Project Description

Kate | Bentley Continental GT

Kate – Bentley Continental GT W12

Introduction

It was as if a light had suddenly pinged on in the Bentley product design department. “Get stylist Dirk van Braekel on the phone. Tell him that Bentleys don’t have to be square.” The Continental GT coupe was a very bold move, marking the first Bentley to be delivered under the stewardship of the Volkswagen Group. Of course, the simple and safe thing for the company to have done would have been to ape the styling of previous Bentleys in a pastiche of Britishness as they eased their Rohans under the table. Fortunately it didn’t work out like that and instead, we were treated to one of the most technologically advanced cars ever seen.

This bold take on what a modern Bentley coupe should represent was first unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September 2002. Drawing almost universal acclaim, few were prepared for quite what a technological tour-de-force this model represented. Advance orders poured in and when the cars first appeared in dealerships in March 2003 business was, to say the least, brisk.

What you get

Would six liters divvied up among 12 cylinders force-fed by two turbos and two intercoolers good for 555 horsepower and 650 Nm of torque qualify as “huge and powerful” in your book? The W-12 engine (picture two VR6s on a common crank) is based on the powerplant used in the Audi A8, but it gets unique low-compression pistons to handle boost levels of between 4.4 and 10.2 psi huffed up by twin 3K Warner turbochargers. That pressure arrives instantly and imperceptibly, providing peak torque at just 1600 rpm. The engine is hand-assembled at the Bentley factory in Crewe.

The Continental GT was born in a virtual world. Every nut, bolt and washer was designed in concert with the Data Control Model – the computer simulation that would then design the tooling to physically build the car. Certain Bentley trademarks endure – the bullseye chromed ventilation outlets and the organ stop controls, but don’t get the impression that this interior is a quaint retro pastiche. It’s this blend of old and new that’s particularly fascinating.

There’s no mistaking this Bentley for anything with just five digits behind the dollar sign. Climb in, and the nose is treated to the scent of fine leather while the eyes and fingers encounter nothing but double-stitched leather, aluminum, and book-matched burled-wood trim on practically every surface.

On the road

Power is transmitted to the road via a rear-biased four-wheel drive set up which gives the Continental GT a handy advantage when the going gets slippery. The link between the driven wheels and the engine comes courtesy of a six-speed automatic transmission built for Bentley by ZF. This can be marshalled via paddles behind the steering wheel should you wish, or else it can be driven like a conventional automatic. This was a surprisingly controversial feature, with some engineers arguing that a car with this much torque didn’t need a six-speed gearbox. Yes, you could lock the Continental GT into third gear and surf languidly along for much of the time, but the enthusiast owner profile eventually dictated the six ratios.

Another first for Bentley was the attention to aerodynamics. A car that can accelerate to 60mph in less than five seconds and on to the far side of 190mph requires sufficient aerodynamics that its owner can be assured of it remaining dirty side down. The Continental GT benefits from the expertise of the best aerodynamicists the Volkswagen Group had. The venturi tunnel under the rear of the car and the cooling ducts in the engine bay all attest to their labours.

Base day: 100 points
Temporary collection
Engine: 6.0L W12 bi-turbo
Power: 555 bhp
Transmission: 6-speed ZF automatic | four-wheel drive
Weight: 2380 kgs
Seating: 4
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