A hardcore Bentley performance machine is a concept shot through with contradictions from the start. Anyone inclined to dismiss this car without giving it a fair hearing will need to look no further than its kerb weight for justification.

Bentley’s official claim, including the 75kg allowance for a passenger and luggage mandated by the EU standard, is 2195kg. On MIRA’s scales, our test car showed 2285kg with its 90-litre tank full of fuel. Too much for a great driver’s car? We’ll come to that.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
The car’s stability control software has also been retuned to make the GT3-R the first Bentley to feature torque vectoring via the brakes

The more important question is whether Crewe could have done more to save weight without compromising on the material lavishness and silver-tongued luxury on which every Bentley trades – and extended experience of this car makes it a hard one to answer.

Having started with a Continental GT V8 S, Bentley threw out the car’s back seats and fitted new, lighter front ones. It also replaced the interior doorcards with carbonfibre alternatives, found a titanium exhaust for the car worth a 7kg saving all on its own and fitted lightweight machine-forged 21in alloy wheels and carbon-ceramic brake discs as standard.

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Altogether, the GT3-R’s diet amounts to a 100kg weight loss, but the car still comes with a double-glazed glasshouse, thick aluminium body panels, a relatively heavy and complex air-sprung suspension system, four-wheel drive, massager seats and a motorised bootlid.

Some of that may be indispensable to any modern Bentley, but equally, our sources suggest that the engineers’ weight-saving mission ran out of time before it ran out of opportunity.

The mechanical changes to the car aren’t earth-shattering, but there’s a promising, businesslike directness about them. The car is powered by the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine from the GT V8, because that’s the basis of Bentley’s racing engine – and since we prefer it to the older W12 anyway, it’s good news as far as we’re concerned. New turbos produce peaks of 572bhp and 516lb ft of torque from it, up from 521bhp and 502lb ft in the GT V8 S.

Just as importantly, a shorter final drive ratio (3.5:1, down from 2.85) for the eight-speed automatic gearbox makes for even more greatly enhanced sprinting potential than the power hike alone implies. While the GT V8 S pulls just under 45mph per 1000rpm in top gear, the GT3-R pulls only 37.6mph. Top speed is reduced to 170mph as a result.

The car’s air-sprung, adaptively damped suspension has been retuned, but it’s otherwise carried over from the V8 S – which seems something of a disappointment. But the car’s stability control software has also been retuned, not to mention augmented to make the GT3-R the first Bentley to feature torque vectoring via the brakes. The standard four-wheel drive system, which splits power 40/60 percent front to rear by default, remains.

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