This, ladies and gents, is the new £135,760 Bentley Continental GT, one of the stars of the December issue of CAR magazine. We were the world’s first car mag to drive the Mk2, on the stunning desert roads of Oman: here’s a quick first drive to whet your appetite, ahead of the magazine going on sale Wednesday 17 November.
Bentley says that the Continental GT is a design icon and that this new model had to stay true to the original. And so it has. You might notice the crisper lines that flow precisely down the profile of the GT, the way the tops of the wings sweep downwards to meet the bonnet more aggressively and make the new and more upright grille seem wider and more imposing, but you need an old GT alongside before all the design tweaks really jump out at you.
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But it’s all new underneath, right? Well, not really. There’s still a twin turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 slung out ahead of the front axle and it still drives through a ZF six-speed automatic gearbox to all four 20-inch wheels. Power is up from 552bhp to 567bhp at 6000rpm and 516lb ft at just 1700rpm.
The new Continental GT also benefits from the quicker gearshift (200 milliseconds) of the recent ‘lightweight’ Supersports model and the 40/60 front/rear torque split, which is said to make it feel more agile and more neutral at the limit of grip. Unfortunately the GT is still a very heavy car, with just 65kg shaved from the last model and a kerb weight of 2320kg. A Cayenne Turbo is 150kg lighter!
What about inside the new 2011 Conti?
Slide into the new ‘Cobra’ seats (see them from the side and you’ll understand the nomenclature) and you’ll immediately see that the theme of gentle evolution rather than a radical new direction continues. To be honest that’s fine by me.
The old GT has a fabulous interior and the new one is simply unbeatable at pretty much any price: elegant, understated, easy to navigate and of impeccable quality. Perhaps the similarly priced Aston Marin Rapide feels, at first glance, even more special inside. However, the Aston can’t hope to match the sheer quality that is apparent in every little detail aboard the Bentley.
How does the Bentley GT drive?
On the road the Continental GT shows great stability, plenty of grip, a modicum of feedback and a sense that underneath all that refinement and ride comfort is something approaching a sportscar. Albeit a very chunky one. But then Serena Williams seems to get around the tennis court ok…
Its strengths are obvious – a sledgehammer engine that shrugs off the 2320kg it's hauling, a smooth (if a little lethargic) gearbox and a chassis that is both supple and surefooted.
The GT has four suspension settings ranging from Comfort to Sport and in the latter exhibits good body control and real precision to the way it turns into a corner. The steering is light and quick, helping to disguise the weight of the GT. Overall it’s a mighty fast, mighty impressive machine, if one that lacks a little bit of interaction with the driver. A Rapide would be more entertaining, but also slower and with a harder ride… you pays your money etc.
The big news, the really new Continental GT, is still a year away: a new model powered by a 4-litre turbocharged V8 that is 40-percent more efficient (not difficult), much lighter and a bit cheaper, too. Already the guys and girls at Bentley are very excited about the new V8 and there’s no doubt it’s slotting into an accomplished, polished and highly desirable package.
The new GT is excellent and suitably imperious. I only wish it was lighter, a tad more agile and few degrees more tactile. Come November 2011, it just might be.