The Bentley Continental GT has never been perfect, but it has never been a bad car either. If anything, the first new model introduced following Volkswagen's takeover of the ailing British brand -- launched in 2003 -- was the closest Bentley had come in decades of taking the elements that had made the marque a legend and re-interpreting them for the 21st century.
And now, with the all-new third generation, which will be officially wowing bystanders at the Frankfurt auto show from September, Bentley may well have got everything absolutely perfect: from its external aesthetic to the cabin detailing and even trunk capacity.
"The new, third-generation Continental GT is the pinnacle of our design and engineering achievements and marks the next step in Bentley's journey," said company CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer. "[It] encapsulates our desire to innovate as well as celebrate our heritage and take the Bentley ownership experience to the next, unparalleled level."
Although the car's exterior lines are going to capture the most attention -- it is the cleanest, clearest interpretation of a modern GT car ever to roll out of the company's Crewe production plant. It's what's under the hood and what's in the cabin that will really set it apart for those debating whether to go for a McLaren, an Aston or a Bentley for their grand touring needs.
The 6-liter W12 engine under the sloping hood has been seriously revamped. It now outputs 626bhp and 900Nm of torque. That translates into a 0-100km/h time of 3.7 seconds and a 207mph (333km/h) top speed. The powerplant, mated for the first time to an 8-speed, paddle-operated dual clutch transmission, has also been moved further back from the front axle for better weight distribution and therefore handling. And, thanks to a new adaptive chassis the car can be set up to feel like it's floating over bumps or, at the other extreme, superglued to the road and absolutely rigid in the corners.
For the cockpit, the company has managed to add every conceivable modern digital and active safety convenience, including a digital display housed within the driver's dashboard binnacle which is of such a high resolution that its virtual dials look like real three-dimensional objects. However, each of these cutting-edge features has been implemented in a traditional, handcrafted way to offer a perfect balance of old and new.
For example, the central infotainment and navigation screen is hidden behind a perfectly veneered panel. This panel rotates around to reveal the 12.3-inch touch screen and then rotates again to replace the screen with another veneered panel featuring three analogue dials -- an outside temperature thermometer, a chronometer and a compass.
"Bentley has been at the forefront of luxury Grand Touring for nearly one hundred years," said Dürheimer. "Our products and services define new luxury in the automotive world."