Designing this way results not simply in a better built product, it is also likely to be safer. Bentley’s advanced Dynamic Crash Analysis (DCA) capability means much of the trial and error traditionally associated with providing a car with good impact resistance has been bypassed.
Nevertheless it should be understood that DCA, as with all virtual design work will never replace real world test procedure, nor was it ever designed to. Its role is simply to ensure that by the time these tests are conducted, the product is in as good shape as possible to meet each new challenge.
Even before it had been determined how the Continental GT would be powered, two crucial decisions were made. First, the Continental GT would possess a new level of performance that placed it among the fastest road cars on earth; secondly that performance would remain inimitably Bentley. Reconciling these issues would require a great deal of power, but more importantly, huge torque delivered evenly across the rev-range.
But if the car’s packaging requirements were to be met the engine couldn’t take up much space under the bonnet and this is where you discover that the secret of the Continental GT’s interior room is, in fact, under the bonnet. By choosing the basic architecture of the W12 powerplant used elsewhere in the VW Group, Bentley’s engineers were provided not simply with the opportunity to develop it into a unique Bentley engine, but also to exploit its phenomenal packaging attributes.
Instead of using two long banks of six cylinders, the W12 staggers the cylinders in each bank creating effectively two extraordinarily narrow angle (15deg) V6 engines sharing a common crankshaft and giving rise to the ‘W’ formation.
This naturally provides a phenomenally short engine for its capacity, and frees space that can be reapportioned to the car’s interior. Indeed it is the most compact twelve cylinder engine on the market and is even more compact than some V8s.
The W12 formation provided both the power and torque potential that Bentley’s engineers wanted within the compact dimensions they needed.
Once the decision to use the W12 had been made, it was necessary to change entirely its specification to adapt it for the Continental GT.
It was impractical to increase the engine’s capacity beyond its existing 6-litre displacement so Bentley’s engineers decided it should be turbocharged. Forced induction was first used on Bentley road cars in 1929, while turbocharging has been a hallmark of Bentley engine design for 20 years. So twin turbochargers were selected as the preferred means of raising both power and torque. Two KKK turbochargers were chosen and carefully integrated into the under-bonnet package. At the same time, Bentley’s engineering team modified the internal componentry of the powerplant until all its power, torque, emissions, consumption and durability targets had been met or exceeded.
When they were done, the result was a car with 552bhp (560PS/411kW) at 6100rpm. But power is nothing without the torque to back it and this has been achieved not simply by providing 650Nm (479lb ft) of torque but by making it available at just 1600rpm, a speed at which most engines are little more than idling and stays that high up to 6000rpm.