2011 Bentley Continental GT Rear
Contrary to how it might appear, Bentley officials maintain that the 2011 Bentley Continental GT is an all-new model, not simply a refresh. Yes, its body isn't a drastic reinterpretation of Dirk van Braeckel's original design, but there are new, seductive details, like staggered bi-xenon headlamps and jeweled LED daytime running lights. With its sweeping position set well into the thick front shoulders, the ensemble emphasizes speed. Seamless super-formed aluminum panels utilize no welding, allowing for deeply cut, traditional power lines to run unimpeded from ahead of the front wheel wells to the muscular haunches. The chiseled features have never looked as powerful.
2011 Bentley Continental GT Front Three Quarters
Another traditional Crewe trait -- the matrix front grille -- stands nearly upright, giving a renewed boldness to the nose. Granted, the nearly two-inch-wider track (65.51 inches front/65.15 inches rear) and standard 20-inch, five-spoke wheels (21-inch optional) also add to the effect. At the stern, the floating LED taillights wrap around the coupe's abstract wings and lead into the car's bulging glutes. (The logo's wings are a longstanding Conti design flourish, stemming from the 1950 R-Type Continental.) Between the wings resides a pronounced double-horseshoe trunklid, a cue carried over from the Mulsanne flagship. It looks tidy with its flat facade, yet underneath the modern lid, trunk space is cut by 0.5 cubic-feet to 12.6 cubic-feet. Also shaped in Mulsanne fashion are the car's skinny, elliptical chrome exhaust tips, which expel the fumes created by the twin-turbocharged, 567-horsepower 6.0-liter W-12.
Bentley's engineers say their revised powerhouse gives "instantly accessible supercar performance across the complete rev range." We don't doubt it. The four-camshaft, 48-valve mill employs lighter, low-friction internals that shed 143 pounds off the outgoing engine and bump up power by 15 horses and 37 pound-feet of torque (for a total of 516 pound-feet) versus the outgoing coupe. A modified six-speed ZF 6HP28 transmission shifts in around 200 milliseconds and uses a strengthened planetary gear set for longevity in all situations and conditions. It can now double downshift (say, from sixth to fourth gear) while rev-matching for improved power delivery to all four wheels. Why Bentley didn't delegate shifts to ZF's recently debuted eight-speed gearbox isn't exactly clear.
That's not all. A "high-output" V-8 engine arrives in late 2011 with the promise of a 40-percent efficiency gain over the W-12. (Complete details have not been released.) With both mills, Bentley continues its commitment to FlexFuel capability. Each mill operates on gasoline, ethanol (up to E85), or any mixture of the two. A Fuel Quality Sensor constantly measures available fuel and adjusts the engine's timing for a seamless power delivery. Yet even with a light right foot and sustainable fuel onboard, the 55-pound-lighter 6.0-liter coupe manages only 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway. That said, it's a 2 mpg improvement in each category over the 2010 edition, pending EPA certification.
2011 Bentley Continental GT Rear 1
Straight-line speed benefits as well. Dashes to 60 mph only take a claimed 4.4 seconds, which is quite conservative given that we clocked an identical time for the 5170-pound, 552-horsepower first-gen model. Give the Bentley's refined beast enough tarmac and it will top out at 198 mph. (Engineers sculpted the body to a relatively sleek 0.33 drag coefficient.) Numerous underbody tweaks to the rear diffuser, front splitter, wheel arches, and exhaust piping keep passing air controlled, critical components cool, and the heavily laden Bentley planted.
Tackling corners should be quite entertaining with a modified 40-percent front, 60-percent rear torque bias replacing the outgoing car's 50-50 split. Bentley says the revised all-wheel drive configuration -- combined with a recalibrated Electronic Stability Control (ESC), air suspension dampening, and retuned anti-roll bars -- minimizes most plow and aids acceleration during corner exit. Same goes for the Continuous Dampening Control (CDC), which constantly switches the air springs' settings based on driving conditions and behavior. Save for when Sport Mode is engaged, the GT is said to ride glass-smooth.
2011 Bentley Continental GT Center Navigaton
Interior designers elaborated little on the first generation's "wing" dash. In brand fashion, everything inside the intimate space that looks like leather, wood, metal, or carbon fiber, is exactly that -- there are no false fascias here. Each piece handcrafted in the name of quality and exclusivity. New-for-2011 "Cobra" seats lose some bulk but gain ventilation and massaging functions. Rear passengers benefit from two additional inches of legroom, which isn't much, but in the Bentley's tight cabin, it's a welcome improvement. Acoustic glazing, floor shields, and anti-vibration panels keep unwanted noise outside and the Naim stereo's crystal-clear sound inside. Occupants can adjust audio, phone, ride comfort, and navigation settings on the 8-inch color touch screen. The disc and hard-drive-based navigation system run the easy-to-use Google Maps interface.
Given what Bentley has revealed thus far, the 2011 Continental GT has what it takes to continue its reign as rich people's chariot of choice. And with a revised W-12 and a cleaner (and cheaper) V-8 edition coming soon, we wouldn't be surprised if a few new-to-the-brand buyers wire a deposit and sign their names to a yearlong wait list. Yes, ladies and gents, the luster is back.
|2011 Bentley Continental GT|
|2011 Bentley Continental GT|