Now to say any motor car is a ‘bargain’ when its retail
price in this country is around 20 million baht, sounds ludicrous, but read
further. You have to compare like with like. This is a luxury motor car and has
to be compared with other luxury motor vehicles. You have also to take into
consideration that this is the fastest four seat production car in the world.
I had a good look at the example at the Bangkok International
Motor Show, thanks to Greg Pluegboonyachai, the general manager of Bentley
Thailand, and it is simply stunning. Photographs do not do this car justice. In
the metal it is breathtaking.
Open the door and it is even better! The show car had a light
tan leather upholstery and I joking suggested that it must have resulted in the
slaughter of a herd of cows. “Only seven,” said Greg, with a straight face.
Here are some brief specifications. Up front is the twin
turbo, 6-litre, W12 engine developing 552 bhp and 650 Nm of torque. Maximum
torque developed at just 1600rpm. That’s barely off idle revs! Top speed of
198mph (318 kph) and 0-100 km/h in 4.8 sec. Six speed, paddle operation
automatic transmission with full lock-up and four-wheel drive with central
Torsen differential, computer controlled air-sprung multi-link suspension front
and rear and the largest brakes of any car ever put into production.
look at some specifics, for the technically minded readers. The powerplant of
the Continental GT is its 5998cc, four camshaft, 48-valve, twin turbocharged W12
engine. 552 bhp (411kW) at 6100rpm. Maximum torque is 650 Nm (479lb ft) which
may sound impressive but what is doubly impressive is that it is generated at
just 1600 rpm.
This engine is a technological tour de force. It is
physically the smallest 12 cylinder engine currently in production, despite its
6 litre displacement. This has been made possible by its ‘W’ formation where
instead of arranging the cylinders in two long rows as you would in a
conventional V12 configuration, each bank of cylinders is actually staggered,
effectively creating two V6 engines on a common crankshaft. The angle between
the two main banks is 72 degrees, and between the staggered cylinders just 15
transmission is something special too. The ZF 6HP26 gearbox is the most advanced
of its kind in the world, offering not only six ratios but also the ability to
lock up its torque converter in every gear, effectively providing manual gear
changes via either the gear lever or steering wheel paddles.
To get all the grunt to the ground, the Bentley Continental
GT has All Wheel Drive (AWD). The system used employs a central Torsen (TORque
SENsing) differential and a free (open) differential for the front and the rear.
Both the front and centre differentials have individual cooling radiators. The
drive is split equally between the front and rear, giving a conventional 50:50
torque split, but is infinitely variable according to available grip and the
Torsen differential, together with the 4 wheel sensors can detect slip of less
than one percent and act accordingly, sending the engine’s torque to either
the front or rear axle.
Interestingly, the Bentley gets away without a limited slip
differential at the front and the rear, by the use of modern electronics. When
slip is detected at one wheel, the electronic system can apply the brakes
individually to that wheel and allow the torque to be transferred across the car
to the tyre with the most grip. In normal use this system acts quite seamlessly,
without the driver being aware of what is happening but it does keep the
Continental GT moving forward when traction is available to just one of its four
wheels. So if you are planning on spending a holiday in the Swiss Alps, this is
the car for you! (Yes, it a large boot and ski-friendly through-loading
This is a car of the future, as far as electronics is
concerned. Consider these points: Each Continental GT contains approximately 3.2
km of cabling and the main wiring harness alone weighs over 50 kg. A Continental
GT also contains 70 microprocessors (your computer has only one)! It has 35
individual control units - black boxes by another name - and they all talk to
one another via three Control Area Networks (CAN) working at 500 kilobits/sec,
and one superfast fibre-optic serial network operating at 4.2 megabits/sec. The
computer buffs will understand more than I do.
This electronic whizzbangery is important because all the
various features on the car need to know what the others are up to as rarely
does one have no impact on any of the others. For example, if the windows are
being lowered, this is information that is likely to be of interest to the
security systems. Another example is the information provided by the
self-levelling sensors in the suspension is also of use to systems such as the
electronics constantly monitoring the car’s progress and the automatic
headlight levelling to keep the beam at a constant height.
This car re-defines ‘Grand Touring’ and is certainly one
car that I would love to own. It has almost everything I need.
If you have a spare 20 million baht, give Greg Pluegboonyachai a call at 02
661 8800-1. If you buy one, tell me too and I’ll go you halves in the