Welcome to the glorious contradiction that is the Bentley Continental GT3-R.
It’s neither a road-going race car nor a homologation special, but at the same time, it’s no ordinary luxury grand tourer either.
What it is is the fastest accelerating, most focused road car Crewe has ever made, and just 300 GT3-Rs will be built in tribute to Bentley’s return to international motorsport after a decade away.
The Continental GT3, campaigned in the Blancpain Endurance Series, first broke cover at the 2012 Paris Motor Show and Bentley received so many expressions of interest that a road-going version was a no-brainer.
It couldn’t have been easy to know exactly how ‘hardcore’ to make this car, but Bentley undoubtedly started in the right place – the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 rather than the bigger 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12.
While the woofling twelve is capable of more power and torque, the Audi-derived bent-eight is more responsive and urgent and is also the basis of the engine used by the GT3 race car. With new turbos, a titanium exhaust and recalibrated ECU, it develops 426kW/700Nm.
That titanium exhaust clears its throat in spectacular fashion when you start the engine, with over-run crackles and pops that pique your interest. A 100kg weight loss and shorter final drive ratio makes this the only Continental capable of dipping under four seconds to 100km/h, and when you finally reach the bottom of the throttle travel, it feels fast, but not excessively so.
In terms of perceived speed, though, it’s more exciting than a 911 Turbo or McLaren 650S. That shorter final drive does limit top speed to a relatively low (by supercar standards) 274km/h, but it’s refreshing to see a manufacturer take such a pragmatic approach towards improving performance.
Inevitably, given that Bentley’s actual racing Continentals are little more than 1300kg, you wonder how much more weight could have been taken out of this car. But not for long, because the GT3-R dazzles you with its overpowering material richness, steadily laying waste to your cynicism.
Nobody does lavish material majesty quite like Bentley, and the GT3-R wouldn’t be nearly as appealing without its lacquered carbonfibre, knurled aluminium, yards of beluga hide and diamond-quilted alcantara. It could definitely be lighter – but I’m not sure it’d be worth the trade.
The car’s handling won’t blow your mind in the way you might expect of something with ‘GT3’ written on the flanks (the decals are optional), but then it’s not really supposed to. There’s better steering feedback and precision than you normally get in a Bentley; higher grip levels and better cornering balance, too, the latter abetted by a default 40:60 front-to-rear torque bias and, for the first time on a Bentley, brake-delivered torque vectoring on the rear axle.
It’s still more a sporting GT than an out-and-out sports car, but it corners flat and level, there’s plenty of tactility to the steering and you can string apexes together with precision. Flick the transmission lever across to ‘S’ and the car feels keen and poised, with impressive throttle response, and it is possible to get the car moving around on a trailing throttle – just a bit, but enough.
The trick to understanding this most sporting of Bentleys is not to dwell on the first three characters of that ‘GT3-R’ badge. To be frank, you can tell the name was conceived before the car, as it just doesn’t describe the finished product all that well. Perhaps that’s why Bentley claims ‘R’ stands for Road, not Race.
This is a car for brand devotees who wants some race-car cool, but who wouldn’t accept the refinement compromises of a 911 GT3, 458 Speciale or SLS Black for a million bucks. Then again, they’ll need almost that amount to park a GT3-R in their collection.
While local prices haven’t yet been confirmed, overseas the car carries a 70 per cent premium over the regular GT V8 S, putting Australian prices at around the $700,000 mark. A lot of money, but then, it’s a lot of car.
Engine: 3993cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 426kW @ 6000rpm
Torque 700Nm @ 1700rpm
0-100km/h 3.7sec (claimed)
Price $700,000 (estimated)