Paul Horrell17 June 2014

It's the Bentley Continental GT3-R!

New heavyweight contender appears: racing-inspired Conti will do 0-60mph in 3.6 seconds

Once Bentley went racing with the Continental – and successfully too – the shout went up: "Where's the GT3 road car?" Well it's here, that's where. It'll be unveiled to the public at the Goodwood Festival of Speed later this month: the Bentley Continental GT3-R.

"Inspired by the Continental GT3," says Bentley. Not, you should note, "derived from…" Fair enough. It's not a slammed caged RWD carbon-skinned sequential-gearboxed mentalist. Rather, it's a lightened, two-seat, powered-up version of the four-wheel-drive Continental GT V8. With lots of stripes.

Like the racer, it's propelled by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, in this case the one from the existing road car, but fattened up to a most healthy 580bhp, with actual new turbos as well as plain old software tweaks. Unlike the racer, it uses an eight-speed autobox with tip paddles, here tuned for quicker shifts over the usual Continental's.

This thing accelerates like an overexcited firework: Bentley says 0-60 in 3.6 sec. Thank the extra power, plus a 100kg weight cut compared with a regular Continental V8 (mind you, it's still a hefty 2195kg).

But there's another significant reason for the extra dose of squirt. The GT3-R runs with shorter gearing. So top speed is down to a piffling 170mph. Who cares? Where can you do 170? But you can use the acceleration any day of the week.

Another novelty over the existing Continental road cars is a torque-vectoring rear diff in the 4WD system. So you can do more of that acceleration through and out of corners, the car thumbing its nose at understeer. And the ESP has been suitably relaxed.

Exotic materials include a titanium exhaust: loud and free-breathing, as well as 7kg lighter. The carbon-silicon-carbode brake discs are upsized jobs, running in 21-inch wheels.

Your bags travel in extreme luxury, on a quilted Alcantara shelf that subs for the absent rear seats. That helps the weight reduction. The front seats are bespoke sporting jobbies. Carbonfibre dash and door garnish replaces the usual Bentley timberwork.

You will have noticed the highlighter-green all over the place. That's all we're saying abut it. OK now, you might think the GT3-R is a cosmetic and half-hearted attempt at a cash-in, too far removed from the M-Sport fettled racer. That green stripes do not a great sports car make.

Or you might think, as we do, that is at least a true Bentley: luxurious and imposing and a treat for fast real-world driving. In this case even more of a treat, and it will be limited to just 300 examples. After all if Bentley had attempted to make a rear-drive lightweight to take on the 911 GT3 and Ferrari 458 Speciale, the Continental GT was the wrong place to start. They'd have ended up with neither flesh nor fowl: too big and nose-heavy to tackle the opposition, but too harsh to be a Bentley.

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