The city of Muscat, Oman is similar in many ways to any big metropolis in North American. Fast food favorites such as McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Subway appear at every busy corner. Urban center highways offer four lanes on either side and rush hour traffic is just as heavy there as it is here.
|1. Major changes to the 2011 Continental GT include a revised exterior, updated interior with a new infotainment system and an even more powerful engine.
2. A carry-over from the first-generation Continental GT, the 2011 model sports a twin-turbo 6.0L W12 that’s been reworked to lay down 567-hp and 516 ft-lbs of torque.
3. Next year Bentley will unveil a V8-powered Continental GT.
4. Pricing starts at $189,900.
In other ways, however, the differences are as contrasting as night and day. I notice additional “fine dining” establishments including The Happy Bunny, preferred among the assembled journalists for some unknown reason. The weather is consistently hot and sunny with little chance of rain for months at a time and no matter whom I speak with, in town or in the country, the answers are always polite and helpful. That’s not always the case at home.
It seems appropriate, then, to be on the other side of world to attend the official launch of the completely new 2011 Bentley Continental GT. No other car in the premium sports car segment offers such a dichotomy of luxury and performance. This is one fine looking out-on-the-town cruiser with some deep seeded attitude issues.
NEW POWER AND CHARISMA
Power lines streak from front to back, accentuating the body like a finely pressed suit. Aluminum Super Forming heats body panels to 500° Celsius, eliminating the need for spot welding on the front wing panels and trunk lid. The traditional four-lamp headlights now feature LED daytime lighting and jewel-like detailing. Flared elliptical tailpipes are chromed while the rear Bentley signature “floating” LED lamps extend around the corner accentuating size and stance.
At its core, Bentley has designed a sports coupe of the highest magnitude. It offers similar performance to the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, Audi R8 5.2 V10 and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.
But what separates the new Continental GT from the others on this most wanted list is that it never sacrifices ride quality, back seat passenger room or useable storage space. This is a premium sports coupe comfortable with driving back and forth to work, or challenging the tightest two-lane turns as you take the long way home.
Power stems from a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 engine. Performance numbers are staggering: 567 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 516 ft-lbs of torque at 1700 rpm.
Steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters allow for rapid transition between gears. Mated to a 6-speed ZF Quickshift automatic transmission, it takes only 4.4 seconds to reach 60 mph. Additional performance figures indicate passing times of 1.7 seconds from 30-50 mph and 2.9 seconds from 50-75 mph. Top speed is set at 198 mph.
ON THE ROAD
Speed is not the only factor propelling the new Bentley Continental GT to the top of its class. Overall drivability and luxury are two additional elements for which the luxury automaker from Crewe, England is famous for.
Power without control is a dangerous thing. Continuous all-wheel drive is standard equipment with rear bias set at 40/60. Speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering provides optimum feedback without the heavy hand required for several of its elite competitors. A double wishbone front and a rear multi-link set up features an air-suspension with anti-roll bars. Continuous damping aids performance; the ride is supple yet tight with very little lean or body roll even at high speeds.
Standard wheel sizes are 20-inch 5-spoke aluminum alloys with two 21-inch Elegant and split-rim Sports variations optional. A range of chromed and painted finishes can also be had. Tires sizes are consistent front to back: 275/40ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero.
You expect excellent stopping power in a car of this magnitude and Bentley delivers. Large 405 mm (16-in.) front and 335 mm (13.2-in.) rear ventilated disc brakes bring the new Continental GT to a rapid and controlled stop. Optional 420 mm (16.5-in.) front and 356 mm (14-in.) rear cross-drilled carbon ceramic brakes supply the best stopping power. This option will cost you a premium of $13,335 but most Bentley shoppers aren’t likely to blink.
LUXURY AWAITS INSIDE
Inside, Bentley demonstrates they are still on top of their game. Soft-touch leather is placed throughout the hand-crafted cabin. Reminiscent of the marques flying wing logo, the dash highlights easy-to-read round white on black gauges, chromed round air vents and, of course, the longstanding tradition of a center mounted Breitling analogue clock.
Shift-paddles are within easy grasp and there is also the option to change gears using the center gearshift knob. Suspension adjustment is available at the press of a button, so too is the electronic parking brake. The all-new touch screen center navigation system acts as both a directional aid and state-of-the-art command center.
Front seats resemble an erect Cobra while providing superior support, full adjustment and back massage. Rear seats are surprisingly comfortable, even for those over six-feet tall and a center armrest offers storage and rear ventilation adjustment. Natural hand-stitched leather abounds while exclusive wood treatments include Burr Walnut and Birds Eye Maple.
The 2011 Bentley Continental GT will offer the 6.0 W12 engine as its only source of power at launch. Coming later in calendar year 2011, Bentley is set to introduce a new 4.0-liter V8. A first for the company, this fulfills their stated goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 40% without dramatically forfeiting power and performance.
Worldwide sales for the original Bentley Continental topped 45,000 units since its introduction in 2003. The GT model made up roughly half of those sales. A lofty achievement in the premium sports coupe segment, the 2011 Bentley Continental GT seems poised and capable to take the lead once more.