Bentley’s new Continental GT dazzles with diamonds

Bentley’s new Continental GT dazzles with diamonds

AT FIRST glance - and by all accounts - the new Bentley Continental GT is quite a car. That’s if you can get past all the the plastic that’s on board, which isn’t easy to do when you’re talking about the top end of town. But it’s all about keeping things light, apparently. Otherwise, this neat, low and muscular new version of the Bentley Grand Tourer outshines its predecessor in every respect, according to those who’ve driven it. Madam Wheels is yet to do so. 

Some have suggested it may even be the definitive vehicle in its class. BBC’s Top Gear magazine has already named it GT Car of the Year, describing it as “simply one of the most complete GT cars on the planet”. The editors particularly liked the Continental GT’s composure on the road, saying it made it “easier than ever to thread through the tricky bits”.

The love for the car continued at the Australian Grand Prix in March where Bentley had the new Continental GT on display to the Australian public for the first time. The luxury British marque even made it available for guests of its opulent Bentley Manor to track-test after a short helicopter ride from the Formula 1 festivities to Sandown Raceway. Perhaps it was the exhilaration of the experience that got customers so wound up, but the returning speed-demons practically gushed about the Continental’s capabilities. Not only was it spectacular inside and out, they said, but it was the way the car handled itself on the track that impressed them most.

Gina Wilson (above), of Sydney, owns the previous-generation Continental GT but was so taken by her track experience in the new car that she and husband Adam had decided to buy the upgrade.

“It was better in every way,” Wilson says of the new GT compared to the old. “But I have to have the optional titanium exhaust, and that’s not available until later in the year. We can wait.”

‘In 20 years of driving fast cars, this is the first time I’ve said: “I would take this Bentley on the racetrack”.’

Even professional drivers who are in and out of cars like these all the time describe this third-generation Continental GT as a massive step-up.

“I'm talking very highly of this car because I was so pleasantly blown away by it,” says driver instructor Luke O’Neill (above). “Bentley has always said its cars are ‘drivers’ cars', but this thing is actually handling like a driver's car. In 20 years of driving fast cars, this is the first time I’ve said: ‘I would take this Bentley on the racetrack’."

That’s due, in part, to the presence of the 48-volt Dynamic Ride System first seen as a stabilising force in the brand’s substantial Bentayga SUV.

“At speed, that means when you turn the steering wheel the car stays flat,” he says. “You get more grip because there’s more tyre attached to the road and, when cornering, you're not feeling that inertia pushing you to one side. So you're not having to counterbalance yourself against that. As a driver in a speed situation, all of that leads to confidence. It's rewarding because what you want as a fast driver is a car that will do what you're asking it to do.”

Frankly, I always want my cars to do what I ask them to do, but I agree there are degrees of obedience especially in automotive technology.

Speaking of technology, Bentley’s Asia Pacific head of sales and marketing, David Simpson, says this car’s taken a leap forward on that front. “As with the Bentayga, we’ve really pushed the boundaries of what the car can do,” Simpson says. Up front its got the enhanced 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbo engine that was introduced in the SUV, making this an incredibly fast car. The coupe can make the 0-100 dash in 3.7 seconds and has a top speed of 333kph.

The Continental’s profile is lower and longer than its predecessor but the signature  lines remain to the muscular rear. There’s a significant shift in style back here, though, with the taillights shaped into ellipses, referencing the exhaust pipes below. The headlights are particularly special where designers have tried to replicate the effect of the finest cut-crystal glass. They did well, because the way the sharply defined edges of the transparent internal surfaces catch the light from LED Matrix technology definitely delivers a diamond-like effect.

‘There's glimpses of diamonds everywhere, of light flashing here and there. It's very eye-catching and it's very, very different.’

The diamond theme continues inside the car where eye-catching diamond knurling adorns the iconic Bullseye vents, bezels and other control rotaries via a three-dimensional faceted surface. Bentley’s eponymous quilted stitching is in place, of course, but it’s taken to the next level in this car’s Mulliner Driving Specification which adds a new “diamond in diamond” leather design. The offset effect is achieved with a combination of stitching and embroidery using an additional 2.8km of thread, including 712 stitches per diamond, Simpson says. And just one thread is used to hand-stitch the perforated leather on to the steering wheel. “So that's a single thread through that entire steering wheel and if anyone makes a mistake while they're doing that, they have to pull out all of the stitches and start again,” he says. 

It’s good to know that laminated acoustic glass has been used on the windscreen and side windows to lower outside noise by nine-decibels compared to the outgoing model. This matters if listening to music, podcasts and Ted Talks is an important part of your life. Three different sound systems are available to enhance your listening enjoyment, from the standard 10-speaker, 650 Watt system to an 18-speaker, 2200W system by Naim. 

All of this is controlled via a new 12-inch, high-density touchscreen which allows owners to customise how their menu options are displayed - from the car’s mood lighting to the driver's assistant systems available in the optional Touring Specifications Pack such as adaptive cruise control, active-lane assist, head-up display and night vision.

For those who’d prefer to opt out of the technology, the Continental GT includes a three-sided Bentley Rotating Display which revolves from the touchscreen to three analogue dials or, when the car is switched off, to a plain veneer, harking back, perhaps, to the Bentley’s of old when life was less complicated.

When life gets too much, this Bentley has got your back - literally - with cooling, heating and massage functions available in the 20-way adjustable front seats to sooth away the troubles of the world. One wonders if the massage feature would go some way to helping Bentley achieve its claim that drivers should feel better when they come out of a long journey in a Bentley than they did when they got in.

I have to say, I do agree with O’Neill who says from a driver’s perspective, the cockpit of this car is a pretty good place from which to take in what you’re seeing around you.

“When I first sat in this car I went, ‘This is stunning’,” he says. “There's glimpses of diamonds everywhere, of light flashing here and there. It's very eye-catching and it's very, very different. And that's one of the things I like, about it - I don't like things that everyone else has.”

Well, that could be a problem for anyone who shares that view because, by the end of the Grand Prix weekend, Bentley says about a dozen of its guests had put down money on the new Continental GT. So expect to start seeing a few of them around soon (though new orders face a six-month wait for delivery). Otherwise, ladies, perhaps wait for the convertible version, the Continental GTC, not expected to be unveiled for another year or so.