Redesigning your best-selling model is no easy task for any automaker. For a small volume manufacturer with the history and tradition of Bentley, this task becomes even harder. When Bentley launched the first generation Continental GT in 2003, the company was producing a total of about 1,000 cars each year. It’s predecessor, the Continental T, was a large (and expensive) coupé based on Bentley’s flagship sedan. The GT, as it is affectionately called, was a dramatic change for a Bentley. It was lighter, sportier and featured technology never before seen in a Bentley.
By 2012, Bentley launched the second generation Continental GT. Very similar to the first generation, the second GT was a redesign of every part of its predecessor. While the parts and the way its laid out were similar, it had a redesigned suspension, improved transmission and an enhanced W12 with more power. The year after its debut, Bentley unveiled the Continental GT3, a race car version of the GT destined for global auto racing. The GT3 was the beginning of the resurgence of Bentley as a sporting brand. Models like the Continental Supersports and the V8 powered Continental GT3-R launched as attempts to create a lighter, sportier Bentley.
This week Bentley debuted the 2019 Continental GT. It’s a beautiful car. Designing around the classic lines of the original Continental R Type from 1952, Bentley has created a sportier version of a grand touring car. The front and rear fascia draw heavily from the critically acclaimed EXP 10 Speed 6 concept car, giving the GT a familiar but fresh new look.
The front features a large grille to deliver cooling for the 626 ponies under the hood. The four headlamp arrangement appears to be lifted from the concept car. They headlamps are LED, with the technology borrowed from Audi. Inspired by the classic look of crystal glassware, the lights have an old world feel in the Bentley despite their state-of-the-art technology.
The rear tail lamps have been simplified from the prior car, now down to a single oval lamp, which echos the tailpipes underneath them. The tail lights also feature the cut-crystal effect, highlighting the three-dimensional depth of the optics. The rear design is finished with a sporty diffuser and a small spoiler integrated into the trunk lid.
The classic Continental power line is still present in the new Continental GT. It travels down the side of the car, creating the power haunch over the rear wheels. Although the design looks familiar, it requires some trick manufacturing to get all the creases into the metal. For this Bentley returned to the Super Formed process. This is the same process Bentley previously used on the Mulsanne to create its seamless front end.
This Super Formed manufacturing method allows designers to invoke more complex, sharply defined body lines and a deeper, sculpted haunch muscle. The process involves heating aluminum to 500º and using hydraulic pressure to force the metal into a mold. The result is a complex surface not possible with other metal forming methods.
Total weigh savings versus its predecessor is nearly 175 lbs. While the car still weighs 5,000 lbs, the movement of weight towards the center of the car combined with weight savings contributes to the enhanced sportiness of the new car.
The car launches with 17 exterior colors. Well, those are just the standard colors. Bentley is offering another 70 “extended range” colors. Of course Bentley will always custom match a color for you provided you can wait a little longer for your GT.
The Continental GT remains a four seat coupé. In addition to fitting four passengers, the new GT has more trunk storage than before. As to be expected, materials like look like wood are wood and materials that look like metal are metal. The carpets are thick and plush and Bentley again is using laminated glass for the side windows and windshield. Bentley says the new glass reduces noise coming into the passenger compartment by nine decibels versus the prior car.
Bentley continued to integrate technology into design in the car’s interior. The ‘two pod’ design that Bentley has used on every new Bentley since 2003 has been abandoned in favor of a solid dash of wood veneer that runs the width of the interior, tying together the doors with the instrument panel. The effect is very evocative the original Continental R Type. For a unique look all its own, the new GT can be spec’d with a dual veneer. A chrome strip divides the dash into two horizontal strips and the look is interesting to the eye while preventing the veneer selection from overwhelming the interior. It may be required as Bentley says there is not 10 sq meters of veneer in the cabin.
The classic look hides a slew of tech. The middle of the dashboard rotates to reveal a 12.3″ navigation and system display. While the display is from VW’s corporate parts bin, the processor and the software is bespoke to Bentley. The rotating assembly is triangle-shaped leaving room for an optional gauge pack on the remaining side. This pack added three analogue gauges including an outside temperature gauge, compass and chronometer.
Bentley says the new display is intuitive and “is designed to be akin to a modern mobile phone and menus are structured to be instantly intuitive.” We’re waiting for our own real world testing to see how this is executed. Additionally, Apple CarPlay is standard on the Continental GT for the first time.
For the first time ever, the driver information gauges are also digital. While they do have an analogue look to them, their design allows for more information to be included in front of the driver. This display can show information from across the infotainment system including satellite-navigation information.
Two technology option packs are available at launch: City Specification and Touring Specification. The City Specification includes features Bentley thinks city dwellers would appreciate: hands-free trunk opening, pedestrian warning, traffic-sign recognition and city braking systems as well as a top-view camera. The Touring Specification pack adds adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam assist, active lane assist, a heads-up display, night vision with an infrared camera, and pre-sense braking.
The Mulliner Driving Specification adds a more sporting look to the car with 22” lightweight forged alloy wheels, unique ‘diamond in diamond’ quilting, embroidered Bentley emblems, additional veneer options, a jewelled-finish fuel filler, sports pedals and indented leather headliner. Customers can also choose personalised stitching in the front and rear of the car and personalised treadplates.
For the first time, unique dual-veneer options are offered. Over 10 square metres of wood are used in each Continental GT, and it takes nine hours to create and fit the wooden inlays by hand. Also notable is a new finish for the center console that is popular in the Swiss watch industry: Côtes de Genève. The machined finish gives the console an eye-catching mechanical look.
Audiophiles weren’t forgotten. If the standard 650 watt system doesn’t satisfy, a 1,500 W Bang & Olufsen system with illuminated speaker grills is optional. At the top of the food chain is the Naim system. In this incarnation, it features 2,200 W and 18 speakers, including bass transducers in the front seats.
The seats are adjustable 20-ways and are leather wrapped. Heating and cooling are standard, while a massage function is optional. Specifying the Mulliner Driving Specification (MDS) gives the GT Bentley’s famous diamond stitched pattern on the interior. This time, it’s a playful iteration of a diamond within a diamond design created with embroidery with in the stitched diamonds. Like was done with the Bentayga, the center of the seat features a smooth, perforated leather to improve airflow for the heated and cooled function. The diamond pattern completes the outer edges of the seat and the door panels. Continental GTs with the MDS also have a unique pattern on the headliner.
There are also 15 luxurious carpet options, eight different handcrafted veneers (with a further four dual-veneer options) and 15 choices of interior trim hide, which means that customers are able to specify their own choice of luxury finish.
Drivetrain and Suspension
Underneath it’s stunning bodywork and luxurious veneers and leathers, the Continental GT has the heart of a true performance car.
As has been discussed extensively on Crewe Craft, this vehicle was co-developed with Porsche, who is using the chassis for the all new Panamera. The first two Continentals were built around an Audi design that placed the engine in front of the front axle. Hanging all that weight out front upset the weight balance and created an interesting engineering challenge.
Power is deliver through the most sporting addition to the platform..
The new chassis places the W12 behind the front axle, enhancing handling and the weight balance of the car. This arrangement contributes to the third generation’s biggest deviation from previous GTs with a longer, lower and more athletic front hood (bonnet, as they say in Crewe.) The front wheels are now 135 mm further forward.
The drivetrain is still all-wheel drive but this time 100% of torque can be transferred to the front wheels when needed. However, to improve fuel efficiency and handling, 100% of torque is delivered to only the rear wheels in every day conditions.
Power is delivered through the most sporting addition to the platform: Porsche’s PDK transmission. With eight gears, the dual clutch is a first for Bentley and allows for nearly seemless gear changes, ensuring the powerful W12 is constantly under throttle. This provides smooth acceleration and contributes to improved fuel efficiency. Top speed is reached in sixth gear, with the seventh and eighth gears acting as overdrive gears for relaxed cruising.
Speaking of the W12, this is the same all new engine that debuted in the Bentayga last year. This new W12 still displaces 6.0 liters and features twin turbochargers. It is rated at 626 hp and 664 lb. ft. of torque.
A new dual-mass flywheel replaces the torque converter, dampening vibration in the driveline, making this the smoothest 12 cylinder Bentley has ever made. That’s not to say it can’t have aggressive tone to its exhaust note: the new GT has a tunable exhaust system by way of a actuated valve in the exhaust that allows for a dual characteristic.
Combined with all-wheel drive, the dual clutch transmission and Bentley’s Sport Launch, the 2019 Bentley Continental GT can post 60 mph in only 3.6 seconds. With enough runway, the GT is capable of 207 mph.
The W12 improved fuel economy to 23.2 mpg from 19.9 mpg with technology like start/stop, cylinder deactivation and a unique combination both a high pressure fuel injection system and a low pressure system.
Keeping all that power to the road is an adaptive chassis that, like the Bentayga, uses Bentley’s 48-volt Dynamic Ride System. The new system controls ride comfort and lateral roll, cushioning passengers from excessive movement as well as making the car feel effortlessly precise. Drivers select from three different modes: Comfort, Bentley or Sport. New three chamber air springs allow for more tuning of the suspension from very smooth ride in Comfort to an incredible stiff ride from Sport. Continous Damping Control (CDC) adjusts the dampers on the fly to optimize comfort.
Commenting at its unveiling, Wolfgang Dürheimer, chairman and chief executive of Bentley Motors, said “Bentley has been at the forefront of luxury Grand Touring for nearly one hundred years.
“We are the world leader in luxury mobility and our products and services define new luxury in the automotive world. The new Continental GT encapsulates our desire to innovate as well as celebrate our heritage and take the Bentley ownership experience to the next, unparalleled level.”
Crewe Craft has learned that Bentley will build over 100 development vehicles before the final product rolls out to customers. The very first new GTs were hand built at an estimated cost of $1,115,000 each. Current development vehicles are now coming down the assembly line as Bentley works on perfecting the assembly of their first completely.
What better way to end this article but with a sound clip of the new GT? Enjoy!