Changes for third-gen Continental GT are more than skin deep
It looks scarily similar to the second-generation car from the outside, but (we promise) you're looking at the third-generation Bentley Continental GT. Underneath its typically-Bentley sheetmetal is a reworked W12 engine, along with a fresh technology suite and a stunning new interior, all of which are sure to appeal to olde-world aristocrats and new-money ballers alike.
Like the previous model, the latest Conti is powered by a twin-turbocharged W12, but it produces 626 hp (467 kW) of power and 900 Nm (664 lb-ft) of torque for a 100 km/h (62 mph) sprint time of just 3.7 seconds. Those figures make the range-topping, continent-crushing Continental GT Speed Black Edition look a bit slow and underpowered, something we didn't think we'd be saying any time soon.
That prodigious power is put to the road through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The old 60:40 rear-to-front all-wheel drive setup has been replaced with a smarter on-demand system that defaults to rear-drive under regular conditions, before shunting torque to the front axle when the situation demands it. Combined with start-stop and the ability to run as a six-cylinder, the system helps deliver 12.2 L/100 km (23.2 mpg) on the combined cycle.
Along with the reworked powertrain, the new car rides on a totally new chassis that benefits from the 48-V roll-control system popping up across the Volkswagen Group. A set of electronic actuators on the front and rear anti-roll bars, controlled by a standalone 48-V electronic system, are able to actively fight roll when you turn into a corner by stiffening the anti-roll bars, before slackening off for a comfier ride on less-than-perfect roads.
The system debuted on the Audi SQ7, and has since appeared on the Bentley Bentayga. Drivers are able to choose how sporty the suspension setup is, along with the powertrain and steering, using the Driver Dynamics Control switch on the dashboard. Interestingly, the 48-V electrical architecture can also support a volt-boosted turbocharger, but Bentley hasn't taken advantage of the technology in the Continental.
Smarter anti-roll bars work in tandem with a new electric power-assisted steering system with a variable rack ratio that's designed to smooth out annoying imperfections in the road surface without making the car feel vague and disconnected. Whether the average owner will notice the difference on a twisty road remains to be seen, but they will undoubtedly appreciate the fact it also opens the door for lane-keeping assist, traffic-jam assist and auto parking.
The overhauled Continental has been given a stunning makeover inside, headlined by the new rotating display. On first look, you'd assume the 12.3-in touchscreen was a permanent fixture atop the dashboard, but it's actually part of a three-sided rotating panel. Depending on their mood, drivers are able to choose between the screen, a flush-fitting extension of the wood veneer, or three analog gauges. It's very cool, like a more sophisticated take on the switchable driver display in the McLaren 720S, but we shudder to think how complex it'll be to repair in a few years time.
As for the rest of the cabin, it's a stunning leather-lined cocoon for the uber-rich, with the usual staggering array of trim and color options ensuring no two cars are the same. With that said, the basic architecture – rising center console, low-set air vents, flush widescreen display and flat dashboard – looks suspiciously similar to that of the new Porsche Panamera. Bentley owners aren't likely to notice, but it's still worth noting there are inherent similarities between cars that share Volkswagen Group underpinnings, regardless of how much they cost.
Thankfully, there are no similarities between the four-door Porsche and two-door Bentley on the outside. The nose of the new Continental is similar to that of its predecessor, with four headlamps flanking the bold grille. It looks longer and lower than the old car in profile, and the brake lights borrow heavily from the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept. We aren't the last word in style, sure, but it's a handsome beast to our eyes. And even if you don't like the way it looks, the fact it's 80 kg (176 lb) lighter than the previous W12 Continental is still good news.
Pricing for the new Continental GT hasn't been announced, but the car will make its debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show next month.