The History and Evolution of the Bentley Continental
The Bentley Continental is one of the most iconic cars today. These grand tourers are produced by Bentley Motors, which was initially founded by W.O Bentley. Their first car bearing his name was pulled out to the streets in London in 1919. From modest beginnings, the company has grown to provide outstanding performance and luxury in their vehicles. If not for its five brand’s victories in 1920s at Le Mans, the combination would be seen as a contradiction of terms. Almost a century down the line, Bentley’s vision still adheres to the ideals, ambitions and principles of these amazing automobiles.
A Little Throwback
W.O Bentley was famed for designing and making reliable rotary engines, which were then fitted on aircrafts during the World War 1. Later on, he embarked into the auto world, partnering with his brother to sell French D.F.P cars. The idea to establish a car making business was born during this time. For the better part of the mid-20th century, Bentley has been making Grand tourers with an aim of breaking world records.
The continental GT story started with the R type continental in 1952. When the car was first introduced to the public, it was received with stunning admiration. Not only did it come with a beautiful, iconic design, but it was also fast and exclusive. It was also Bentley’s fastest car at the moment and carried the ‘Flying B’ badge. It could achieve a record speed of 120mph (193km/h). After its conception, the British Continental GT family grew and quickly became popular as the region’s best seller. Looking back, it’s amazing to see how it all started with the desire to build an extraordinary car – an automobile that would allow motorists to drive far and fast at the same time.
Interestingly, this same concept has remained ingrained in the marque’s DNA more than 60 years later. The modern continental GT models have evolved to become stylish high performance automobiles. It utilizes immense W12 power, and an unsurpassed ability to go from one continent to the other at a breathtaking speed of 331 km/h. Let’s take a look at some of its most influential models.
Bentley Continental GT Speed (2007-2013)
Once it was launched, the Continental GT Speed became the first car to break the 200mph milestone at (202 mph). The integrated engine -6.0 liter W12- delivered 610 hp and had the capability to reach 0-60 mph in about 4.3 seconds. To produce such stunning performances on road, its overall weight was reduced by 35 kgs (77 lb.) through the incorporation of an aluminum suspension structure and lightweight cooling system components. Redesigning the front air vents and revising the exhaust system was also necessary. The model was introduced to the public at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2007.
Bentley Continental GT (2003- 2010)
Built on the Volkswagen Group DI platform at Phaeton, the Continental GT model was officially released in 2003. It was considered to be the most powerful four seat coupe on the planet at that time, with the ability to sprint from 0-60 mph in less than five seconds and a limited speed of about 198 mph. This model was equipped with a 6.0 liter engine twin turbo charged W12 unit that was capable of delivering 552 hp, which was paired to a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission. The model benefited from a refurbished all-wheel drive system that not only improved the car’s maximum speed stability, but also enhanced its handling properties. Its interior design featured wood and leather trimmings, various high tech features, and a multi-functional steering wheel.
Bentley Continental T (1996-2002)
This model was specifically designed to maximize on-road performance and luxury. It was introduced to the public in 1996 and came with enhanced handling and a 6.75 liter engine that could deliver 426 hp. Other noteworthy features included chrome finished interior trimmings, rear-wheel arches and a start button. A more aggressive and sportive variant of the model was released in 1999, featuring further improved on- road performances and revised suspension.
Bentley Continental R (1991-2003)
After about 30 years of using the same styling as Rolls Royce, its parental company, Bentley finally decided to launch their own luxury coupe in 1991. The world debut of the Continental R was made at the Geneva Motor Show in 1991 and it was based on a concept known as the ‘Project 90,’ which had been unveiled approximately seven years before. This new Continental R model borrowed its 6.75 liter Garret- turbocharged powerful power plant from Bentley Turbo R, and was capable of delivering a maximum output of about 325 hp. On the outside, the car featured a more aerodynamic shape and less rigid bodywork, with slightly curved front lines and roof-cut door frames. Years later, in 1999, the sportier Continental R Muliner made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. It was propelled by a 420- hp powerful engine that could achieve a maximum speed of 170 mph.
What the future holds
In continuation of its extraordinary legacy, the 2016 Bentley Continental comes with a refreshed speed and new exterior features that are aimed at ensuring a sharp on-road presence. A revised front bumper was introduced, while the fenders were equipped with a new vent that featured an incredible metallic B adornment. This went a long way towards emphasizing the renowned ‘power line’ that flows from the front arches. Its speed tradition and outstanding performance has been matched by anti-roll bushes and bars, an upgraded chassis with up-rated springs, a re-tuning of steering and damping systems that are electronically controlled, as well as a lowered height at the front and rear.
Under the hood, three significant changes have been incorporated to its mighty 6.0 liter twin turbo powertrain. First, the engine gets a torque and power increase from a previous 567 bhp/ 423 kW (575 PS) and 516 lb. ft. (700Nm) to 582 bhp/ 434 kW (590 PS) and 531 lb. ft. (720Nm). This helped maintain the model’s reputation in terms of effortless performance. Given the fact that the Continental GT was only just updated for the 2016 model, fans will have to wait until 2017 for the debut of the 2018 crossover.