The seminal and highly successful Continental GT introduced in 2003 represented the first step in Bentley's renaissance and defined a new market segment. It was a luxury GT offering excellent usability that remained true to the Bentley grand-touring spirit.
Now the new Continental GT four-seat coupe builds on the success of its iconic predecessor, capturing that GT spirit but with even higher standards of design, engineering, luxury, craftsmanship, dynamic performance, everyday practicality and refinement. For Crewe's design and engineering teams, the new Continental GT coupe is an opportunity to set a bold and exciting direction for one of Bentley's most revered names - the Continental.
A beautifully sculptured new body gives the GT coupe an even crisper, more defined appearance. The contemporary interior offers new levels of cabin design, comfort and handcrafted luxury. The seats, for example, provide even greater support and rear legroom. The new touchscreen infotainment system features state-of-the-art navigation, Google Maps and entertainment, while the latest Balanced Mode Radiator speaker technology and Dirac Dimensions digital sound processing deliver enhanced audio quality.
Bentley's acclaimed 6-liter, 12-cylinder, twin-turbocharged powertrain now has increased power output of 567hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, and this is mated to a new Quickshift transmission which enables double downshifts. Thanks to advanced FlexFuel technology it can also run on both standard unleaded gasoline and sustainable bioethanol (up to E85) or any mix of the two.
In late 2011 an all-new, high-output 8-cylinder engine will also be available to order. This advanced power unit will deliver a 40 percent reduction in emissions compared with the W12 engine and will offer a class-leading CO2 emissions-to-power ratio with Bentley levels of performance and refinement.
Both engines are coupled to an all-wheel drive system with a 40:60 rear-torque bias (compared with the 50:50 bias of the original Continental GT), minimizing understeer during hard cornering and allowing the experienced driver to control the car's line and balance via precise throttle control. Inspired by the iconic Bentleys of the past, Bentley's design team under the leadership of Director of Design, Dirk van Braeckel, has created a thoroughly modern, sculptured body, built with advanced production technologies to ensure the highest standards of quality and body integrity. Aluminum Super Forming technology is employed to create the front fenders and the trunk lid. This process heats the aluminum panels to nearly 500 degrees Celsius before shaping them by air pressure. By using a single sheet of aluminum, no seams or welding are required.
The latest body construction techniques deliver crisp, highly defined feature lines and form to every area of the exterior design. The familiar power lines and rear haunches - echoes of the original 1950s R-Type Continental - now have even sharper radii to create highly distinct surfaces, bringing the feel of a truly coachbuilt car to the new coupe.
The GT coupe's new look is bolder than ever. The classic Bentley matrix radiator grille is more upright, while the new headlamp design, in traditional four-lamp format, has exquisite jewel-like detailing including eye-catching, LED daylight-running lamps.
At the rear, Bentley signature 'floating' LED lamps extend around the corners of the fenders, emphasizing the width and purposeful stance. The track is wider by 41mm at the front and 48mm at the rear than the previous model. The trunk lid design has a powerful 'double horse-shoe' motif, reminiscent of the new Bentley Mulsanne, while flared elliptical exhaust tailpipes reinforce the new GT's sporting credentials.
The shape of the new GT coupe's body is also more aerodynamic following extensive wind tunnel analysis. In conjunction with a range of extensive underbody refinements (including wheel arch and exhaust aerodynamic aids) the GT's coefficient of drag has been reduced to 0.33Cd and the lift at the front and rear axles has also been reduced to create greater stability at higher speeds.
The new GT is specified with 20-inch alloy wheels as standard, with, for the first time on the Continental family, the option to upgrade to 21-inch designs. Three styles of wheel are offered - a 20-inch five-spoke version and two 21-inch Elegant and split-rim Sports variations, which come in a variety of chromed and painted finishes.
With an entirely hand-crafted interior, the Continental GT's cabin sets new standards in refinement and luxury to create a stylish space in which up to four people can relax in total comfort.
The instrument panel and dashboard subtly echo the flying wings of the Bentley motif and are fashioned from the highest quality soft-touch leathers. New touchscreen technology and chrome-bezel dials are housed within this dynamic cockpit area, which rises from the centre console in the form of dramatically surfaced 'wing' buttresses.
The striking and unique 'Cobra' design seats are supremely comfortable thanks to the introduction of the latest body-supporting materials which use complex foams to provide softness at first touch but with excellent support over longer journeys.
The seats can be specified with front-seat ventilation as well as a state-of-the-art massage system with 10 individual massage cells and individual side airbags are provided as standard for all passengers. Front seatbelts feature a new electrically-operated automatic presenter, making buckling-up effortless. Driver knee airbags are standard fitment.
The new Continental GT offers superb everyday usability. The new slim-line front seats with scalloped backs also provide a further 46mm of legroom for back-seat passengers and easy access to the rear cabin. No other Grand Tourer offers such impressive levels of refinement thanks to the advanced noise-suppression technology that includes acoustic glazing, under-floor shields and hidden anti-vibration panels throughout the interior.
The cabin is trimmed with soft-touch leathers, a full range of wood veneers, cool-touch metals and deep-pile carpets - all handcrafted in Bentley's workshops at the factory in Crewe, England. The attention to detail even extends to applying a UV stabilizer to the wood veneers to protect from bleaching, thus ensuring they can be enjoyed as new for decades to come. Every leather hide is still sewn under the watchful eye of Bentley's highly skilled craftsmen and women. By incorporating ingenious, angled 'ramps' behind the leather, the interior designers have created sharp, well-defined styling lines, while maintaining a soft-touch.
Other simple yet practical functions include a powered boot as standard, Electronic Park Brake with Move Off Assist and newly designed, leather-lined door stowage bins with an integrated bottle holder.
Perhaps the most stylish new storage device in the new Continental GT is the exquisitely designed, folding, removable case designed to hold items such as keys and pens and which can also be slipped into a pocket or bag. Crafted from veneers to match those of the coupe's interior, the case (available as a cost option) is finished with inlaid Bentley wings, satin-chromed and leather-lined, and is secured in a recess above the twin drinks holders in the centre console.
Complementing its contemporary cabin, the new Continental GT also features advanced new touchscreen technology with rich map imagery and a 30GB onboard hard-drive.
The 8-inch screen displays the car's audio system, telephone, ride and comfort settings and the very latest navigation system, which uses both an in-car hard-disc drive and a DVD player to access route data. It also employs dynamic navigation to guide you around areas of heavy traffic, finds destinations using geo-tagged photos from an SD memory card and is Google Maps-compatible (market specific).
The infotainment system, with zipcode entry, uses a combination of touchscreen controls and classic knurled rotary switches to offer instant usability and crystal-clear feedback. The graphic interface of the screen is engineered in-house to ensure its visuals are completely in keeping with the style of the interior. Look closely and you will see that the knurled switches on the screen are 'virtual' echoes of the knurled switches below. The Continental GT's new infotainment system also provides the ultimate in in-car audio entertainment. An eight-speaker sound system is offered as standard employing the latest Balanced Mode Radiator technology. These unique compact, flat-panel speakers provide exceptional clarity with a very wide frequency range.
An 11-speaker Naim for Bentley system - created exclusively for the Continental GT by British audiophiles Naim - employs revolutionary Dirac Dimensions digital signal processing. This industry-first technology creates a virtual 'sound field' independent of speaker layout to deliver concert hall-quality sound reproduction for every occupant wherever they may be sitting.
The GT coupe also benefits from telephone and music player connectivity, digital television (where available) and DVD movie playback. Music can be played and controlled directly from an iPod as well as from a six-disc CD changer, SD card reader or directly from the car's hard-disc drive, which can store up to 15GB of music.
The Continental GT is set to have a choice of two very distinctive high-performance engines. In addition to the new 575PS version of Crewe's renowned 6.0 liter W12 powertrain, a new high-output 4.0-liter V8 engine option will be introduced in late 2011.
The new 4.0-liter V8 engine honors Bentley's environmental commitment to deliver a powertrain that achieves a 40 percent improvement in CO2 emissions. The new V8 is being designed specifically by Bentley's engineers to deliver all the exhilarating power and torque synonymous with the marque. The new Crewe-built engine will also offer a class-leading CO2 emissions-to-power ratio.
Overall, the GT coupe is 65kg lighter than its predecessor thanks to reductions in all areas of the car from engine components through to new seats. With its power output raised by 15PS, the result is a 6 percent improvement in the new GT's power-to weight-ratio, making it capable of accelerating from zero to 60mph in just 4.4 seconds, with a top speed of 198mph.
The increased power and torque are transmitted to the all-wheel drive system via an uprated six-speed Quickshift transmission, which halves shift times (to just 200 milliseconds). The revised gearbox also has the ability to deliver double downshifts (sixth to fourth gear, for example) and improves acceleration across the entire gear range. To cope with the additional power and torque, the planetary gear set of the six-speed ZF transmission is also strengthened.
Positive torque during downshifts is achieved through engine and gearbox electronic controller interaction for extra throttle and fuel injection during the overrun, replicating manual throttle 'blips' for precise rev matching. During transmission upshifts, fuel and ignition are cut momentarily to give faster mechanical shift times through torque reduction, also improving shift quality and durability.
The new GT's chassis delivers the optimum ride and handling balance. The wide front and rear track benefits agility and handling, while solid aluminum cast-forged, high-stiffness front suspension uprights and aluminium gravity die castings at the rear work in conjunction with a redesigned front anti-roll bar and retuned spring and damper settings. The result is improved response and stability at all speeds.
Continuous Damping Control (CDC) constantly monitors the car's attitude and poise. By adjusting the suspension settings hundreds of times a second it can provide a remarkably supple ride at low speeds and increased control as speeds climb. It can also lower the car in 'V-Max' mode for enhanced stability at the highest speeds.