The Bentley Continental GT: Rolling luxury
The MALESTRÖM’s resident car buff Frank is back with his latest instalment in his series looking back at the cars we always wanted. This week you’d better get geared up for a bit of luxury as he casts his eye over the the stylish (and very costly) Bentley Continental GT.
Sometimes a car will come along and it will be said that the companies future will depend on the success of that new car. One such car owner was Bentley Motors Ltd. The car in question is the Bentley Continental GT and was launched in 2003. It was the first car to be created after the split from Rolls Royce in 1998 when the company was bought by Volkswagen (VW)
In the past, Bentley cars had been a Rolls Royce with a different grill and a more powerful engine. Looking at some of the models released over the years, you could almost say it was the poor relation to RR as they seemed to lose the racing tradition of past Bentley’s when W.O. Bentley was still in charge.
When VW bought Bentley, they wanted to bring the brand back to life and make their cars stand out from the old Rolls Royce models, so it was a big ask to start with.
It was with this in mind that the boffins at Bentley decided to recreate a marque from the past with Bentley’s sporting heritage and VW mass production/engineering expertise.
The history of the continental goes back to the 1950’s when the Bentley Continental R was launched in 1952. The car sold well and was in production until 1955. The car was a 2 door sports saloon version of the 4 door Bentley S1 and was created for the UK market. At the time it was the fastest 4 seater car in the world with a top speed of 120mph. After 1955 the continental name was not used much until it made a come back in the Bentley range of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
The continental GT was launched at the Geneva Motor show in 2003. The new car was a first for Bentley in that it would be a mass produced model that was still assembled by hand. The car has a 6.0 litre twin turbo charged W12 engine that had 552bhp with a top speed of 197.6 mph. 0-60 was 4.8 seconds. A V8 version was later added to the choice of engines available.
New to Bentley was the fact the car had permanent 4 wheel drive and a new 8 speed automatic gearbox. From a luxury point of view, their was no end to colours and specifications that you could have. The idea at Bentley is, if your prepared to pay for it you can have it. You could even get voice activation for an in car telephone in 6 languages. The charm of a Bentley, with a sporty engine, wood and leather interiors was all there for buyers of the new Bentley with a variety of colours and wooden veneer trims on offer.
With a marque like Bentley you could expect some interesting variations and one such one was the Continental GT Diamond series. Numbers made were no more than 400. The Diamond was to celebrate Crewe factories 60th Diamond anniversary. Veneers included dark stained burr walnut and piano black with diamond quilted leather seats with the makers emblem embroidered on the seat facings.
A two door convertible known as the Continental GTC was launched at the 2006 New York Motor show. Top speed was 195.1mph and 189.5mph with the roof down. Later additions included a GT speed version with a 602 bhp engine.
With the success of the road car came a car for the race track. The car was called the Continental GT3 and was a rear wheel drive race car version of the Continental GT V8 coupe. The car had a 4.0 litre twin turbo V8 engine with 600bhp. It was fitted with a 6 speed sequential gearbox with a limited slip differential and also had wheel mount paddle operated gear shifts. As you might expect with a racing car of this pedigree there wasn’t much room for luxuries like wood and leather in this model.
The GT3 was unveiled at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed. The car entered development races at first before entering the Blancpain GT series in 2014 at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. One of the cars completed the race in fourth place. In May of the same year, the factory team won the Silverstone round of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
Sales of the car have put the Bentley name back on the map and in 2018 a replacement for the Continental GT was announce by VW. The new car will include a plug in hybrid model. The Bentley Continental may not be to every ones taste with its big and bulky looks, but, you cannot deny that when it comes to out and out speed, there are not many cars that can beat it in a drag race.
The success of the Bentley Continental gave VW the confidence to go ahead with a new project that would later become the Mulsanne and the Continental Flying Spur. The Bentley was a car that looked to its past for its heritage and the future for its success.
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