porsche Panamera, the W12 launch model is 70kg lighter overall than before – but handling has undergone a revolution, says Bentley.
That’s partly thanks to better weight distribution. The car has a 110mm longer wheelbase than before, but the front wheels are 135mm further forwards; a move that shifts more weight towards the rear wheels. The old unladen weight distribution was 58 per cent towards the front – now it’s 55. With two people and luggage on board it’s 53:47 – and that’s good news.
Bentley is hoping to persuade more than a few people out of Porsches with its sharper-handling new Continental, whose styling is based closely on the EXP 10 concept car displayed at the Geneva Motor Show two years ago. It’s 25mm wider, the nose is lower and the 48-volt anti-body roll system works to keep the GT unerringly flat through corners.
You can choose four driving modes: Comfort, Sport, driver-adjustable Custom and Bentley, which the company says balances the best attributes of Sport and Comfort to create the most Bentley-ish experience. The hugely clever suspension uses a three-chamber air spring system that can even decide which of the chambers it wants to use at that time, shutting off the ones it doesn’t need.
Inside the cabin is a sea of wood. As much as 10 square metres of it, if that’s what floats your yacht. The quality is hardly going to be put in doubt, so we’ll breeze past that idea and on to something much more interesting: the centre screen derived from Audi’s Virtual Cockpit technology.
This three-sided central screen arrangement, dubbed ‘the Toblerone’ for its shape, has a 12.3-inch widescreen on one side, old-school analogue temperature gauges on another and bare trim on the third, seamlessly integrating with the rest of the console if you’d rather just put all the toys away for a while.
As for speed, and we know you want to know, the standard W12’s pace makes it clear that any future ‘GT Speed’ versions are going to have to do something very special indeed. With 626bhp to play with and a new heavy-duty eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox (again similar to the Porsche Panamera’s), 62mph comes about in just 3.7 seconds on the way to a top speed of 207mph in sixth. Seventh and eighth are apparently just for high-speed cruising. In eighth we can only imagine it’s barely off tickover at 100mph.