Bentley Continental GT
(2003 – to date)
The Bentley Continental GT marked the start into the period of complete independence. For some 70 years Rolls-Royce and Bentley had been produced side by side until the final separation of both marques under the wings of different parent companies from 2003 onward. The Bentley Continental GT was the fastest genuine 4-seat car in the world – a sporting coupé without rival. Obviously Bentley remembered key elements from the past and blended these with future demands as regards an ambitioned thoroughbred sports car. As a result the new Continental GT combined finest Grand Touring traditions with some of automotive world’s most advanced technologies.
It didn’t need time-consuming research in the company’s history to discover the legendary Bentley R Continental (1952-1955); at its time the fastest series-made four-seat car worldwide. After a gap of about half a century that position was occupied by a Bentley again, the new Continental GT. It is well worth to point out with four appropriate seats this model offered more than the rather devalued compromise of a 2+2 sometimes found elsewhere. Accelerating from 0 to 60mph in 4.7 seconds and capable of a top speed in excess of 190mph (over 300km/h) this 4-seater was unique.
The 6-litre twin turbocharged W12- engine’s power output was 552bhp/411KW. A significant fact was a maximum torque generated at just 1.600rpm. Never before a 12-cylinder engine had been employed on a Bentley motor car. The link between engine and wheels was provided by ZF-built six-speed automatic transmission. Via steering wheel paddles the driver can decide on Tiptronic actuation, i.e. choose between conventional automatic or clutchless manual gearchange. A six-speed automatic was a novelty on a Bentley, that could be said of 4-wheel drive and air springs used at each corner in place of conventional coils, too. Electronic traction control and electronic stability programme were fitted, of course. An ultra-sophisticated network of electronic control units processed information fed to them from sensors around the car and instructed engine, transmission, suspension and brakes to act in harmony.
Beside its more than sufficient level of power the W12-engine offered additional advantages, because this was the shortest twelve cylinder engine on the market. With dimensions of only 653mm length, 820mm width and 714 mm height the incredibly compact engine could be positioned perfectly well as regards weight distribution. In addition space was freed that could be reapportioned to the car’s interior. The engineers even went one step further by re-positioning the differential to the front in an attempt not to compromise on interior space.
The cabin thus didn’t suffer from such limitations that are often connected with the designation coupé. The in-house designed seats offered a wide range of adjustment, not even really tall drivers got the impression of “edging the limit”. A clever idea to maximise interior space was to raise the so-called ‘H’-point – the position in which the driver’s hips naturally sit – above where it would be in a conventional supercar. Seated close to anatomical perfection driver and passengers found themselves cosseted otherwise in a way expected on a Bentley motor car. Naturally wood and leather remained an integral part of Bentley furniture – and the bullseye ventilation outlets with their organ stop controls proved that traditional features don’t clash with contemporary design.
The price for the all-new Bentley Continental GT was at an attractive level, slightly less than hitherto had been standard and clearly indicated that Bentley ownership was targeted at a wider audience of prospective purchasers than ever before.
W12-cylinder-engine (72deg angle between two main banks, 15deg between staggered cylinders), bore x stroke 84 x 90.2 mm, capacity 5998 cc; 4 valves per cylinder, 4 overhead camshafts; Bosch Motronic ME7.1.1 digital engine control, twin KKK turbochargers (0.7 bar boost), air to air intercooling, 552bhp/411KW at 6,100rpm, torque 650Nm (479lb ft) at 1600 rpm; ZF 6HP26 6-speed automatic gearbox; four-wheel drive with central Torsen differential, independent suspension front and rear; air springs, ASR electronic traction control, Bosch ESP5.7 electronic stability program; TEVES ventilated disc brakes front 405mm diameter (15.9in) and 36mm (1.4in) thick, back 335mm diameter (13.2in) and 22mm (0.9in) thick, anti-lock device (plus HBA «Hydraulic Brake Assist» and EBD «Electronic Brakeforce Distribution»), MSR drag torque control; wheelbase 2745mm (108.07in); tyres 275/40R19 on 19in rims (optional 19in split rims; from MY 2005 onward optional 275/35R20 on 20in split rim 7-spoke alloy sports wheels); max. speed 198mph (318 km/h), 0-60mph 4.7 sec (0-100km/h 4.8sec).)