Sitting in a pristine meeting room at the Bentley HQ in Crewe, there is a palpable buzz. The moment Bentley has been waiting for, after years of unseen preparation, has – finally – arrived. Moments before the all-new Continental GT is unveiled, each member of the panel stands to deliver a speech, detailing their individual input and their pride in being a part of such an iconic project. It isn’t just media jargon – it feels genuine.
“Being involved in the new Continental GT is a huge responsibility,” says Product Line Director Benno Brandlhuber. “The name alone comes with strict expectations.”
When the world was introduced to the Continental GT in 2003, it was the marque’s most significant car to date, the first Bentley to ever be mass produced. It was a huge success (over 66,000 have been made since), striking a chord with those wanting the performance of a supercar without com- promising on luxury. “That car set the benchmark,” says Rolf Frech, board member for engineering.
And therein lay the challenge: redefining its own bench- mark. Bentley views its previous models as its greatest competitors, and as a result this is the marque’s most exciting car for the last 14 years – the world’s definitive Grand Tourer.
As the curtain is lifted, the sense of pride is accompanied by relief – Bentley’s little secret is out in the open. It’s definitely a Bentley – it has the unmistakeable Bentley DNA – but, as Director of Design Stefan Siela is keen to highlight, it is “entirely new, from the ground up”. The aluminium exterior, W12 engine (producing 626bhp), 8-speed trans- mission, drivetrain, suspension… all new. And in the details, too, you start to take his word as gospel. From the stitching in the interior (310,675 stitches per car, to be precise) to the diamond knurling on every knob, a fresh creative outlook has been given to every minor aspect.
Sculptural changes to the body shape, inspired by the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept car, have ensured that the GT is still as striking as ever, and 80kgs lighter, but it’s what you don’t see straight away that really impresses. Each car has 8kms of wiring and 100 million lines of code. The driver-orientated instrument panel is fully digital, although designed to look three-dimensional and therefore appear to be real, but it’s the industry-first rotating display that steals the show.
At first glance there is no screen on the dashboard, just uninterrupted veneer, but when the engine is started, the veneer gently rotates to reveal Bentley’s largest ever touch- screen, a 12.3ˇˇ display. A third rotation shows three elegant analogue dials displaying outside temperature, a compass and a chronometer. This innovative use of traditional elements is a nod to Bentley’s mantra that ‘you can only develop the future when you know your own history’.
In the pursuit of producing a car that satisfies everything a 21st-century man needs – speed, space for kids, comfort, tech, luxury – the Continental GT has undergone a million kilometres of test runs, in all climates, from America to the Nürburgring to China. Nothing is left to chance. The wind- screen wipers, for example, work as well at the top speed of 207mph as they do at 20mph.
“The Continental GT encapsulates our desire to innovate as well as celebrate our heritage,” says Wolfgang Durheimer, the chairman and chief executive. “It marks the next step in Bentley’s journey.”