The architecture it’s based on matters because it really defines how this latest Continental GT behaves, and Bentley would like it to behave with luxury first, and sportiness second. Therefore, Bentley’s – Dürheimer’s – influence over Porsche’s MSB platform, which underpins the Continental, shouldn’t be underestimated. It wasn’t a case of Bentley being given the hardware and told to get on with the job. It has exerted its own requirements into the platform, such as specifying changes to the suspension so that it can accept a larger wheel and tyre size than any other MSB car, and, more important, designing certain structural elements so that they have better local stiffness.
Local stiffness is, apparently, crucial in a luxury car, which is what the Bentley is; whereas overall body stiffness is more important in a sports car, which is what a Porsche is. Overall body stiffness lets the suspension and steering be as precise as you like it to be. But it amplifies sound, as you’ll know if you’ve driven a stretch of concrete motorway in a car with a super-rigid body structure. I SAID, AS YOU’LL KNOW IF... oh, never mind.
So, anyway, you want the body-in-white to reach only a particular stiffness, and after that, engineers on luxury cars are better served working on local stiffness, to ensure the suspension (there are three air springs at each corner here and 48V active anti-roll bars), engine, transmission and so on can do their jobs properly.
You want anything suspension and steering related as stiff as possible. But how rigidly you mount the engine is a particular conundrum. Too stiff and it upsets the natural refinement of the car. Too loose and it’ll rock during cornering and direction changes, and it unsettles the car that way, like having a 300kg dragon loose under the bonnet or something.
It helps the luxury thing, of course, if you put an engine that has a natural balance to it beneath the bonnet, such as one with 12 cylinders. I say that, mind, because it’s true that cars with multiples of six in-line cylinders have perfectly balanced primary and secondary moments, so they don’t really vibrate. Bentley’s W12, newly developed for the Bentayga and with more than 80 components changed again here (mostly because they don’t need it to go off road), isn’t so inherently balanced but is incredibly compact because it’s effectively arranged like two V6s around a common crankshaft. So it’s very short and, coupled with the fact that the front axle line is pulled forwards over its predecessor by 135mm, it gives a rather better weight distribution, of 55/45 front to rear, rather than closer to 60/40 last time out.
Bentley says it’s the most advanced 12-cylinder on the planet. Six cylinders shut down under light loads and it has two turbochargers, but it’s the injection where it’s cleverest. Old-fashioned port injection is apparently good for giving a car a relaxed, refined idle and low-rev mooching, whereas high loads and throttle openings suit these new-fangled direct-injection methods. So they’ve given the 6.0-litre W12 both.