New Bentley Continental GT will represent “a paradigm shift in driving performance” over its predecessor, according to engineering boss Rolf Frech. The grand tourer, which will make its public debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September, has been created to “set a benchmark for all GTs”, said Frech, who added that he believes “this redefines luxury driving again”. Bentley hopes the new version of its most popular model which is even expected to outsell the hugely successful Bentayga SUV – will appeal to both loyal and new customers and be “even more agile without compromising luxury”, helped by a chassis, suspension, W12 engine and dual-clutch eight-speed gearbox that are all new. The Crewe-based car maker’s intention is to extend the Continental GT’s appeal to those buyers who might traditionally choose a Porsche for its handling qualities. The design of the third-generation Continental has taken inspiration from the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept car shown at the Geneva motor show in 2015. Frech said the style remains “clearly Bentley and Continental”. The new car is lengthier than the outgoing model, with the front wheels 135-mm further forward, which in turn has allowed the bonnet to be extended and the nose to be lowered. The wheelbase has improved by 110mm to 2856mm. The model is 25mm wider than the current car. It is 1954mm wide, 1392mm tall and 4805mm long. The tinier front overhang also means better weight distribution. With two adults on board and light luggage – which Bentley deems “typical grand touring occupancy” – it has changed from 56:44, front to rear, to 53:47. The new Continental’s unladen weight distribution is 55:45 associated with 58:42 before.
While the front retains the muscular look of the second-generation model, the rear design is more refined. This has been achieved by so-called ‘superforming’, a precision technique that heats aluminium panels to 500deg C, allowing more defined lines to be created. The Continental is the first production car to have an entire body side made via the superforming process, Bentley claims. The Continental’s build sits on an aluminium structure. Eschewing the previous generation’s Volkswagen Phaeton-based platform, the model uses the Porsche- developed MSB (modular standard drivetrain) platform that is also in the new Panamera. However, the Bentley is keen to point out that its parts are “82% unique”, despite the association with Porsche. The car uses an “intelligent mix of body-in-white materials to improve torsional stiffness while reducing weight”, saving 85kg on the previous body, said Bentley chief engineer Bob Teale. The model follows in the Bentayga’s footsteps by having Bentley Dynamic Ride, a 48-volt electric active roll control system that improves ride and handling and makes the car “feel much lighter and more precise”, according to Teale. There are 4 driving modes: Sport, Comfort, Bentley and Custom. The Bentley setting is what the company’s engineers think is the optimum set-up and blends characteristics of Sport and Comfort. Double wishbones are used up front, with a multi-link axle at the rear. The model is the first Bentley to introduce a new three-chamber air-spring system. It contains 60% more air volume than the previous single-chamber springs and can switch chambers in and out of use, giving a chassis set-up for all types of driving. There is also a new active all-wheel-drive system, which varies the front-to-rear torque split depending on the driving situation. The car’s default is rear-wheel drive for optimum efficiency and dynamic performance but, based on the conditions and driver’s behavior, the system will send torque to the front axle if it senses extra traction is needed.