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Evolution of the species - First drive: Bentley Continental GT

  • 2011 Bentley Continental GT - 0
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The new Bentley Continental GT is proof positive that evolution, not revolution rules the roost in Crewe.

This is Bentley's new Continental GT. First thought? It looks like the original 2003 version. Second thought? Yes, but everything has changed, slightly.

The edges are crisper, be they on bodywork or dashboard, and the front grille is bolder. The wheels are bigger and the tracks wider. Front wings and trunk lid are now of superformed aluminum, very light and able to be drawn into deep shapes, and the whole car has shed 65kg thanks also to new seats which no longer incorporate the belts. Lights both ends incorporate numerous LEDs. With every external panel changed, this is more than a mere facelift.

Power still comes from a 6.0-litre, twin-turbo W12 – a more frugal V8 is due next year – but power is up by 15bhp to 575bhp. Peak torque of 516lb ft arrives at just 1700rpm. Significantly, the four-wheel drive system's default setting now sends 60 per cent of effort to the rear wheels instead of just half.

This, some revised geometry and the wider tracks together transform the driving experience. The GT now points more keenly into a corner, and can be held on the power to balance the now-reduced understeer. The steering is crisper and more naturally weighted, although you still can't feel what's really going on under the front tyres. Still less brutal than the previous-generation Supersports, it's more fluent and more, well, biddable.

On Oman's smooth roads the four damper-firmness ranges felt little different from each other, but that should be a different story in the UK. For all its epic thrust, though, the engine isn't joyful. It sends vibration through the steering wheel and sometimes generates a dissonant boom. Vital stats? It will do 198mph, hit 60 in 4.4sec, generate 384g/km of CO2 and cost you £135,760.

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