The GPS says I’m rushing across a sand dune at around 180 kph, in Oman, a little country in the Middle East. This is where Bentley has chosen to launch its new Bentley Continental GT.
The new Continental GT is similar to the old model, but almost every bit of the body panel has been changed. The new GT gets a sharper look. The grille is set lower and bulges out a bit. The headlights have dropped down to support the squatter, hunkered-down stance. But the biggest change is to the boot lid. The rear has been given a unique sharp-edged sculpture in the form of a ‘double-horseshoe,’ as the company calls it.
The GT’s mix of wood, leather and metal has been made even more luxurious. Bentley’s characteristic ‘knurled’ finish on the gear lever and switchgear feels great. There’s a brilliant Naim audio system with a built-in 30 GB hard disk. The seats are thinner and sportier than before but nonetheless comfortable. There’s more legroom at the back but the two small buckets are still cramped for adults.
Under the taut skin is a finely honed chassis that has lost 65 kg to its predecessor and now sharpens handling and reduces understeer. Power from the legendary W12 engine is also up by 15 bhp to a colossal 567 bhp.
Even though the car weighs over 2.3 tonnes, the steering is sharp and responsive and this big coupé darts from corner to corner with great agility. It’s stable, there’s no nervousness, no need for constant corrections of the wheel and the linearity of the GT’s responses is the key to its driver-friendly character.
Performance from the 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 is staggering and there’s a massive swathe of torque in any gear. Bentley has continued with the six-speed automatic, choosing not to switch to an eight-speed gearbox. However, the transmission doesn’t operate right. The distance between the steering and the mounted paddle shift levers is a bit much for people with short fingers. The transmission is mildly sluggish and there’s a lag during a sudden throttle input. The automatic too feels lazy to shift down from high revs and you find yourself in ‘sport’ mode or manually shifting most of the time.
The first batch of the new GT is expected in March 2011. With a starting price of around Rs 2 crore, for those who can afford it, this is the best real-world sports car. Autocar India