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Supercar performance in a Grand Touring package It is true that today some dedicated supercars are capable of producing performance similar to that of the Bentley Continental GT coupé; likewise there is a small number of large coupés capable of carrying four people in comfort. The design specification for the GT coupé was that it must not only house the hardware safely to realise 180mph plus performance – including a 6-litre, twin-turbocharged, 12-cylinder engine – but that it must also carry four people. The design specification of the GT coupé allowed that a family of four and their luggage should be able to cross a continent in comfort, style and luxury.

Of course, it could have been achieved through the simple expedient of making the GT coupé bigger. But the team at Crewe was determined to ensure the car stayed compact, agile and fully capable of delivering on its promise to the driver.

Powertrain Packaging Surprisingly, the first big challenge for the designers of the GT coupé concerned neither passenger nor luggage space. It concerned the installation of its 6-litre, twin-turbo Bentley engine, its all-wheel drive hardware and a new six speed automatic transmission. This job was made especially difficult by the prerequisite that one of the key Bentley styling cues, a very short front overhang, was retained.

Once the problem of creating an effective crash structure in the small area in front of the front wheels had been solved, attention turned to the engine and gearbox. Firstly, the new transmission was modified by moving the differential forward, which allowed the drive shafts to be as far forward as possible, thus enabling the wheels to be close to the front of the car.

The second requirement was to package not only a large displacement engine, but also its turbochargers, and to create enough space around the whole for it to operate efficiently, and keep under-bonnet temperatures low.

Casting the engine block in a 'W' rather than a 'V' formation has made the engine much more space efficient than a conventional twelve cylinder motor of similar capacity. The configuration is best understood as two very narrow angle (15deg) V6 engines joined on a common crankshaft. So because the cylinders of each bank are staggered rather than in line, the result is an engine that's shorter and easier to package. And, as we shall see, this not only helped with the packaging of the engine bay, it also liberated more room in the passenger area too.

Cabin Comfort Off-roaders may have many on-road limitations, but there is much to be learned from the driving position of the best of them. Jim Shaw, head of packaging for the GT coupé, explains: "Ask most people what they like most about their off-roaders and they'll talk about the elevated driving position. However if you apply science to what they are saying it becomes clear that a relatively upright seating position places your lower limbs in harmony. Drive a car a very long way, as we intend this car to be driven, and you'll find the full benefits of comfort and relaxation that have been achieved through this seating concept."

But finding the correct basic seat position for those in the front was only the start. Mindful of the fact that drivers do not all come in the same convenient size, Bentley's packaging team resolved to ensure that the GT coupé fitted a wider range of potential Bentley customers than any other coupé in its history. And job one in this quest was to travel to New York and measure some professional basketball players. This led to exhaustive adjustment and extension of the seat runners until the car was capable of accommodating people for whom supercars could hitherto not even be considered.

2003 Bentley Continental GT Specifications

General Information






6-Speed Semi-Automatic


550 bhp

Max Power

560PS@6100rpm / 550bhp


679 lb-ft @1600 rpm

Engine Capacity 




Curb Weight

2300 kg

0-60 mph

4.7 sec

Top Speed

190 mph



2004 Bentley Continental GT waiting list Bentley's newly designed Continental GT may still be a couple of seasons away from production, but the vehicle is nearly sold out for its first production year.
The company says it has collected 3,200 deposits for its $147,000 coupe. It projects production numbers to come in somewhere around 3,500 units per year once it starts making the vehicle this fall, which means waiting lists are starting to stack up and price gouging may not be far behind.

The Continental GT has been tagged by various reports to have cost Bentley parent Volkswagen between $500 million and nearly $800 million to develop. The freshly designed coupe packs a 6.0-liter, W12 twin-turbocharged engine producing well-over 500 hp and 675 lb-ft of torque, with top speed exceeding 190 mph, according to Bentley. The power gets to the road via a six-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission and a tuned-for-Bentley version of Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system.

Bentley plans to aim squarely into the upper end of Mercedes-Benz S-class territory with its Bentley Continental GT. Bentley is not saying how many coupes are headed to the U.S. market next year, although the company needs the vehicle to do well worldwide in order to help it reach its goal of quintupling sales within five years... Update - sold out for its first production year (Bentley Motors)


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