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First look: Bentley’s sportier Conti GT

Super form: The Continental GT has a familiar form, but its aluminium surfaces are crisper with the use of super-forming technology that dispenses with seams and welding.

Bentley spices up Continental with more power, better dynamics and techno treats

9 Sep 2010

BENTLEY has unveiled its sportier new-generation Continental GT ahead of its world premiere at the Paris motor show on September 30 and its launch in Australia in April next year.

Although the luxury four-seater coupe closely resembles the current model, the redesigned GT has emerged as a more driver-focused vehicle and Bentley Motors’ Australian division expects it to generate as much interest at launch as its predecessor, which attracted more than 250 orders some 10 months before the first cars began arriving in January 2004.

54 center imageThe latest model has benefited from a host of engineering and design improvements, not least of which are a reworked chassis, hi-tech cabin features and higher outputs from its 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine.

With the latter, power and torque increase to a respective 423kW (up 11kW) and 700Nm (up 50Nm), with drive continuing to all four wheels via an uprated six-speed ZF ‘Quickshift’ automatic transmission and a new Torsen centre differential which now splits torque 40:60 front/rear – as seen on the current high-performance Supersports model.

In late 2011, the long-anticipated all-new 4.0-litre V8 engine will be introduced, also driving all four wheels and delivering a 40 per cent reduction in emissions compared with the W12 engine and a “class-leading” CO2 emissions-to-power ratio.

No other details are forthcoming at this stage for the V8, but its role will be significant in smoothing over one of Bentley’s biggest bugbears: environmental performance.

Notwithstanding modest weight reductions and a more aerodynamic shape (now 0.33Cd), the W12 Continental still racks up 16.5L/100km on the combined EU cycle, 25.4L/100km in urban conditions and 11.4L/100km on the highway.

Compared to the current W12 GT, this represents a 0.1 litre drop on the combined and city cycles, and an improvement of 0.2L/100km in extra-urban conditions.

On the emissions front, the CO2 figure for the redesigned model comes in at 384g/km, which is a 12g improvement.

For now, the Volkswagen-owned British luxury brand is continuing its heavy reliance on mighty internal combustion engines, albeit with a W12 that is E85 bio-ethanol compatible.

Lighter engine components and new seats are among the weight-saving measures instituted “in all areas of the car” that see the redesigned Conti tip the scales at 2320kg (down 30kg), which together with the raised engine output (and revised gearbox) create a six per cent improvement in power-to-weight ratio and sees the 0-100km/h acceleration benchmark fall two-tenths to 4.6 seconds.

Transmission shift times are said to have halved to just 200 milliseconds, while the revised gearbox also now has the ability to deliver double downshifts, such as fourth to second. Top speed remains at 318km/h.

Dimensions are largely unchanged for the 4.8m-long GT, but overall width has increased 125mm to 2227mm and this is reflected in the broader stance and wider wheel-arches of the new model, which accommodate wider tracks – up 41mm at the front and 48mm at the rear.

For the first time on Continental, the GT can be optioned with 21-inch wheels, up from the standard 20-inch rims.

Other chassis highlights include the use of redesigned front suspension uprights made from hollow-but-strong ‘cast-forged’ aluminium, plus a redesigned anti-roll bar and retuned spring and damper settings.

A revised electronic stability control system is also said to provide additional traction.

Inside, the Conti GT has a redesigned instrument panel and dashboard meant to subtly echo the flying wings of the Bentley motif, while new lightweight and slimline ‘Cobra’ front seats are said to offer excellent support over long distances as well as reducing overall weight and providing a further 46mm of legroom for rear seat passengers.

The redesigned cabin also includes new touch-screen technology and a 30G hard drive, which Bentley says combine to offer the latest in navigation and infotainment functionality.

The standard eight-speaker audio unit employs Balanced Mode Radiator technology comprising ultra-effective compact, flat-panel speakers, while an 11-speaker ‘Naim for Bentley’ system is said to be the first in the car industry to offer Dirac Dimensions digital signal processing, which creates a “sound field” independent of speaker layout to deliver “concert hall-quality sound reproduction”.

There is full telephone and music player connectivity, digital television (where available), DVD movie playback and a six-disc CD changer.

As well as the expected fit-out with soft-touch leather trim, wood veneers and deep-pile carpets, the new model is also said to offer higher levels of refinement with revised glazing, anti-vibration panels and under-floor shields.

Practical details like newly designed, leather-lined door bins with an integrated bottle holder have also been introduced.

Other than the wider stance, notable exterior design cues brought with the redesign include a more upright grille, a four-lamp headlight format (including LED daytime running lamps), slightly reshaped ‘floating’ LED tail-lights, a Mulsanne-like bootlid design with ‘double horseshoe’ motif, and flared elliptical tailpipes.

Bentley has also used aluminium super-forming technology to create the front wings and bootlid, a process that heats the aluminium panels to nearly 500 degrees Celsius before shaping them by air pressure. It requires only a single sheet of aluminium and hence eliminates the need for seams or welding.

Bentley design director Dirk van Braeckel said: “The new GT coupe has an even stronger sporting character than ever before. It is an exceptionally refined and comfortable 2+2 grand tourer but with the heart, soul and looks of a supercar.” Bentley chairman and CEO Franz-Josef Paefgen described it as “an automotive work of art, with superb craftsmanship and elegant, contemporary design”.

He added: “It drives like a supercar, but without the usual sacrifices in ride or practicality. It is a car that you can enjoy every moment of every day.” Pricing of around $390,000 is anticipated when the new model reaches Australia early in the second quarter of next year.

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