2018 Bentley Continental GT first drive

And all the time, Wolfgang Dürheimer tenure as Bentley guv makes even more sense.

Dürheimer, one of the best engineers and managers within the Volkswagen Group, was also, you may recall, Porsche, head of research and development, when the Panamera was launched for the first time, so he saw through a (quite successful) termination. And now, here comes a Bentley, the Continental GT, which is based on the same architecture as the latest Porsche Panamera. I suspect that having someone Dürheimer the inf update has been very helpful during this car’s gestation.

The last Continental GT is, as before, a 2+2. And you’re almost ready. Almost enough so that this story could almost have appeared in this magazine, the First of the Units section. But, four months after the production, there are still some things – software and trim finish, in place of any of the hardware, which is all signed – still in need of change; so here we are, in the features section, the proof of an almost ready Continental, the Bentley W12-powered £150K-ish luxury coupe.

The architecture is based on its importance, because it really defines how this latest Continental GT behaves, and Bentley would like you to behave with first luxury, and sportiness second. Therefore, the Bentley – Dürheimer – influence on Porsche’s MSB platform, which serves as a base of the Continental part, should not be underestimated. It was not a case of Bentley taking the hardware and told to continue with the work. It has had its own requirements on the platform, such as the specification of the changes in the suspension so that it can accept a larger wheel and tire size than any other MSB car, and, most important, the design of certain structural elements to have a better local stiffness.

The Local stiffness is, apparently, essential in a luxury car, that is what the Bentley is, while in general body stiffness is more important in a sports car, that is what a Porsche. In general, the stiffness of the bodyshell allows the suspension and steering to be as precise as you want. But it amplifies the sound, as you’ll know if you’ve driven a stretch of concrete highway in a car with a super-rigid body structure. He TOLD Me that, AS YOU’ll know IF… oh, never mind.

So, anyway, you want the body-in-white to reach a certain stiffness, and after that, the engineers in the luxury cars are better served working in the local stiffness, to ensure the suspension (there are three air springs on each corner here and 48V active anti-roll bars), the engine, transmission and so on can do their job properly.

You want anything suspension and steering related as rigid as possible. But how to rigidly mount the engine in particular, is an enigma. Too rigid and uncomfortable to the natural refinement of the car. Too loose and rock in the curves and changes of direction, and it unsettles the car that way, as having a 300kg dragon loose under the hood or something.

Helps the thing of luxury, of course, if you put a motor that has a natural balance to that under the hood, such as, with more than 12 cylinders. I say that, mind, because it is true that the cars with the multiples of six in-line cylinders have a perfectly balanced primary and secondary moments, so it really does not vibrate. Bentley W12, recently developed for the Bentayga, and with more than 80 components changed again for here (mainly because you do not need to go out of the road), is not as inherently balanced, but it is amazingly compact because it is, in fact, arranged as two V6s around a crankshaft common. So it is very short and, together with the fact that the front of the line of the shaft, is pulled forward with respect to its predecessor by 135mm, it gives you a place better weight distribution of 55/45 front to rear, instead of close to a 60/40 split in the past.

Bentley says that it is the most advanced 12-cylinder engine on the planet. Six cylinders shut down under light loads and has two turbochargers, but it’s the injection where it is more intelligent. To the old-fashioned port injection is apparently good to give a car a relaxed and refined atmosphere of idle and low-rev mooching, while the higher loads and throttle openings are adjusted to these new direct injection methods. So they have given the 6.0-liter W12 both.

Finessing the map from one to the other is still in the Bentley’s list of things to do. But even now, produces 626bhp at 6000rpm, that is not a monumental increase over the most powerful versions of the previous Continental GT, and 664lb ft of 1350rpm. The one that is.

Units – and here is where the platform could reveal their less luxurious side, but we’re going to see – through a ZF dual-clutch eight-speed gearbox instead of a torque-converter unit, to which a W12 up to now it has always been docked. But what Porsche the impact of taking with one hand, gives with the other: the four-wheel-drive system is much more traction in the rear than before. Depending on which drive mode you’re in, only up to 38% of the power you can always go to the front, and if you’re in the Sport, only 17% are going to get there. So not only is the Continental GT, a little lighter than before (although, in 2244kg, these things are relative) and the weight is distributed more evenly, but most of the times it is also rear-wheel drive. Excellent.

Ultimately, then, the Bentley’s chassis engineers would like you to consider that it is a great car to drive, full stop, in place of a great car to drive, given its weight. That still strikes me as a tall order. I mean, if you want massage seats and mirror-matched veneer, you are going to have to accept that the car weighs more than, say, an Aston Martin DB11, which, despite the fact that the two cars are designed to do slightly different things, it is probably the Bentley’s closest point of reference. So we will see. In the interior, the Continental GT has the DB11 quite licked.

Granted, if Aston decided that I also wanted to do bigger and less travel, maybe you would do with your interior feel more like this, but the good things about the Continental interior are, in the first place, how beautifully crafted of premium materials that feel and, second, that there is very little here could be identified as coming from its parent manufacturer. There are a couple of bits of sewing that need cleaning complete as of the techniques of production, but you have to be looking for imperfections to find them. Really, though, it’s all, but no. It all adds to the weight, this kit, I don’t wonder, but that is why it has a 6.0 W12, after all.

The substantial mass suspended presents its own advantages as well as disadvantages, the mind. On the positive side, it means that the body is pretty well impervious to small lumps and bumps in the road. Simply, a given impact will push a light body on the line more than a heavy. And the new Continental GT, as we know from the Crewe HQ bound by the North Wales and, finally, Anglesey race circuit, muestra’spretty power here. The roads around the factory in Crewe are sufficiently unstable that Bentley has asked the local council not to resurface them because it is a good walk test, and one of the new GT meets with impressive cabin isolation.

On the contrary, though, when you get a heavy body in motion is more difficult to keep you trapped in the soil. And if, as Bentley, give your car a huge remit to be part of the sports car with a capacity of 200 mph, however, all luxury cars, you have to be a bit smart.

The 48V anti-roll bar system, which made its debut on the Bentayga, then, is back, as is the air conditioned with three cameras in each corner. In the car “normal” drive mode, represented by a little ‘B’ on the controller of the unit (and known as Bentley way by the engineers, because it is their preferred choice), you are working with two air chambers. Flick the switch to Sport, and blocking the other air chamber. Scroll to the other, to Comfort, and open all three. In the Sport, the spring rate is almost the double of the Comfort.

It is very effective, with adaptive dampers, in addition to the active anti-roll bar, which is loose in a straight line, and companies in the turns, keeping the movements of the body. The advantage of 48V supply of the anti-roll bar is that the response time is fast, about 0.3 seconds of complete clearance to the full company, which, given that you are dealing with the roll of the movements that want to a second to take effect, I mean, in fact, is ahead of the game.

The GT steers very well: there is a single weight for the rack, regardless of the mode of management because of that Bentley has chosen a good and expected that you will be able to appreciate the consistency even if you want a bit more in the city of damping. It is sensitive: the implementation is smooth, precise and rewarding. And if you insist, you can specify a different weight for the car an individual drive mode.

But we are not. To return to the Bentley engineers’ desire for this car to be perceived as, simply, great to drive, rather than great to drive for its size: get that damn close to that. In North Wales road, the body control is impressive, the address of the interested party and the balance is right. A DB11 feels more agile again, I have no doubt, as it would be when we come to Anglesey too, but the Aston does not have the same levels of comfort or inner strength. Different strokes, etc

On the Anglesey circuit, the Continental GT is hung on bravely, so that a 2244kg car does not have any real rights. You can even push yourself in a presentation at the exit of a corner, even though the control and agility are not as tight, inevitably, as they are with the Aston.

The V8 version that, without doubt, going to come later is going to improve things even more. But the W12 is more attractive than it has been previously because it makes a bit of noise is better (although I’m still not convinced that it is as throaty as a V8) and it has mammoth torque. And the box of changes, however, are the most obviously unfinished parts. There is an occasional hesitation in the power delivery if you’re off and on the throttle quickly, but the dual-clutch transmission needs more work again. The initial step is to fine and it shifts cleanly at high speeds, but in the middle, there is an occasional clonk as it is collected between the gears, and is generally less refined than that of a conventional torque converter auto. I wonder, if it were not for the limitations of the platform, whether Bentley’s engineers would have preferred an auto conventional, but I don’t doubt that you are going to get with this. It’s so awesome in other places once that is done the settings to view more of the line, that’s going to be a world-class luxury GT car.

The wheel trick to get that 4WD working:

When it comes to daily driving, the Continental GT is predominantly rear-driven, in our way of the drive of Crewe to Anglesey, despite some enthusiastic driving, the power would have been to go to the front wheels only 1% or 2% of the time. In the Bentley or the Comfort mode, you can put in up to 38% of the drive for the front wheels, despite the fact that is reduced to a maximum of 17% in the Sport mode.

There is an electronically controlled clutch to push power forward, but what I had not realized until now – perhaps he had – is that it requires that the front wheels have a slightly larger rolling circumference than the rears. Not by much (2% or 3%), but the difference in the wheel speeds, means that, as the clutch is engaged, there is already friction between the plates through which power is dragged from the front to the rear. So if you’re an aftermarket tuner to think about the specification of four wheels and tires of the same size, think again, because if that happens, when the clutch is engaged, precisely, nothing will happen.

Coming soon: Continental GTC Convertible

Bentley is focusing on its new coupe for now, but we hope that the GTC convertible will quickly follow in its footsteps, with a reveal due before the end of next year. The gran turismo of the range is then expected to be the echo of the outgoing generation product line director, Benno Brandlhuber has previously said the Coach there is “no reason” for the new Continental line-up will not repeat the previous range, including Supersports, and the four-door Flying Spur. The Continental also adopt a V12 as well as a plug-in hybrid powertrain, that will be first seen in the Bentayga.

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