Tradition runs deep at Bentley, as was eminently clear when the company pulled back the curtain on the third-generation Continental GT at its headquarters in Crewe, England. Parked near the lone preproduction 2019 GT was a voluptuous 1953 Bentley R-type Continental coupe, which was the fastest four-seat car in the world in its day.
As the execs on hand pointed out, everything from the elegant sweep of the R-type’s fenders to its buttoned-down high-speed demeanor inspired the original 2004 Continental GT and its nearly identical-looking 2012 successor. So, too, this newest GT, which looks so much like the previous two models you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a mere facelift.
It’s not. Bentley design may evolve at glacial speed, but the GT’s mostly aluminum skin, as well as just about everything else down to the bottom of its tire treads, is completely new.
In a reversal of the normal timeline for new-car launches, we’ve already gotten a sense for how the new GT will drive from time spent with the Bentley engineering development team during cold-weather testing of GT prototypes. The event in Crewe was an opportunity for company leadership to fill in the technical details on how they attacked their objective of “building the best grand-touring car in the world.”
In pursuit of that lofty goal, Bentley based the 2019 Continental GT on the same architecture that underpins the latest Porsche Panamera: parent company Volkswagen’s corporate MSB architecture. Some 83 percent of those parts have been modified for use in the Conti coupe, however. The mass-efficient MSB platform contributes to a claimed overall weight savings of between 220 and 286 pounds over the old model, depending upon equipment. At about 5000 pounds, though, the new GT still is no lightweight.
The 2019 Continental is marginally larger than before—about a half-inch wider and that much lower but no longer. The biggest dimensional difference is that it rides on a 4.1-inch-longer wheelbase and that the MSB underpinnings push the front wheels 4.3 inches farther forward relative to the base of the windshield, reducing the percentage of weight on the nose from 58 to 55 percent, says Bentley.
We wriggled into one of the lushly appointed rear buckets and found it can accommodate a six-footer, but for those long drives to grandmother’s estate you’ll still want to take the bigger Mulsanne. To keep the GT’s cabin as peaceful as possible, acoustic-laminated glass is used in all but…