The major difference between the Bentley Continental GT and Continental Flying Spur are the doors: the former has two as a Grand Tourer in the best tradition and the latter has four doors as a fully fledged sedan with a large boot. The Bentley Continental GT still is a four-seater and it was the first real new Bentley since Bentley separated from Rolls-Royce on January 1, 2003. This is because this car is an excellent marriage of heritage and innovation and the fastest four seat car in the world. Two numbers seem to say it all: it accelerates from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds (0-100km/h 4.8 seconds) and reaches a top speed of 198 mph (318 km/h). And on top of this Bentley won the Le Mans 24 hour race in France on Sunday 15th June 2003 with the Bentley Speed 8. This has been the sixth time that Bentley has won the world’s greatest motor race and the first time Bentley has had a win since 1973. This victory has been important for Bentley as a brand, as it was the victories of the Bentley Boys in the 1930s that gave Bentley its image. The Bentley has always been a driver car, whereas the Rolls always had the image of a chauffeur-driven car.
Bentley, which won the Luxury Briefing Award for Excellence in autumn 2003, has done well under new chairman, Franz-Josef Paefgen who has been with the company since April 2002. Having been the chairman of Audi and the driving force behind the performance of Audi in recent years, he was also influential in making Audi win Le Mans in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Bentley is thriving now under the guidance of Paefgen with his racing experience and as he puts quality first, the market launch of the Bentley Continental GT was delayed to spring 2004. However, it looks like this delay will have been worthwhile as the top speed of 198 mph (318 km/h) is pushing the Continental GT into the stratosphere of much more expensive cars. The heart of the Continental GT is its 5998 cc, four camshaft, 48-valve, twin turbocharged W12 engine. It can now be revealed that its power output, hitherto quoted as 'in excess of 500 bhp', is in fact 560 bhp (560 PS or 411 kW) at 6100 rpm. Maximum torque is 650 Nm (479 lb ft) which may sound an impressive enough number in isolation but its true significance only becomes apparent when you learn that it is generated at just 1600 rpm. Typically, a performance car engine will force the driver to wait until it is spinning at between 3-5000 rpm before it will deliver maximum thrust. No other car in production makes its torque so instantly accessible and this is important as Bentley always meant torque, since 1919.
And not many gearboxes are capable of handling the extraordinary torque loadings that the Continental GT engine is able to produce and none so far fitted to a luxury coupé has had the benefit of six gears. The new ZF gearbox is the most advanced of its kind in the world, offering not only six ratios but also the ability to lock up its torque converter in every gear, providing effectively manual gear changes via either the gear lever or steering wheel paddles. The all-wheel drive system employs a central Torsen (TORque SENsing) differential and a free differential on each of the front and rear axles. The front and centre differentials have individual cooling radiators. Bentley's engineers decided to divide the drive equally between the front and rear axles, giving a conventional 50:50 torque split. This is the combination that was found to be best at providing not simply the safety demanded of a car with this performance potential, but also the most favourable handling response. This is in combination with a self-levelling air suspension, which adapts to weight, surface and speed: the suspension is programmed to lower the Continental GT by 15 mm, a bit more than half an inch, at 100 mph (161 km/h).
Engine: Continental GT:
6L W12 / Continental Flying Spur: 6L W12
Retail Price: starting at 120,000 pounds (170,000 euros or 170,000 dollars MRSP)
More information on: www.bentleymotors.com