Bentley’s most radical car to date has to be the newly named Continental GT. This car spices up the Bentley line which has been fairly conservative. As expected, the car is built with the highest levels of Bentley luxury, craftsmanship and comfort. Unexpectedly the car is based on an entirely new platform, with a W12 engine powering all four wheels. Indeed, this is grand touring at its best.
Bentley have been working on a GT project over the last twenty years. During such time only a handful of cars were built and some sold to the Sultan of Brunei. Not until Volkswagen came along did Bentley have the capital to finish the project. A Â£500 million dollar investment from VW enabled Bentley to release this car at the 2002 Paris Auto Show.
Former Skoda designer, Dirk van Braeckel is the designer of the Continental GT. His design is inspired by earlier cars such as the Bentley Speed Six of 1928 and the 1952 R-type Continental. Like these cars the Continental GT possesses a stance and presence that is clearly Bentley. Styling cues include a pillar less cabin, short overhangs and a flush mounted rear spoiler.
Inside, the Continental is classic, four seater Bentley. Indeed owners of an Arnage or Continental R will feel right at home. Like all Bentley products, the highest grade of hides and woods are used throughout.
The key ingredient shaping the Continental GT is the W12 engine. This engines basic architecture is lent from the Volkswagen Phaeton unit. The design of this W12 staggers two narrow-angle, V6 engines, all sharing a common crankshaft. The result is the shortest twelve-cylinder engine ever made for a production car.
Having such a short engine allowed Bentley to increase passenger space without increasing overall size. This additional space allows the Continental GT to seat four people.
Bentley has completely reworked the W12 design to its own specification. To increase power, twin KKK turbochargers are utilized. Forced induction is not a new idea to the Bentley name, back in 1928 Blower Bentleys dominated motor sport. Now, for over 20 years, Bentley has been turbo charging their own power units.
Providing the link between the engine and all four wheels is a ZF, 6-Speed transmission. Highlighting the newly-designed box are tiptronically-actuated gear changes. Such gear selection is a first for the Bentley marque.
In the handling department, Bentley have employed the use of active damping. Electronic dampers are used in combination with double wishbones and air-springs on all four wheels. Both the damping and spring rates are adjusted via computer to optimize performance and comfort. This layout is very similar to the suspension setup on the VW Phaeton.