Last September ForbesLife Indonesia was among those in Indonesia given the chance to experience the third generation Bentley Continental GT during the car's Asia Pacific Launch in Gold Coast, Australia. Aside from living the posh lifestyle of a Bentley owner for a day, the experiences included being picked up at the airport in a Bentley Bentayga, staying at the fancy Pallazo Versace Hotel, and having dinner aboard a yacht. We were presented with a fleet of the new car, six of them with various colors and specs. The new car that was inspired by the Bentley R-Type Continental from 1952 has vast improvements compared to the previous model. The Continental GT is the most successful Bentley in history as it has sold almost 70,000 units of the model. It took Bentley five years to develop the car and it is built from scratch, as it has new chassis, engine, and involves various new techniques to build the car. The all-new body and materials on the new car saves more than 80 kg over the previous Continental W12 body.
The car looked so much better as Bentley’s designer changed the proportions of the car by moving the front wheel forward by 135 mm. The result is the engine can be positioned lower hence also making the bonnet lower compared to the previous car making it more slimmer looking. The car also looked much more dynamic with dramatic lines and curves, thanks to the super forming process that heats the aluminum panels to 500˚ C that enables it to form the panels more freely. The power line and the haunch that are the signature design of the model now is even more dramatic and made it more beautiful, the design was inspired by the planes from the 1950s. The Continental GT is the first production car ever to have an entire body side made from the Super Formed process. The new headlamps of the car are very beautiful to look as they feature internal surfaces that are transparent with sharply defined edges that catch the light like a diamond, inspired by the finest cut-crystal glasses.
The rear of the car now has tail lights shaped into ellipses, reflecting the silhouette of the exhaust tail pipes below them. The new Continental GT has 21-inch wheels as standard, with two styles available and comes with a noise cancelling tires for a more enjoyable drive. Meanwhile for a sportier look the car also has an option for 22-inch lightweight forged wheel, alongside a hand-finished option, which allows for a twisted polished finish.
Inside the car Bentley has upped its luxury game. The cabin is luxurious and packed with contemporary features. The Bentley’s wings are still the inspiration for the dashboard with two balanced wings spread across the cabin. Inside, the cabin is a haven of luxury with its classy combination of leather, wood, and chrome measured down to tenths of millimeters. Everything you touch inside the cabin is premium and one nice touch is the diamond knurling on various knobs that adds a luxurious touch using a detailed three-dimensional faceted surface.
The spotlight is the new rotating 12.3-inch center display, it features a three-face panel that also features a blank or a panel with three classic style analog gauges. One can choose between the three in push of a button in the center of the dash and it will rotate to the blank panel when you turn off the ignition, making the dash feature one long wood veneer. The high-resolution touch screen displays the new entertainment system that is very responsive. The main screen can display three functions of the car such as car control, music, and navigation that are very useful.
Further in the luxury in the cabin, there are 10 sqm of veneer in the car that machined to a 0.1 mm thick which took nine hours to craft. There are new choices of veneer including some sourced from rare woods such as Koa from the Island of Hawaii and for the first time a choice for a two-tone veneer. For the center console, Bentley also offers a new patterned finish, Côtes de Genève that is inspired from Swiss watchmaking. The comfortable and luxurious seat also has a new finish with diamond quilting that features 712 individually-angled stitches.
A choice of three audio systems is offered in the new Continental GT. The standard system features 10 speakers and 650 Watts, while a Bang & Olufsen 1,500 W, 16-speaker system with illuminated speaker grilles is aimed at lifestyle-oriented customers. The new Bang & Olufsen installation benefits from the first automotive application of the BeoSonic system – a new way for tone setting with a simple, intuitive one-touch user interface. The audiophile should opt for the Naim 2,200 W, 18-speaker system with Active Bass Transducers built into the front seats, one can enjoy clear and crisps sounds with terrific sound stage, while you can feel the bass thumps through the seats. To ensure optimal audio enjoyment, laminated acoustic glass is used for the windscreen and side windows, resulting in a nine-decibel reduction in exterior noise ingress versus the outgoing model.
Under the hood, the engine has abundant power and torque. The new 6.0-litre, W12 turbocharged engine produces 626 horsepower and 900 Nm of torque, and accelerates the new Continental GT to 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 333 km/h. Having a W configuration means that the engine is 24 per cent shorter than an equivalent V12, benefitting weight distribution and maximizing usable cabin space. One important highlight is Bentley also designed the car to not only appeal to its loyal customers but also attractive to new ones especially those who like supercars, with the aim of the brand putting many performance and handling enhancing features to the car. For the first time the engine is matched with a ZF made 8-speed dual clutch transmission and an active all-wheel drive system to supplement the already stellar active roll bars in the car. The all-wheel drive system is now aimed to make the car feels sportier, hence in sport mode it only transfers up to 19 % of the torque to the front wheels making feels more like a rear wheel drive car.
In Bentley and comfort mode it will transfer up to 38 percent of the torque to the front wheels. The engine, transmission, and suspension combination make the car very enjoyable to drive on the road. The engine is for the first time equipped with two twin scroll turbochargers and the results are as expected. Driving the car is effortless and you can feel it the moment you depress the accelerator pedal, a slight touch will make the car start to glide smoothly as it has a gigantic peak torque of 900 Nm from a mere 1,350 rpm and the torque is flat until 4,500 rpm. It means the maximum pulling power are on the tip of your toes as it is just slightly above the car idle rpm. The steering feel is also luxurious, smooth and light to move without completely isolating you and the car, you can still feel its slightly weighted but not the one that will tire you in the long run. Full press the accelerator and the car prove that it is a very capable on the performance department, despite having a kerb weight at 2.2 tonnes. All the torque will push you toward the seat and the power will give you a marvelous ride to the 6,000 rpm redline. We however could not experience the full power of the engine as roads in Australia have various speed limits, with only a maximum of 110 km/h allowed on the expressway.
How well is the car on the road? We drove from Gold Coast to the curved roads along the hills of the Byron Bay Hinterland. Typical of a grand tourer the car must be comfortable, and the car offers excellent comfort with an upgraded air suspension that has 60% more space in its air chambers when in comfort mode. The suspension absorbs bumps and uneven road with no problem, when there is a steep ramp the car also can raise its suspension with a touch of a button for a more peace of mind. On the expressway you will also be able to enjoy the drive more conveniently as the car is equipped with various driver aids, such as adaptive cruise control and speed limiter. The previous generation already has a decent handling for a car with a hefty weight. On a twisty road the car was agile and eager to turn, the steering was quick and responsive yet still luxuriously east to turn. All suspension technology enabled the car to navigate through corners and managing its weight gracefully, you didn’t feel the weight of the car that much and it stayed quite level during cornering. Our 100 km plus drive from Gold Coast to Byron Bay was a sublime experience. The Bentley Continental GT with all the package is sportier and more compelling than ever. The car has the right proportion and size, it offers the perfect balance of luxury driving and performance that make the car the new benchmark for a luxury GT and it is ForbesLife Indonesia Grand Tourer of the year.