Balancing the past and future has been the game of the Bentley Continental GT since it was introduced in 2003.
Bentleys have traditionally made a name for themselves as extremely luxurious vehicles that have sometimes been capable of record-breaking speeds thanks to utilizing advanced technologies. That’s evident here with this car.
The newest iteration of the Continental GT revealed Tuesday has a lot of technology under its heritage skin. Not that the look is completely unchanged from the model that’s been on sale for the better part of two decades, but the familiar exterior hides some new details. Bentley says it’s about 176 pounds lighter than the equivalent outgoing car because of greater use of lighter and stronger materials. The panels for the fenders, for example, are now shaped with a process called Super Formed to heat the aluminum to 500 degrees Celsius in order to get the dramatic curves seen here – a first for a production car, the company says.
Those curves mean the Continental GT is still a long and graceful two-door car for those buyers at the higher reaches of the car market (the outgoing 2017 model starts at basically $200,000) who appreciate a classically opulent look. While the face looks remarkably similar to pretty much any Bentley from the last 20 years or so, the round headlights pack LED Matrix technology that Audi’s been a fan of for several years now. No surprise, since Audi and Bentley are both part of the vast Volkswagen Group. But while the German brand’s implementation screams “future,” the lights on the Bentley are made to look more like old crystal and more timeless. It looks like it works.
Under this, however, Bentley is promoting a more sophisticated suspension control system to give both a soft ride when desired, or keep the handling in check if you decide to use all of the 626 horsepower and 207 mph top speed that the 6.0-liter turbocharged 12-cylinder engine offers. It’s not an electrified powertrain, for sure, but Bentley has admittedly shown us what they want an all-electric luxury car to look like.
Called Bentley Dynamic Ride, it uses a 48-volt system to adjust electronic actuators front and rear and keep the car from leaning too much in corners, while still offering the ability to set the ride to a comfortable setting with the air suspension. Because of the 48-volt system, rather than the typical 12-volt in most cars, Bentley says cameras and other “road-sensing” technologies used by some companies are unnecessary for the Continental GT because of its ability to react quickly to counter forces.
Bentley says each Continental GT uses more than 107 square feet of real wood inside, along with vast amounts of leathers and metals, but this was never going to be a car for those concerned with the earth’s diminishing resources.
And behind all of those materials, things go very digital. The driver is presented with an Audi-like digital configurable display instead of analog dials. The wood panel in the center of the dashboard now rotates. When the car’s off, it’s just a wood panel, but press the start button and it flips to show the 12.3-inch display for navigation and other functions. Flip it again, and it’s three classic dials for outside temperature, compass and a chronometer that all look like what you would’ve found on a Bentley of 50 years ago.
So while Bentley isn’t courting Tesla or any of the startups for those seeking the “future” of the luxury car, it isn’t stuck in the 20th century. Craftsmanship and tactility remain high on the priority list, but the Continental GT is still full of technology expected to be put in many more cars soon.