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AIMS: Aussies queue for Bentley Continental GT

Crewe’s missile: The all-new Bentley Continental GT will be on display at this year's AIMS from July 1.

New Bentley Continental GT in demand as first cars arrive ahead of Melbourne show

17 Jun 2011

ONE of the first Australian-spec examples of Bentley’s redesigned Continental GT luxury coupe is set to make its public debut Down Under at this year’s Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne from July 1, as the first dealer demonstrators and customer cars arrive on Aussie soil.

Fresh from the first Australian private customer preview of the car in Sydney last night, Bentley regional manager for South East Asia and Australasia, Ed Striebig, told GoAuto that demand for the $405,714 Conti GT has exceeded expectations.

“We started ordering the car at the end of last year and we’ve had six months of very strong order take on the car prior to anybody seeing the car let alone being able to get behind the wheel, so the early demand has been very encouraging,” he said.

In addition to the “pristine” dealer car located in Melbourne and the one used for the Sydney viewing, Mr Striebig said a number of dealer demonstrator cars are arriving in the next 10 days and that the first customer deliveries will take place before the end of June – just days before the start of the Melbourne show.

As GoAuto reported from the launch of the new Continental GT in New Zealand last month, Mr Striebig expects 80 to 90 registrations this year – up 50 per cent on 2010 – with continued growth as market conditions improve. Around 250 examples of the previous model found homes in Australia.

54 center imageLeft: Bentley Continental GT side and interior. Below. Bentley Mulsanne exterior and interior.

The first major update to the Continental GT coupe since the model went on sale here in January 2004 encompasses a subtly refined exterior, chassis upgrades, refreshed cabin with new high-tech features and more power from the 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12.

At the heart of the new GT – dubbed Crewe’s missile because it is built in the English town of Crewe where Bentley first opened a factory in 1939 – is an upgraded W12 engine that will run on ethanol-based E85 fuel, petrol or any mixture of the two.

The powerplant gains 11kW of power plus 50Nm of torque over its predecessor to reach 423kW at 6000rpm and 700Nm from just 1700rpm. 100km/h comes up in 4.6 seconds and thrust keeps on coming until 318km/h is reached.

The W12-engined GT drinks fuel at an average rate of 16.5 litres per kilometre but a greener version fitted with a 4.0-litre V8 is on the cards, claimed to reduce emissions by 40 per cent.

The all-wheel drive system now has a 60:40 rear bias – as with the hardcore Supersport variants – which combined with the 65kg weight reduction, wider track, larger wheels plus suspension, steering and stability control system tweaks add up to what Bentley claims is a better driver’s car than the original.

The revised GT’s form – although similar to that of the outgoing car – also benefits from a new panel-forming technique first used on Bentley’s Mulsanne flagship.

The vacuum-forming of heated sheet aluminium enables panels to be precisely shaped, enabling the creation of shapes not previously conducive to series production.

The result is subtle but effective, with crisper feature lines and headlights that sit within smooth one-piece front guards.

During the 80 years in which Bentley operated before the Continental GT was launched under Volkswagen stewardship, the brand’s total sales amounted to 16,000 – but since its launch in 2003 the GT has been a runaway success, alone achieving 23,000 units.

Bentley’s Supersports line-up, which is based on the outgoing Continental GT, will continue to be sold alongside the new coupe because Bentley sees it as a model range in its own right.

Joining the new GT on stage at Melbourne will be the brand’s $662,000 four-door Mulsanne flagship, of which the first Australian customer deliveries took place in March.

Mr Striebig said that considering the model’s global production limit of 800 units, Australian sales are going well and given that well-heeled Aussies have “certainly taken more than our fair share,” considering that the market here is “typically around one per cent of the global volume for any given year”.

Bentley claims that a Mulsanne takes nine weeks to build, using a mixture of traditional coachbuilding skills “developed over six decades” and modern technology.

Its all-new V8 – with its 6.75-litre capacity paying homage to Bentley tradition – has twin turbochargers helping it to produce 377kW and 1020Nm.

All that power and torque is sufficient to propel the slab-sided, 2.5-tonne drawing room on wheels from zero to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds onto a 296km/h maximum speed. Mulsanne drivers can expect average fuel consumption to be 16.9 litres per 100 kilometres.

The lavish wood, stainless steel and leather interior requires the hides of 17 cows – even the boot is leather-lined.

Options on the Mulsanne include the 21-inch alloy wheels (over the 20-inch standard wheels), carbon-ceramic brakes and automatic cruise control. Beyond the standard 28 exterior colours available, buyers can also specify their own bespoke paint finish.

Bentley sold 58 cars in Australia last year and 22 have been registered here so far this year - an increase of 4.8 per cent.

The US is Bentley’s biggest market, followed by China – where it recorded 396 sales for the first four months of this year to overtake domestic UK sales as its second-biggest source of customers.

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