Bentley redefined. A development drive in the next Bentley Continental GT reveals a real step change… Words Adam Towler.
You might be thinking this new Bentley is another weighty boulevardier, perhaps boasting ludicrous power, but still essentially that same brutish, loveable yet flawed rogue that has done so much for the marque over the last 14 years. Given the tacked-on disguise of this development car, which apes the hunched look of the current GT, that’s understandable. In fact, this is an all-new, leaner, sleeker car underneath.
‘Luxury and performance’ is engineering chief Rolf Frech’s view of what constitutes a Bentley. The former is maintained, the latter dramatically increased – the improvement facilitated by the fact that this new car is based on VW’s MSB platform, first used by the new Porsche Panamera (but with 200mm chopped from the wheelbase).
Catch the new GT in profile and you’ll see that the front wheels have been pushed further forward, while at the same time the engine has been moved rearwards in the body. The weight distribution (always a weak point of the old car) is now much more neutral, and the old Torsen differential with its 60:40 front bias has been replaced by Porsche’s latest ‘hang-on’ four-wheel-drive system, which makes the GT rear-wheel drive for much of the time. The gearbox is now an eight-speed twin-clutch unit, not the old torque converter, and the multi-material monocoque is not only stiffer, but also contributes to a kerbweight around 100kg less than before.
The 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 engine is in essence the direct-injection motor first seen in the Bentayga. No official figures yet, but reckon on around 650bhp and 664lb ft of torque. The impression gained from a handful of laps around the Anglesey circuit suggests that’s plenty. The engineers are still fine-tuning refinement, as well as production tolerances in the cabin, but the way the GT punches out of corners shows the W12 is in rude health.
The new GT uses the same air suspension as the Panamera, with three-chamber units on the rear axle, and the Bentayga’s 48V active anti-roll bars. Bentley aims to offer its usual laidback comfort in a package that will not be disgraced during a quick few laps of the Nürburgring. And the GT is transformed on the circuit by comparison with the old car. Its brakes stand up to the task, it feels neutral and steerable on the throttle, and, while you’d never think of taking it on a trackday, it performs impressively for what is still a big and heavy car.
While the finer points of the trim are still being resolved, it’s clear this interior will make the occupants feel special in a way few others can. The driving position is much improved, too. The initial signs are of a car that might just redefine Bentley.