Fresh on the heels of its North American debut at the International Auto Show in Detroit, the second generation Bentley Continental GT descended on America’s two biggest markets last Thursday for a private preview for customers and press. Though the recent deluge of East Coast snowstorms threatened to hamper attendance at the New York event, no such trouble surfaced at Hollywood’s Raleigh Studios, which not so coincidentally served as the Los Angeles launch point for the first generation Continental GT eight years ago.
Alasdair Stewart, Bentley’s Board Member for Sales and Marketing, and Robin Page, Bentley Head of Interior Design, were on hand to present the newly refined Continental GT, which was accompanied by its namesake and inspiration, a 1952 Continental R-Type (this particular one owned by an anonymous Los Angeles collector). As Stewart clarified during a formal presentation, more than 23,000 first generation Continental GTs were sold worldwide during the car’s 8-year production run, and many of the car’s loyal drivers were interested in seeing an evolution of the model, rather than a revolution.
In that respect the new GT lives up to the billing, offering a sportier and simultaneously cleaner look care of a wider stance, larger 21” wheels, a raised beltline, and heat Super Forming technology that has resulted in crisper lines and more complex panel curves. Technological advances also inform the roomier interior, from the 8” touchscreen interface that replaces the oft-criticized first-gen navi system, to the “soft touch” padded leather surfacing that ubiquitously covers most of the cabin (an appointment that first appeared in the flagship Mulsanne last year).
As with the previous generation Continental GT, the new car features a 6.0 liter twin-turbocharged W-12 engine, now producing 567 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Bentley’s continued commitment to environmentally conscious engine efficiency manifests in the W-12’s capacity to operate on ethanol and other so-called flex fuels, a technology that first appeared in the Continental Supersports of late 2009 (which will remain on sale for part of this year despite the debut of its would-be-successor). Though the new GT launches with the W-12, an all-new high-output 4.0 liter V-8 (presumably with fuel saving cylinder deactivation similar to the Mulsanne’s) is expected to become an available option later this year.
As Stewart summed it up, the new Continental GT offers “supercar performance combined with handcrafted luxury for everyday use.” With 0 – 60 mph sprints in 4.4 seconds, a top speed of 198 mph, and Bentley’s signature smooth ride quality, it’s hard to take fault with that assessment.
Below, Bentley’s Head of Interior Design Robin Page (center right, behind door) explains design cues and styling choices to the gathered media.