Bentley has unveiled the 2018 Continental GT, the third generation of the V12-powered grand touring model and the 12th Bentley to wear the Continental badge since the R-Type Continental launched in 1952.
Inspired in part by the Bentley EXP 10 Speed Six Concept revealed at the 2015 Geneva motor show, the new Continental GT is a more evolved, rakish form than its predecessor and features many of the concept precursor’s design elements.
In the video above, Bentley’s Director of Design, Stefan Sielaff, explains the traceable bloodline that has influenced the new Continental GT as he sketches in the Bentley design studio. Sielaff then introduces the journey that he and the design team in Crewe have taken to create Bentley’s latest model.
Sculptural forms inspired by aircraft fuselage
The 2018 Bentley Continental GT was also inspired by the Spartan Executive aircraft’s timeless design, which was created using flowing curvature framed by sharp, powerful lines. Bentley designers employed the same philosophy in the Continental GT, using superforming technology — a precision technique working with aluminum heated to 500°C — which allows designers to invoke more complex, sharply defined body lines and a deeper, sculpted rear haunch.
The Continental GT is the first production car ever to have an entire body side made from the superforming process. This sculptured approach ensures a style that is taught and athletic, yet still graceful.
Illumination through crystal cut glass
Like the EXP10 Speed 6 Concept, the 2018 production Continental GT features cut crystal glass in its headlamps and taillamps. The intricacy of the detailing gives the lamps a three-dimensional depth when illuminated.
The lighting, which uses LED matrix technology, is similar to that of an illuminated gemstone — an effect that is magnified when the optional welcome sequence gradually illuminates the headlights as the user approaches the car. (Watch our exclusive video to see this in action)
Geometry and inherent beauty
As many studies have found, there is an inherent beauty in perfect geometry. This is something that Bentley designers sought to achieve in the design of the new Continental GT, particularly through the details. From the matrix radiator grille to the signature knurling pattern, geometry delivers tactile refinement throughout the exterior and interior.
Mechanical timepieces inspired the creation of a new Côtes de Genève interior finish for the Continental GT — a first in the automotive world. The surface was created by machining from side to side to create a linear pattern then machined onto 0.6mm-thick aluminum. Each row is 5mm wide and machined at a slight angle to give a three-dimensional finish, with each pass of the machine making a minute step of 0.5mm.
Creating theater through technology
A staple of all modern Bentleys is the seamless integration of innovative technology with authentic materials. This combination is beautifully exemplified in the Continental GT’s new three-sided rotating display, which takes pride of place above the center stack. At first glance, there appears to be no screen in the center of the IP. Instead, the veneer flows uninterrupted across the dashboard, while a thin chrome bezel behind the steering wheel surrounds a digital instrument display.
When the engine start button is pressed, the veneer in the middle of the dashboard glides silently forward and rotates to reveal Bentley’s largest-ever touchscreen, a 12.3-inch retina-quality digital MMI display. The third side on the Bentley Rotating Display reveals three elegant analog dials displaying outside temperature, a compass and chronometer. This design detail enhances the customer experience within the cabin.
Authentic materials and hand craftsmanship
With the new Continental GT, Bentley is elevating the level of material authenticity the company is reputable for. The cabin is a sumptuous luxurious aesthetic and tactile experience with nearly 1,000 craftspeople working around 100 hours to complete the interior.
Bentley has pushed the boundaries of what is possible with leather and wood — employing the renowned skills of the craftspeople at the headquarters in Crewe. A new ‘diamond in diamond’ quilt pattern has been created developed to create the effect of a floating surface over the leather. The new interior pattern features both stitching and embroidery. Eighteen months were spent developing the embroidery, individually optimizing and programming the exact alignment of each one of the 712 stitches that make up each diamond shape. This is unrivaled attention to detail, even in the luxury class.
Evolution of Bentley design DNA
The DNA that underpins the new Continental GT can be traced back through the past six decades, to where the name began — the R-Type Continental of 1952. The three lines that expressed the R-Type — the power line, haunch and swooping roofline — also defined the Continental GT, creating a thoroughly modern shape that also references the past.
The spirit of the R-Type Continental was revived in 2003 when Bentley launched the first Continental GT, the first product launched after the Volkswagen Group acquired the German brand in 1998. While the 2018 Continental GT isn’t a massive departure from the previous generation car, the new 2018 Bentley Continental GT evolves these defining shapes with a fresh contemporary take, while the design details and interior are further proof of Crewe’s ambitions in remaining at the top of the luxury sector.