First Drive: 2011 Bentley Continental GT

All that said, the weight loss is pretty much negligible from behind the wheel, and Paefgen brushes off any suggestions that perhaps the Continental GT should one day be subjected to a truly serious diet: "I say, 'why should we do that?' Bentley will always be the heaviest car, with the most torque, in its segment." The chairman continues: "As we announced in 2008, we will reduce our CO2 emissions by 25 percent. But we will not be the leader in weight reduction, because we are a low-volume manufacturer. A Bentley will always have a big engine, with lots of torque." So if you were expecting a Bentley with a hybrid powertrain, think again.

"We have sold more than 46,000 Continentals, more than half of them GT coupes, since the car went on sale in late 2003," recalls Paefgen, who counts the new Mulsanne superluxury sedan as the crowning achievement of a varied automotive career that began in 1976 at Ford of Europe. "You will see more derivatives of both the Mulsanne and the Continental GT over the next year." Chief engineer Eichhorn is not as forthcoming but admits that the V-8 model is the next big step and will precede a new-generation Continental convertible. In the meantime, Bentley will continue to produce the old convertible at its factory in Crewe, England.

Really, what we have here is an update of a car that has been very successful for Bentley and which, as Paefgen recalls, "launched the new Bentley" back at the 2002 Paris Motor Show. Eichhorn explains: "Our existing Continental customers told us, 'change as little as possible but make it new.' They liked the silhouette: the strong roofline and the muscular haunches, so we decided to emphasize those in the new styling. The car is also much quieter, has a better ride, and features better interior craftsmanship."

Eichhorn is hard to argue with. The Continental GT is at once familiar and fresh, and the cabin is even more sumptuous than before. The two big sweeps in the dash, one in front of the driver, the other in front of the passenger, return but are even more sharply defined, more painstakingly and effectively cloaked in exquisitely stitched leather, than before. The basic architecture of the center stack returns, as do the handsome aluminum climate control vents, which in the 92-degree Omani heat were ice cold to the touch. The controls are actually simpler than before, thanks to the biggest and, Eichhorn confirms, the most demanded change to the cabin: an all-new, state-of-the-art, Volkswagen-derived navigation system with touch-screen controls.

How come it is OK for Bentley to build "an opulently appointed supercoupe that can comfortably carry four people,"but the BMW X-6 is "something so frivolous, so at odds with itself, so patently ridiculous (they're calling this a coupe?) just seems like blind, raw hedonism?"Not very consistent of you.
If it ain't broke, just make it look new. Can't argue with that.And I'm glad to see Bentley isn't trying to be all things to all people. There is certainly a market for big, heavy, torquey luxury cars.

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