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is not necessarily the biggest enemy to keen drivers, but weight at the
wrong side is.
The last Continental GT
was a mixed bag. It was tastefully styled and impeccably built,
smelling British luxury yet offering German reliability. On the
flipside, it was dull to drive – save the two Supersport models
perhaps. The problem was attributed to its underpinnings, which came
from Volkswagen Phaeton. That luxury limousine was a heavyweight, and
so was the Continental GT. For a 2-door, 2-plus-2-seating coupe, even a
luxury one, its 2.4 tons kerb weight was clearly over the top. Weight
is not necessarily the biggest enemy to keen drivers, but weight at the
wrong side is. The Conti employed a traditional Quattro 4WD system
which put its engine entirely ahead of the front axle. Although the
twin-turbocharged W12 was relatively short, it still needed to pack 12
cylinders and 6 liters of displacement, not to mention the turbos and
cooling system. As a result, the car had always been criticized for all
sorts of problems characterizing nose-heavy cars, i.e. understeer,
pitch under braking, low cornering limit, wooden steering feel, stiff
Having said that, the first generation Continental GT was a sales
success. Bentley built around 5000 to 6000 cars a year, accounting for
more than half the volume of the company during the period. In fact, it
was so successful that Crewe needed only a mild refresh to keep it in
production for 14 years.
used to reckon Mercedes S-class Coupe as the world’s most beautiful
luxury GT. Now Bentley has toppled it.
Naturally, for the second incarnation, Bentley keeps its best element
intact: the beautiful profile. Again it combines sleekness with
classical sculpture. Meanwhile, the details get more elegant. The front
end is more sculpted, especially around the Jaguar-style headlamps. The
mesh grille gets lower, wider but more formal. There are more chrome
decorations at the sides, too. At the back, the tail gets even sleeker,
while the oval taillights and exhausts look far more elegant than the
old ones. I used to reckon Mercedes S-class Coupe as the world’s most
beautiful luxury GT. Now the new Bentley has toppled it.
Inside, the new cabin has its design overhauled. Its dashboard is not
quite as sculpted as the old one thus it is no longer that special.
However, the craftsmanship and use of materials are still excellent,
whereas electronic technology is markedly improved, expectedly. Above
the center console is a 12.3-inch touchscreen. It is actually part of
the 3-face rotary device, which can be transformed to a traditional
wood panel or 3 analogue gauges showing insignificant information
(outside temperature, compass and timer). It sounds flamboyant to me,
but its target customers might love that. Ergonomics is improved by not
only the touchscreen but also the sloping center console, which makes
the controls easier to see and reach. Compared with S-class Coupe, the
Bentley’s interior still looks more bespoke and expensive due to its
heavy use of wood and chrome. It meets your expectation for what a
British luxury car means. On the downside, the two rear seats are still
suitable only to children or at most short adults for a brief ride, as
it lacks both head and legroom. Fortunately, the boot is big, which is
critical to a cross-country GT.
with S-class Coupe, the Bentley’s interior still looks more bespoke and
The new car is almost the same size as the old one. Its body length is
kept unchanged, though its gets 11mm wider and its wheelbase is
stretched by 110mm, thanks to reduced front overhang. This new
proportion is made possible by the switch to the Porsche-developed MSB
platform, which is already used by Panamera. (BTW, Bentley is now
managed under the Sport/Luxury group headed by
Porsche, so a lot of components and development come from the latter.)
The MSB has its front axle pushed forward by 135mm, so the engine sits
closer to the firewall, and the front driveshafts have to run through
the bottom of the engine sump. Weight distribution is therefore
improved from 56:44 to 53:47 for the W12-engined model (the forthcoming
V8 should be better still). As in Panamera, the new 4WD system uses a
multiplate clutch to engage the front axle on demand, so in normal
driving the car is largely rear-drive. Hopefully this will greatly
improve the car's handling and feel.
Unsurprisingly, the car’s body-and-white chassis is built at Porsche’s
Leipzig plant alongside Panamera. It is then shipped to Crewe for final
assembly and trimming. The chassis is a mixture of steel and aluminum,
while the entire bodywork is made of superformed aluminum sheets. The
body-in-white is 80kg lighter than the old car's steel construction,
while the whole car is 76kg lighter. Even so, it still weighs some 2244
kg, or 239 kg more than its arch-rival Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe 4matic.
The Panamera-sourced suspensions consist of double-wishbone up front
and multi-link setup at the rear, supplemented with 3-chamber air
springs, continuous adaptive dampers and 48V motorized active anti-roll
bars. Its technology is certainly state of the art.
MSB has its front axle pushed forward by 135mm, so weight distribution
is a lot improved.
The new W12 engine already debuted on the Bentayga SUV. It looks like
the old one on paper, but it has some important new features, most
notably cylinder deactivation (which shuts down half the cylinders on
light load), direct and port injection and automatic stop-start. These
help it reducing fuel consumption by 16 percent, although its CO2
emission of 278 g/km is nothing to be proud of, considering the
similarly powerful S63 Coupe 4matic is good for 211 g/km. The W12
produces 635 horsepower and a mighty 664 lbft of torque from merely
1350 rpm all the way to 4000 rpm. It guarantees a top speed of 207mph,
and 0-60mph can be achieved in 3.6 seconds. Although the lighter
Mercedes is faster still against stopwatch, I wonder if anyone would
feel the Bentley slow. Moreover, it follows the Panamera to adopt an
ZF-built 8-speed twin-clutch gearbox instead of torque-converter
automatic that almost everyone else in the luxury world employ. This
should make it feel more responsive.
On the road, the W12 makes slightly throatier noise than the old one,
but it is still not as musical as its V8 or V12 rivals on the market.
However, it does feel torquey anytime, anywhere, thus the Continental
GT is very quick in a straight line. Do we want a Supersport version?
Well, it wouldn't hurt to have more power, but the emphasis should be
shifted to better sound and less weight. At this moment, the Achilles’
heel is the twin-clutch gearbox, at least on the pre-production cars.
Its gearshift is occasionally clunky or hesitant at low speed
maneuvering. As Panamera has no such problems, for sure Bentley will
have it ironed out through fine tuning before reaching production.
Conti finally becomes a driver’s car, more like a big Porsche...
However, the most transformed is handling. Drivers of the old car
wouldn’t believe how good it steers and corners. Although the car is
undeniably heavy – you’d feel it if compare with Aston DB11, it is
well balanced. Front-end grip is much enhanced. Understeer, roll
and brake dive are much reduced. This is not only down to the better
weight distribution but also the rear-biased 4WD. Even when the rear
wheels spin, it will send only up to 38 percent torque to the front
axle, or just 17 percent in Sport mode. As a result, the car feels a
lot more agile and neutral on the road. The steering is less corrupted
by torque thus feels more alive. On a wide open track, if you switch
off stability control, you can even induce big power slide at corner
exit. In short, the Conti finally becomes a driver’s car, more like a
big Porsche than “the world’s fastest
lorry”. Aston DB11 has tighter body control, higher agility and
adjustability still, of course, thus it is the car to have if you
prefer sport to luxury, but the Continental GT now seems to be more fun
to hustle than the S-class Coupe. That is perhaps most important to
Meanwhile, the better weight distribution, longer wheelbase and the
active anti-roll bars mean softer suspension setting can be used.
Moreover, the 3-chamber air suspension widens its versatility,
resulting in a superb ride comfort in "Comfort" and "Bentley" (normal)
mode. The Continental GT is finally a true GT, one that can be fast and
over long trips, yet capable to deliver respectable cornering prowess
and thrills if you want. Most important, it ticks all
the boxes customers care: style, luxury, build quality and sense of
occasion. The only thing less outstanding is the W12 engine, which
makes the forthcoming V8 more promising. Anyway, good job Bentley and
Porsche! This is the most transformed car in last year.