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Bentley Continental GT

The 300+ km/h Bentley Continental GT

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar and courtesy www.qsm.com.au

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At a glance...

  • Twin turbocharged 6-litre W12 engine
  • Constant AWD
  • Almost 2 1/2 tonnes
  • Claimed 0 - 100 km/h of 4.8 seconds and 300+ km/h top speed
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For years, Mercedes, Ferrari, BMW, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Maserati have set the standard in upper-crust high performance coupes. Well, step aside – the Bentley Continental GT is here to put ‘em all to shame!

You’re looking at an AWD super coupe enveloping a twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder engine that’s good for 411kW and a top speed over 300 km/h. It also happens to provide luxury accommodation for four and costs AUD$404,000 new... Yep, this machine soars in the upper echelon of automotive opulence and one-upmanship.

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The demonstrator example seen here is a December ’04 build which was provided for this article by Gold Coast based QSM Auto Group (www.qsm.com.au). With about 7000km on the odometer and equipped with optional nine spoke 19s, piano black interior timber and a ‘coming home’ feature (which allows you to open your garage door via remote control), the car is being offered at around AUD$365,000 – a substantial saving on the regular sticker price.

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At almost 2 metres wide, more than 4.8 metres long and tipping the scales at 2358kg, the Bentley Continental GT is serious size piece of machinery. This makes it somewhat difficult to create a genuine supercar but pop the bonnet and you’ll find the answer to how it’s done. The W12 engine (essentially two V6s joined at the crankshaft) provides a displacement of six litres and breathing is through DOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder heads (48 valves in total) with variable cam timing. Invisible are the twin KKK turbochargers that blow through a pair of air-to-air intercoolers. With a splash of 98 RON fuel in the tank, Bentley claims 411kW at 6100 rpm and 650Nm at a stunningly low 1600 rpm. In other words, the ‘powerband’ stretches around 4500 rpm!

Coupled to a ZF-sourced six-speed automatic transmission, the Continental GT feels more responsive and lively than you’d expect in a near 2½ tonne vehicle – that incredible torque curve makes a real difference. The Tiptronic shift paddles are large and easy to use – not just a marketing must-have.

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From the beginning of the design process it was decided the Continental GT would benefit from the performance and safety of constant AWD. This total traction helps the Bentley achieve claimed sub 5 second 0 – 100 km/h acceleration. Interestingly, as road speed increases, a spoiler deploys from the behind the rear window to reduce aero lift over the body. Even with the spoiler deployed, the Continental GT can run to a claimed top speed in excess of 300 km/h. It’s an awesome interstate express - but be aware that it drinks around 15 litres per 100km on the highway or low 20s around town. Fuel tank capacity is 90 litres.

The Bentley Continental GT rides on an all-alloy double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension. Interestingly, air springs are used to provide the best possible ride quality and electronic controlled dampers are employed. There are three preset damper settings for the driver to chose – and, yes, there is a noticeable difference in ride quality and handling between them. The Bentley really shines through medium-high speed corners but the driver is aware of substantial dynamic weight transfer in tighter conditions. Grip is abundant thanks to the 275mm wide tyres worn on 19 inch alloys. The latest Bosch traction control and stability control systems are installed but you need to push pretty hard to bring them into action.

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The power assisted steering provides good weight at all speeds and provides a high level of accuracy. Bentley invested substantial time and effort to eliminate torque reactions that are magnified by having such an awesomely grunty engine. Brakes are apparently the largest fitted to a production car – 405mm at the front and 335mm at the rear combined with Brake Assist, EBD and the latest ABS.

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Inside, the Bentley offers the level of quality and equipment you’d expect in a car costing around 400k. Features like power windows barely deserve mention – of more interest are the eight airbags, satellite navigation/television, massaging seats and auto-closing doors. The entire cabin is trimmed in high-grade leather, chrome and wood. The interior has a top-line Audi quality feel blended with ye olde world charm of Bentley detailing. Much of the Continental GT is assembled in Crewe, England – the home of Bentley since 1919.

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Cabin accommodation was of high importance during design. For example, the dimensions of several New York basketball players were measured to ensure enough cabin space for people of all shapes and sizes. Although widely labelled a 2 + 2, the sculpted rear seats provide enough space for people taller than 185cm (so long as the front occupant is prepared to slide their seat well forward). Open the boot and there’s an impressive amount of cargo volume – 370 litres in fact. In short, there’s all the accommodation you’d expect from a true GT.

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Visually, the Continental GT oozes power and prestige – no need for body add-ons to promote a go-fast image. If the sheer size isn’t enough to grab your attention, chances are you’ll be impressed by the big 19 inch wheels, quad Xenon headlights, smooth and pillar-less cabin and muscular haunches.

Ignoring the price for a moment (if that’s possible!), this isn’t a car for everyone – it’s big, it performs best on long, open stretches of road and it's verging on decadent. But if you want to make a statement in power and prestige, cars don’t come any better than this.

Thank you to QSM Auto Group (www.qsm.com.au) for providing the Continental GT for this article.

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