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Paris show: Bentley gives a Continental

Production concept: Bentley admits the Continental GT "concept" revealed at Paris is very close to the real thing.

Bentley unveils its new generation super-coupe at Paris, along with its name

4 Oct 2002

THE car previously referred to as the Bentley GT coupe, has been unveiled at the Paris motor show along with its name, the Continental GT.

The dust sheet was drawn off the car by Bentley chief Dr Franz Josef Paefgen - under the keen eye of creator and retired VW chief Dr Ferdinand Piech - with all the pomp and ceremony expected for what is dubbed the most eagerly awaited Bentley for a lifetime.

Said to provide "a very clear idea of the final production version", the two-door Continental GT Design Concept featured a Bentley-tuned, twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 engine delivering around 375kW to all four wheels via a paddle-operated, six-speed ZF automatic transmission for a top speed in excess of 290km/h and 0-100km/h acceleration in less than five seconds.

The R-type Continental was the fastest four-seat coupe ever produced when it appeared 50 years ago and the company hopes figures like these will return the title to Bentley.

Due on sale through Bentley's 121 dealers globally (including Australia's four Bentley outlets) by late 2003 with local pricing tipped at $350,000, the Continental GT will replace the existing range of Continental two-doors as a sporting coupe without rival, offering high levels of craftsmanship, luxurious accommodation and supercar dynamics.

Featuring 19-inch wheels riding on air suspension, other styling cues of the Continental GT include a pillarless cabin, minimal front overhang, pronounced haunches, large in-board headlights and a flush mounted rear wing that rises at speed.

Apparently, there's also enough boot space (355 litres) to accommodate a family of four's luggage for a "two-week motoring holiday".

Designed, engineered and to be manufactured by Bentley at an all-new facility in Crewe employing 400 new staff, the Continental GT is the first product of a 500 million pound investment in the Bentley brand by new parent company Volkswagen, which is building its first large limousine - the Phaeton - off the same platform.

The coupe is the first of three new Bentley's to be built from the new platform. A sedan will follow by late 2004 at the earliest, then a convertible is expected after that.

This new family combined with traditional Bentley products is expected to drive the marque's worldwide sales to 9000 by 2005.

Hoping to bring ownership of cars wearing the winged "B" to a much larger group of wealthy owners than ever before, Bentley says about 75 per cent of Continental GT customers will not be existing Bentley owners.

According to Bentley, the average age of Continental GT ownership will be just under 50, rather than just over 50 for current Bentleys. It also expects female ownership to increase dramatically.

"To achieve our aims, we need routinely to be in touch with roughly 10 times more people around the world than at present," said Adrian Hallmark, member of the board for sales and marketing.

"These will be existing, lapsed and prospective customers. We will involve them in driving events, keep them informed of the company's activities and give them an entirely different and much more personal treatment than they are accustomed to receiving from mass production luxury car manufacturers.

"We will be charging more for our coupe and, for us, justifying this with the provision of what we believe will be a demonstrably better car is not enough.

Our customers need to see not just a better car, but a better company too."

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