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Bentley Continental

Remarkable cars picture encyclopedia - Bentley Continental


Bentley Continental Automobiles
Bentley Continental


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Bentley 3 Liter Pictures

2000 Bentley Continental R Mulliner Coupe 2000 Bentley Continental R Millennium Edition 1988 Bentley
1988 Bentley Continental
2002 Bentley
2002 Bentley Continental-GT
2003 Bentley
2003 Bentley Continental-R
2003 Bentley
2003 Bentley Continental-R
2005 Bentley
2005 Bentley Continental GT Turbo Coupe
2005 Bentley
2005 Bentley Continental
2005 Bentley
2005 Bentley Touring
2006 Bentley
2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur
2008 Bentley
2008 Bentley Continental
 Bentley
Bentley Continental
 Bentley
Bentley Continental
 Bentley
Bentley Continental GT
 Bentley
Bentley Continental Flying Spur
     

Bentley Continental History

Bentley Continental: In the early 1980s there were signs that the Bentley marque was beginning to reassert itself, offering a more driver-oriented, high performance form of luxury motoring, with its turbo charged four door cars. Moreover the Bentley version of the Corniche, now available only as a convertible, was renamed the Continental, a clear indicator to those familiar with Bentley's history that a two door Bentley was acknowledged as having a core sgnificance to the marque.

Of course this was just a prelude to arrival of the Bentley Continental R, which was already being planned in the mid-Eighties.

However there were some customers who could not wait until the launch of the Continental R.

A small number of Bentley Continentals was commissioned with a turbo charged engine and specially modified body to cope with such a vast increase in power. While other customers approached coachbuilder Hooper to create a two door version of the hugely powerful and critically acclaimed Bentley Turbo R.

When launched in 1991 the Continental R received a rapturous welcome, it received a standing ovation at the Geneva motor show of that year. It must not be forgotten that at the beginning of the 1990s, economic downturn and a conflict in the Middle East might not have made the best climate in which to launch a mighty two door car with a retail price approaching £200,000.

But there were so many customers for this splendid car that its numbers had to be rationed and the company allowed it to spawned an entire model series: the Continetal T, the Continental SC and the higher performance highly individual Continental Mulliners.

1952 Bentley R-type Continental - The Story

Britain at the beginning of the 1950s was a sober place. The Second World War may have ended five years earlier, but for many the austerity continued, commodities as germane to the British way of life as tea were still subjected to rationing.

It must have seemed that the Labour Government's Chancellor of the Exchequer; a hair-shirted devout Christian and confirmed vegetarian called Sir Stafford Cripps; felt the British people would benefit from a period of prolonged asceticism. Cripps piled on the taxes and froze wages in an almost fanatical battle against inflation.

However there was one piece of good news; on May 26th 1950 petrol rationing finally came to an end. After a decade, the British motorist was finally able to use his/her car as frequently as he liked? should he/she be fortunate enough to possess one. Four days later on May 30th, the Whitsun holiday, the British motoring public responded in droves. The AA described it as an all-time record, with traffic packed solid ten miles out of London. After ten years of rationing the Briton's love affair with the motorcar was, if anything, more passionate and ardent than before.

This news must have been of considerable satisfaction to a benign bow-tied, pipe-smoking figure in the British Midlands. Chief Project Engineer Ivan Everden was director of Bentley's Experimental Department. Rolls-Royce had owned Bentley since 1931 and those purists who had admired the raw power of the Bentleys that had dominated the 24 hour races of Le Mans during the 1920s were complaining that, under the new owners, the cars that wore the winged B on their radiators were losing their edge.

Ivan Everden was to silence those critics in a most remarkable manner.

In 1950 he started work on a top-secret project. Known as Corniche II its aim was to create a fast yet refined, two door yet full four seater grand tourer, which would, as the Bentley marque's eponymous founder put it in 1919, be 'a good car, a fast car, the best in its class'. This car would become famous as the R-Type Continental.

Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, in 1939, a revolutionary looking 4-litre Bentley, styled by the French Georges Paulin and built by boutique French coachbuilder Pourtout, had torn around the Brookland's motor circuit achieving the quite remarkable distance of 114 miles within an hour. Called the Embiricos Bentley, after its plutocratic owner Andre Embiricos, this was a true supercar, forty years before the term was coined.

Flat out on the new autobahns, it travelled at speeds in excess of 120mph. Even today 120 miles per hour is a fair lick, over sixty years ago, such speeds were barely credible. To a contemporary motorist such velocity must have seemed more appropriate in the realms of the science fiction of HG Wells and Fritz Lang than on the open road.

Imagine the pre-war motorist pottering along at a bone shaking 50mph in his Morris Eight, Renault or Volkswagen Beetle. Suddenly he notices an impossibly fast-moving object on the road behind him. Before he has time to react, this low-slung, road-devouring, torpedo-shaped blur has streaked past him and into the distance. It must have seemed like the future had arrived? in the 1930s.

The Embiricos Bentley with its mechanical enhancements, streamlined design and lightweight coachwork was a phenomenally advanced car; just how advanced was demonstrated in 1949, a decade after it had stormed round the Brooklands circuit, when it was entered privately at Le Mans and finished sixth.

This car established the pattern upon which Ivan Evernden would improve in the early 1950s when he was given a cautious go-ahead to develop the R-Type Continental. Remarkable as it may seem now, management opinion was divided as to the expense of developing a new model and also whether there would be a market for such a high-powered and expensive car.

Bentley's stupendous achievement; creating a luxurious car that could eclipse the performance of many sports cars, with grace, effortlessness, style and comfort, what is more bringing it to the market in such a short space of time; becomes even more extraordinary when set in the context of the world as it was in 1952 when the R-Type Continental made its debut.

Petrol was not the highly sophisticated propulsion fuel that we know today; it was impure low octane rubbish, hardly suited to powering precisely engineered, high powered, sporting luxury cars.

Nor were contemporary tyres the robust radials of today. The normal six-ply tyres of the day, when tested by Bentley for the new car, were only able to last for 20 miles, ten minutes motoring at the Continental's quoted top speed of 120 mph.

As well as the non-standard tyres, there was non-standard bodywork, everything that could be done to lessen the weight of this full four-seater luxury car was done: aluminium body panels were placed onto a revolutionary light alloy frame.

Rolls-Royce motoring had been replaced with functional, yet elegant bucket seats. Every ounce mattered, so that although a radio was included in the price of the car, it was only fitted at the customer's request.

Performance was staggering: a raised compression ratio, specially modified exhaust (responsible for the dinstinctive note of the R-Type Continental as well as delivering another 25bhp) and other performance modifications, coaxed what was, for the time, remarkable power from the six cylinder 4566 engine. Compared with the Mark VI Standard Steel Saloon it was able to achieve a top speed that was 20% higher. The R-Type Continental was able to cover a quarter of a mile from a standing start in 19.5 seconds. This figure must have been astonishing in the fifties.

After protracted testing on the high speed roads of Continental Europe, the R-Type Continental was lent to the Autocar magazine and Crewe held its breath as the automotive press subjected the car to rigorous and spirited motoring. On September 12th 1952, the Autocar magazine published its verdict. 'It brings Bentley back to the forefront of the world's fastest cars, and its tremendous performance makes this one of the outstanding in a long series of Road Tests.' This was not just the best car in its class; it redefined its class.

'The acceleration from rest to 100 mph (36.0) has not been approached by any other saloon car in The Autocar's experience and has been equalled by very few open sports cars'.

There was, quite simply nothing else like it on the roads anywhere in the world.

Performance aside, it was the car's striking appearance that must have made such an impact on the road users of the early 1950s.

The R-Type Continental was, and still is, a staggeringly beautiful car; its raised front wings sweeping across the doors before tucking neatly into the rear 'haunch' of the car. Its raked, curved windscreen, its elegant fastback and its fin-like rear wings are pure automotive sculpture. However this was beauty with a purpose: the R-Type Continental was the first Bentley to benefit from experiments conducted in the wind-tunnel at Rolls-Royce's aeronautical test facility. The car's comparatively small front area improved aerodynamic performance while the rear fins, as well as striking a defiantly modern note, dramatically improved the car's stability at high speed.

'Much more could have been done than was done,' said Evernden of the revolutionary and pioneering work that had gone into the R-Type Continental, 'but the purpose of the exercise was to reduce the aero drag of an orthodox car and not to make a space capsule for an astronaut.' As man was not destined to travel into space until the following decade, it is fair to say that this was space age technology in a car truly ahead of its time.

Of course this came at a price. When the car was offered on the home market at the end of 1952, it cost £7,608 3s and 4d, by comparison the new Ford popular of 1953 came in at £390, which roughly equates to one car for the price of 20. But then that too was part of the appeal; as well as being the fastest production four-seater in the world, it was the most expensive. And during the early 1950s, you could not call yourself a millionaire playboy until you had one of these elegant rocket ships in your garage - it was the ultimate automotive status symbol.

The roll call of those who bought these exceptional cars new is impressive. Agnelli, Guinness, Embiricos, Onassis, Niarchos, Mavroleon, Jack Barclay, H I M the Shahinshah of Iran, Rockefeller, Prince Frederick of Prussia, Sir Alfred McAlpine and the Emperor of Bao Dai, are just a few of those who were fortunate, tasteful and rich enough to drive the new Bentley. These were the members of what would become known as the jet set, men who headed countries, corporations and aristocratic dynasties and who were united by their impeccable taste in cars.

The majority of these cars have long outlived their first owners; many are raced highly competitively in rallies or still used on a daily basis. They drive beautifully: docile around town, exhilarating at speed and effortless at all times? just as one would expect of a Bentley. Of theR-Type Continentals, 193 were bodied by HJ Mulliner, a handful by other coachbuilders.

The Autocar of 1952 put it rather well. 'This Bentley is a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances and delivers the occupants well-nigh as fresh as when they started. It is a car Britain may well be proud of, and it is sure to add new lustre to the name it bears'.

Half a century later it remains an automotive icon, one of very few cars that truly deserves to be called a design classic.

THE BLOODLINE CONTINUES...

The launch of a totally new two door Bentley is always an event. It does not happen frequently, but when it does it is automotive history in the making. The very nature and character of Bentley makes its two door cars very special; the unique, intoxicating cocktail of luxury and performance under the same sleek two-door skin, is something that is not in the gift of many motoring marques; however it is one of the many things that Bentley is superbly good at.

A two door Bentley is a very special kind of car and it speaks of a very special kind of motoring: sporting yet effortless; exhilarating yet civilised; high speeds and long distances are achieved in near silence and almost indecent comfort.

There is no denying that a two door Bentley is a statement. When, in 1930, Bentley chairman and Le Mans winner Woolf Barnato accepted the now famous bet to race the Blue Train from the Cote d'Azure, claiming that he could be at his London Club before the train pulled into Calais, he won the wager in a Bentley Speed Six CoupÈ. At previously mentioned, the same decade gave birth to another remarkable two door Bentley; The Embiricos Bentley, a head-turner that was truly ahead of its time.

Shortly after the Second World War the Bentley Mark IV Cresta, an extremely rare car, bodied by Pinin Farina, caused a sensation in 1948 and then of course the R-Type Continental in the early 1950s helped re-establish Bentley as the grand tourer par excellence of the post war world.

In many senses the notion of the modern two-door, four-seater coupÈ, that is so central to the spirit of Bentley, can be traced back to that seminal car.

Before Rolls-Royce bought the company, the cars made by Bentley were an expression of brute power. Ettore once paid Bentley the sly compliment of saying 'My friend Mr Bentley builds the fastest lorries in the world.' And at times during Rolls-Royce's ownership, there were very real fears that Bentley was being neglected at the expense of Rolls-Royce.

However it is also true that during the many years of its ownership by Rolls-Royce the Bentley marque has periodically sought to reassert itself and the R-Type Continental was born out of just such a desire for reassertion.

That the R-Type Continental's success allowed it to evolve beyond the Mark VI Bentley into the SI, SII and SIII series, demonstrates that allure of the two door sporting Bentley, a very different thing from a mere two door sports car, was an enduring one.

During the late fifties, two door Continentals derived from the S series saloon demonstrated the same qualities that had attracted discerning and demanding drivers to the original car. The advertising from Bentley and its coachbuilding partners stressed the car's thoroughnbred nature. 'Really striking acceleration and handling characteristics' carolled an advertisement in the Motor of October 1955. 'The front seats have been "anatomically" designed to give better grip when cornering at speed' was the proud boast of an advertisement in Autosport's October 18th number of 1957. And the performance of these desirable cars took another leap at the end of the 1950s, with the arrival of the 6230cc V8 engine.

It was during the 1960s that the company seemed to take the almost conscious decision to let the Bentley marque become dormant, allowing the once proud name to slip into a coma. The introduction of the monocoque Silver Shadow, Bentley-badged 'T' Series, all but killed off the coachbuilders who had created such ingenious and striking bodies for Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars.

The Silver Shadow was to become the most successful model to come out of Crewe, while coachbuilders Mulliner Park Ward (HJ Mulliner had been acquired by Bentley and Rolls-Royce in 1959 and merged with Park Ward) created the two-door car that was to become famous as the Corniche.

However if Crewe was happy to see Rolls-Royce succeed at the expense of Bentley, Bentley customers and indeed other parts of the automotive industry were not. In 1968 Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina, creator of the startling Cresta of exactly 40 years earlier, presented a Bentley T1 bodied as a two-door fastback. With its distinctive, aggressive styling and sweeping lower roof edge line that became the line of the upper rear wing, this car was clearly intended to evoke the spirit, speed and style of the R-Type Continental. Although this car was a one off, it is significant in that it represents an interstitial stage in the story of the two-door Bentley.

Crewe management also saw potential in Pininfarina's design, although not as a Bentley. After a prolonged delay a derivative of the design went into production as the controversial Rolls-Royce Camargue. Although hardly ever specified as a Bentley, it is interesting to note that for road testing, Camargues always appeared with the Bentley grille.

However by the early 1980s there were signs that the Bentley marque was beginning to reassert itself, offering a more driver-oriented, high performance form of luxury motoring, with its turbo charged four door cars. Moreover the Bentley version of the Corniche, now available only as a convertible, was renamed the Continental, a clear indicator to those familiar with Bentley's history that a two door Bentley was acknowledged as having a core sgnificance to the marque.

Of course this was just a prelude to arrival of the Bentley Continental R, which was already being planned in the mid-Eighties.

However there were some customers who could not wait until the launch of the Continental R.

A small number of Bentley Continentals was commissioned with a turbo charged engine and specially modified body to cope with such a vast increase in power. While other customers approached coachbuilder Hooper to create a two door version of the hugely powerful and critically acclaimed Bentley Turbo R.

When launched in 1991 the Continental R received a rapturous welcome, it received a standing ovation at the Geneva motor show of that year. It must not be forgotten that at the beginning of the 1990s, economic downturn and a conflict in the Middle East might not have made the best climate in which to launch a mighty two door car with a retail price approaching £200,000.

But there were so many customers for this splendid car that its numbers had to be rationed and the company allowed it to spawned an entire model series: the Continetal T, the Continental SC and the higher performance highly individual Continental Mulliners.

To drive a two door Bentley is to appreciate at once the true continent-crossing characteristics of this unique British marque. A two door Bentley is an uncompromising driver's car, yet perfectly capable of transporting four people, and their luggage, from one end of Europe to the other at speeds that make a Bentley seem a viable and far more pleasurable alternative to rail and even commercial air travel.

2001 Bentley Continental T Personal Commission

Detroit, 9 January 2001...The Bentley Continental T Personal Commission, painted and finished in a special Racing Green and parked in pole position on the Bentley Motors stand at the Detroit International Motor Show, is an outstanding example of the practically limitless skill and unique capabilities of this famous sporting and luxury marque.

In addition to its subtly enhanced bodywork, this Grand Touring two-seat car features a specially designed rear luggage compartment behind the front seats and a set of exclusively created bespoke Bentley leather luggage. The three unique, co-coordinated pieces of a large valise style suitcase and two matching smaller curved cabin cases match the same quilted Connolly leather as the cars interior. Secured in place by saddlery grade leather luggage restraints, the luggage is elegantly proportioned to perfectly complement the cars interior specifications.

Bentley Motors' Personal Commission team offers an unrivalled expertise in the fabrication of metal and wood, hand-crafted veneers and in the working of top quality hide to create unique versions of its much-vaunted models. The Continental T Personal Commission designed and built for the Detroit Show displays these skills to perfection. In particular it highlights the discreet changes from the production version of this highly prized and desirable motor car.

A new deep section front bumper, the headlamp surround panels, sills and rear bumper have all been altered to give the car a leaner and more assertive appearance. Detail changes to the front profile include the painted radiator shell and indicator lamps mounted within the bumper while clear indicator lenses at the rear maintain and reinforce the sporting theme.

The side view features new sports vents in the front wings, with vertical louvres to help the car's lines to flow more readily while the satin black edges on the body-coloured powered door mirrors offer an elegant contrast to the stunning paintwork.

The special Racing Green finish, at first sight looks almost black until it reflects a rich, deep green pigment. The exterior's elegance and style is echoed throughout the interior. Featuring Sienna coloured, quilted Connolly leather trim on the seats, interior door panels and in the bespoke luggage area, each hide-trimmed item is meticulously finished with contrasting hand-sewn beige stitching. In contrast, the steering wheel grip and top roll leather colour are finished in Aragon hide while the Russet coloured Wilton carpets are trimmed with Sienna coloured leather to provide a comfortable yet sophisticated interior for driver and passenger.

An additional series of features that distinguish this car can be found in the detailing of the brightwork. A crisscross knurling design has been worked onto the underside of the exterior door handles, the central locking door buttons, the bulls-eye facia air vents and the cigar lighter. The chrome trim wheels, drilled aluminium brake and accelerator pedals, and unmissable red starter button on the facia emphasise the sporting feel of the car created by these design features.

With a 0-60mph time of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 170mph the Bentley Continental T leads its class for performance and luxury. Its massive torque, 875Nm (650 lb ft) at 2000rpm, and power, 420bhp, give the car tremendous levels of acceleration from very low revs and make driving the Continental T an experience like no other.

The computer controlled suspension has been tuned to provide the driver with a sporting ride and handling package. It includes an automatic ride height control system to maintain optimum ride and handling characteristics at all times.

The Bentley Continental T's brakes feature state-of-the-art brake discs with an increased carbon content give better heat conductivity, cooler running and optimum efficiency.

The discs are also larger with correspondingly larger pads requiring less braking pressure.

The impressive power output demands traction assistance in some conditions; this is supplied electronically.

If the system senses wheel slip or spin, the fuel supply to the cylinders is cut, turbo boost reduced and ignition retarded. The intervention is momentary and imperceptible to the driver. In addition the car is fitted with a viscous control differential, which transfers power from a spinning wheel to the one with traction during spirited acceleration and cornering. Both systems are complementary.

Much more than simply a show car, the Bentley Continental T Personal Commission is a superb illustration of the virtually unlimited and undoubtedly unrivalled capabilities of the Crewe-based UK company, highlighting the outstanding quality of engineering, design and craftsmanship that reflects the marque's lineage and values and the seamless link between its history and its future.

In particular, it shows off the mastery of the Personal Commissioning team, whose drive and motivation lies in being able to turn customer aspirations and ideas into reality - and whose only limiting factors are the materials with which they work and legislative requirements. Handcrafted by skilled artists in wood, leather and metal, the Bentley Continental T Personal Commission strongly reflects the company's sporting heritage as well as its outstanding engineering, craft and design skills.

Taking the world's most luxurious production cars and developing them to an individual's own requirements, is all part of the Bentley Motors' Personal Commissioning service to owners who want something extra. Demonstrating some of these capabilities to perfection, the Bentley Continental T Personal Commission shows just how brilliantly finished a Bentley can be.

"We offer our customers more than simply a bespoke manufacturing competence" says Tony Gott, chief executive of Bentley Motors. "The talents of Bentley Motors span the finest engineering, design and most modern technology - as well as the traditional craftsmanship that is unmatched by, and is the envy of, all other car makers.

"Our capabilities as shown by this car created by the Personal Commissioning team are unique to us," he says. "We can exclusively create, customer by customer, a virtually limitless range of individual enhancements to a car's performance, its exterior and interior. It means that every Bentley that has been built by the Personal Commissioning team is, truly, original."

2003 Bentley Continental GT

Bentley Motors is delighted to present the all-new Continental GT Design Concept at the 2003 North American International Auto Show. Conceived to be a sporting coupé without rival, the Continental GT is the fastest genuine four-seat car in the world. It combines all elements of the finest Grand Touring traditions and Bentley handcraftsmanship with some of the most advanced technologies ever brought to the automotive market.

Featuring a 6-litre, W12, twin-turbocharged, engine driving all four wheels through a paddle-operated, six speed sequential automatic gearbox, the Continental GT offers supercar performance combined with the interior space, versatility and ease of ownership to make it a natural everyday car. In this respect as well as many others, Bentley believes the Continental GT to be unique.

The Continental GT was designed and engineered by Bentley at Crewe and will be manufactured there in all-new facilities that combine state of the art technologies with the unique hand finishing and attention to detail that has been the hallmark of all cars to wear the winged 'B'. It goes on sale next autumn and will bring the prospect of Bentley ownership to a wider audience of discerning enthusiasts than ever before.

And while the Continental GT is a Bentley from bumper to bumper, the role of the company's Volkswagen parent can scarcely be ignored: it was only the £500 million vote of confidence placed in the marque by VW that brought the 20-year old dream to reality.

Highlights

Styling

The styling story of the Continental GT dates back to August 1999 when Dirk van Braeckel started on a design for an all-new Bentley coupé. By Christmas, it had been approved for production.

The key to honouring Bentley's design past without creating an inappropriately 'retro' car was to understand the design philosophy of the marque and use it in an entirely contemporary context. The philosophy for the Continental GT can be quantified as follows: the car must have a short front overhang and a dominant bonnet. The pillar less cabin itself needs to be sleek and compact while the rear haunches should be taut and pronounced.

Finally there is the car's 'jewellery'. It was decided that brightwork should be minimised while the headlamps assume a dominant role in the styling signature to draw attention to the most distinctive Bentley feature of all: the matrix radiator grille. A rear spoiler that retracts into the boot lid at low speeds provides essential aerodynamic stability without spoiling the car's lines.

Interior design and style

The cabin of the Continental GT is designed to make Bentley devotees and marque newcomers feel equally at home. Most notable perhaps is the symmetrical facia with a centre console rising up and curving left and right in front of the passenger and driver in a shape that reflects the design of the famed Bentley wings.

Behind the wheel a unique driving environment awaits and it goes almost without saying that an ideal driving position is easily achieved - Bentley's ergonomicists have been as far as to measure New York basketball players to make sure all shapes and sizes are accommodated.

Meanwhile, those in the back will scarcely believe the amount of thought that has gone into creating the rear cabin. Far from appearing as afterthoughts, the rear space and seats have been designed with the same care and attention as those in the front.

The toughest task facing designers of all luxury car cabins these days is to present the controls and information interfaces in a way that is both uncluttered yet easy to use. In the Continental GT, most routine operations used frequently can be operated direct from the steering wheel. Other functions are individually controlled but displayed on the same screen sited in the middle of the centre console.

Naturally wood and leather remain an integral part of Bentley furniture but they have been tailored to suit the Continental GT, proving that these most traditional materials can still create a contemporary feel.

Design

The brief was to create a car with as much room as the most spacious coupés on the market, equip it with the performance and responses of the world's most dynamic supercars and retain the whole within compact dimensions.

The secret of the Continental GT's interior room is, in fact, its incredibly compact engine. By using staggered banks of cylinders, the W12 is the shortest 12-cylinder engine on the market, allowing space it would otherwise use to be given over to the interior.

Inside the key is a raised 'H' point - the position in which the driver and front passenger hips naturally sit - which gives a relatively upright driving position, liberating vital room in the back. The result is that in the Continental GT four six footers can be accommodated.

Even the 400-litre luggage capacity has only been achieved through fresh thinking and innovation - siting the 90litre fuel tank under the floor and thereby also providing a handy through load facility for skis.

Design Technology

The Continental GT is the first Bentley to have been designed entirely in the virtual world. Every single component, down to the smallest washer was not merely computer designed but designed into the Continental GT concept alongside every other part.

With all components existing in the virtual world before a single one is created as a physical property, it is possible to see how each part interacts with all the others, illuminating problems and conflicts that may otherwise never have come to light until the part have been machined. This process cuts down development time and enables Bentley's engineers to design in quality and consistency at a component level.

Powertrain

The choice of a W12 formation engine was made to provide a new level of power to the marque in a manner that still remained inimitably Bentley. The basic engine was also available within the Group and it was soon determined that turbo charging would enable it to deliver Bentley's performance goals.

KKK turbochargers were chosen and integrated into the under-bonnet package while Bentley engineers modified the internal componentry of the powerplant until they were happy all its power, torque, emissions, consumption and durability targets had been met or exceeded.

It can be confirmed that Bentley has made good its earlier promise to power the Continental GT by an engine of 'more than 500bhp, making it the most powerful four seat car currently on sale.

Having created one of the world's most powerful and responsive engines, it was clear that an equally extraordinary transmission would be needed to transmit it's power and torque to the driven wheels.

The use of four-wheel drive was decided in the earliest stages of the project as it was felt that this new level of power demanded a commensurate level of control.

Nevertheless, in order to ensure that the right Bentley feel is retained, Bentley's powertrain and chassis engineers have experimented extensively to provide the Continental GT with all the security of a four-wheel drive system but, when appropriate, the fun of a rear-wheel drive layout.

Providing the link between the wheels and the engine is a six-speed automatic transmission built for Bentley by ZF and the first of its type to be used in an ultra-high performance coupé. Tiptronic actuation means that the car can be used either as a conventional automatic or as a clutch-less manual.

Chassis

The Continental GT has been equipped with a chassis that should appeal to sybarites and thrill-seekers equally. The car has a firm but not harsh ride, offering impressive resistance to roll, pitch and heave yet compliant enough to ride poorly surfaced roads with absolute equanimity.

The basis of the chassis strategy is an extremely stiff body. To this was applied the latest suspension technology featuring an innovative double wishbone arrangement at the front and an exceptionally well located multi-link rear axle behind.

Air springs are used at each corner in place of conventional coils, each one containing its own infinitely adjustable electronic damper.

The electronic dampers fitted to the Continental GT are capable of adjusting themselves infinitely and continuously without the driver ever being aware of it. A computer processes information fed to it from sensors around the car and instructs the dampers accordingly. Naturally both traction control and the latest Bosch Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) are fitted.

That said, as the most sporting Bentley in the company's post-war history, the Continental GT is a driver's car and Bentley's chassis engineers are aware that not only must the chassis have the ability to match perfectly the engine's phenomenal output, it must provide it in a way that indulges its driver.

To this end, a huge amount of work has been done to ensure the car has the right stance on the road and then exhaustive testing of different steering geometries has been undertaken both to eliminate unwanted torque reactions and also to provide the appropriate amount of 'feel' in the chassis.

Wheel and tyre choice is crucial to the development of any chassis and it has been decided that the Continental GT will come with 18in wheels as standard with optional sizes up to 20in being made available. The tyres will be the same size on both axles and, on the 18in rim, of approximately 275/40 dimensions.

Braking will be provided by vast ventilated discs at each corner featuring the latest Bosch anti-lock system with Brake Assist and Emergency Brake Force Distribution.

Safety

As well as all its impressive active safety attributes, the Continental GT has a full raft of passive safety features with two front airbags, four side airbags and two side curtain bags that, unusually for a coupé, each runs along the full length of the cabin. Seat belt pre-tensioners are used for all four seats.

Marketing

The Continental GT is the result of a deep seated emotional desire extant within Bentley for over 20 years to create a new compact coupé.

The business case for such a car hinges on what Bentley believes to be a clear gap in the upper luxury coupé market: for those who crave true supercar performance but need the flexibility of a car that seats four, carries their luggage and can be used everyday. Some 75 per cent of those who will buy a Continental GT will not be existing customers.

These new customers will be people who already admire Bentley and would like one of its current product but who either cannot quite afford one or baulk at the prospect of spending £150,000 or more on a car, even if they believe it to be worth the money.

The profile of the typical Continental GT buyer will also be subtly different to those who buy from Bentley's existing ranges. They will tend to be younger, with an average age of just under as opposed to just over 50 years old. Men will still buy many more than women, but their majority will decrease from the overwhelming 96-99 per cent of current customers, to a slightly more balanced 85-90 per cent.

Conclusion

In all physical senses, the changes the Continental GT has brought to Bentley have transformed the company beyond recognition. The car itself and the renewed factory in which it will be built mark the dawn of a new and thrilling era for the marque.

But in a no less important way Bentley is returning to its heartland values, as defined by of WO Bentley. The strength of any brand is the thought that created it and now it is this that resonates through the walls of the factory.

WO's proposition was to combine cutting edge design with outrageous performance and superlative craftsmanship to create a potent, authentic and unique motoring experience. Moreover it would have a purpose that took it beyond mere recreation and turned it into something of real use and significance. And while it would offer great comfort and unquestioned luxury, so it would also possess a thinly veiled ability to turn into something very special at any moment. These are precisely the qualities the Continental GT has been engineered to provide and result, we believe, is a car of which WO Bentley would be rightly proud.

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