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