The 2019 Bentley Continental is a leaner, sportier grand touring champion
After its European debut, Bentley is showing its third-generation Continental GT coupe and convertible in Los Angeles. While familiar in overall design, several tweaks yield an athletic appearance that’s backed up with impressive performance and luxury in what Bentley promises to be its best grand touring package yet.
We spoke with Simon Blake, director of body and trim at Bentley, who walked us around the car and showed us some of the new features and improvements. Most noticeable: the proportions, with the front wheels pushed forward 135 millimeters for less front overhang.
The top on the convertible is one of Blake’s favorite aspects, as it stows neatly below a tonneau without interrupting the flow of the bodyline that starts at the top of the doors. “It was a challenge getting this roof, which is so well insulated, into this really tight package,” Blake explained. The Z-folding soft top goes down in just 19 seconds and can be operated at up to 30 mph. Even more impressive is that with the top up, the new convertible is quieter than the previous generation Continental coupe.
Part of the challenge of packaging the new top is the added structure above the rear suspension that helped make the convertible’s chassis five percent more rigid than the previous model’s hardtop. Additional structure was also included under the rear seats that’s unique to the convertible, otherwise, from the doors forward the coupe and convertible are virtually identical, sharing a tall center tunnel that also increases rigidity, evident in the tight door gaps.
Despite the added structure, the body shell of the convertible shed 20 percent of its mass compared to the model it’s replacing. Credit that to increased use of aluminum, high-strength steel, and other lightweight materials. Bentley’s hot-forming process allows for intricately sculpted aluminum body panels, which make up the majority of the exterior, while the deck lid is reinforced polymer that allows for antennae to be mounted discreetly underneath.
The opulent interior features detailed embroidery on the upholstery and numerous luxury touches that keep passengers comfortable during top-down cruises. For example, the armrests in both the center console and front doors are heated, and there’s a heater vent just below the headrest to keep your neck toasty.
We must admit that we were impressed with the rotating digital display at the top of the center stack. Depending on driver preference, the center can display a 12.3-inch high-definition touch screen for navigation, audio, ventilation, and car settings, or press a button and have it rotate to show three analog gauges displaying outside temperature, a compass, and a lap timer. When the car shuts down, a third face is revealed that is devoid of gauges or displays and simply continues the dash’s theme uninterrupted. The convertible that Bentley had on display used piano black below a wood burl, while the coupe used wood veneer top and bottom. No matter your choice—and Bentley will provide several—the upper and lower trims will be separated by chrome trim and feature ambient lighting strip below that, which is also customizable for color, saturation, and brightness.
You can’t have a proper GT car without some serious power, so every Continental will use a twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W-12 engine that produces 626 horsepower and 644 lb-ft of torque from 1350–4500 rpm, enabling a 3.6-second sprint from 0–60 mph and a top speed of 207 mph. Also standard is the ZF eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel-drive that sends up to 38 percent of engine power to the front wheels.
With that kind of potential for speed, handling was also a priority. Roadholding improves with Bentley’s Dynamic Ride system that counters body roll by way of a 48-volt system that applies torque to the sway bars, pressing down on the outboard wheels and providing an opposite lifting force on the inside wheels, keeping the car flat through turns.
Blake described the new GT as the “ultimate refined grand touring machine,” and we’d love to put it to the test. The combination of powerful engine, splendidly appointed interior, and fantastic proportion may just set the new standard for grand touring luxury.