Bentley Continental GT review – engine, gearbox and technical highlights
The Continental GT’s available with both a W12 and V8 engine, the former bespoke to Bentley
Both Continental GT coupe and Convertible models are powered by either a V8 or W12 engine. The latter is a 6-litre twin-turbo unit, which despite featuring the same capacity and a similar fundamental design as the old W12, is genuinely a brand new engine. This is also now bespoke to the Bentley brand, with Audi having dropped the W12 option for its A8, and no other brand within the VW Group featuring a 12-cylinder option.
Changes inside the engine include further development of the variable valve timing system and the firing order, making the engine smoother yet more sporting in feel. The outputs are as eye-watering as you’d expect. Maximum power is 626bhp at 6000rpm, while maximum torque is 664lb ft and is developed as a flat peak between 1350 and 4500rpm.
The V8 option is more widespread, sharing the same 4-litre hot-V twin-turbo unit found in a range of Audi RS models, Porsches and the Lamborghini Urus. In order to keep some distance between it and the W12, output in the Continental GT is rated at 542bhp at 5750rpm. However, torque is still liberal at 568lb ft between 1960 and 4500rpm.
Both engine options are paired to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, feeding power to a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. While a dual-clutch system might not sound like the most natural pairing, it’s a superb example of the type and delivers an impressive balance of smoothness and responsiveness.
Rather than having to work with hand-me-down parts from the VW empire, Bentley’s engineers were involved with Porsche in the development of the Conti’s new chassis right from the word go, so they could dictate exactly what they were going to end up with.
The engine is set around 150mm further back in the chassis than before, which in itself makes a huge difference to the GT’s fundamental balance. At the front there are double wishbones, with a multi-link arrangement at the rear, but at both ends there is a three-chamber air suspension system with a 48V electronically “active” anti-roll bar, and it’s these elements specifically that Bentley claims provide the biggest increases in control.
The brakes are some of the biggest seen on any production road car, with 420mm cast iron ventilated discs at the front and 380mm rotors at the back. And as before, the GT is four-wheel drive – and needs to be with that much torque available from such low revs. But the way in which the power and torque is deployed has been radically altered in the new car, and switching between the three different drive modes available is key to the distribution of energy, and to the personality of the car in general.