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2015 Bentley Continental GT3-R First Test Review

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 8/26/2015 William Walker, Angus MacKenzie

What do Porsche and Bentley engineers have in common? An almost preternatural talent for apparently proving Isaac Newton wrong, that's what. With its engine hung out behind the rear axle, the iconic Porsche 911 should handle like a brick on a string. But it doesn't. Similarly, the new Bentley Continental GT3-R, which has its engine hung out ahead of the front axle—and weighs a hefty 4,919 pounds into the bargain—should corner like a lead-tipped arrow. But it doesn't.

Some numbers to conjure with: The Bentley GT3-R will hit 60 mph from rest in just 3.3 seconds. The standing quarter mile takes just 11.6 seconds at 119.8 mph. This luxury-badged, automatic-transmissioned, 2.5-ton leviathan will give a well-driven Corvette Z06 (0-60 in 3.3 seconds; quarter mile in 11.4 seconds at 124.4 mph) a serious fright, even though the Chevy weighs almost 1,400 pounds less and has 78 more horses. It's built like an offensive lineman, this Bentley, but it runs like a wide receiver.

2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R What Faustian bargain, what dark Delta crossroads magic, is at work here?

None. As with the Porsche 911, clever and highly focused engineering make the GT3-R seemingly defy the laws of physics. That impressive acceleration, for example, is the result of a shorter final drive ratio that limits the big Bentley to around 170 mph, and a turbo overboost function that boosts power 3.5 percent and torque by 6.75 percent for 15 seconds. The GT3-R's surprising agility through the twisties is the result of a brake-activated torque-vectoring system that slows the inside rear wheel on corner entry, helping tuck the nose closer to the apex, combined with a torque curve that's as flat as Kansas between 1,700 rpm and 5,000 rpm, and massive brakes and sticky tires.

Created to celebrate Bentley's return to international sports car racing in the fast-growing GT3 category—just 300 will be built, and 99 have been earmarked for the U.S.—the GT3-R shares its color scheme and engine with the factory-developed race car. The twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 under the hood has been massaged to deliver 572 hp at 6,000 rpm and 518 lb-ft of torque at 1,700 rpm, 72 hp and 29 lb-ft more than the engine develops in the regular Continental GT V8, and the overboost function kicks outputs to 592 hp and 553 lb-ft. The engine drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that’s been reprogrammed to deliver faster, crisper shifts. Standard brakes are Bentley’s massive carbon-ceramic rotors, 16.5 inches up front and 14 inches at the rear.

Read our interview with Brian Gush, Bentley's director of motorsport, RIGHT HERE.

2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R 2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R The race car-style stripes and decals are optional, but even without them there'd be no mistaking the GT3-R is an edgier, more focused Continental coupe. The hood features a couple of giant openings to vent hot air, and you can't miss the prominent front splitter, side skirts and rear wing, all beautifully fashioned out of carbon fiber. Inside, carbon fiber covers much of the interior, and there's no rear seat. It's hardly a race-face stripper, though—all the usual Bentley luxuries are present and correct, and the fit, finish, and materials are first class. The bright green leather accents on the doors, dash, and center console are over the top. Perfectly.

The short gearing and instant-on torque make the GT3-R feel much livelier than a regular Continental GT around town, but you really notice the difference on a fast, winding road. Turn-in is crisper, more concise, the front end reacting the moment you pull the suede-clad steering wheel off-center. You can place the big Bentley much more accurately than any other Conti GT you've driven, and there's more useful feedback through the recalibrated steering. You're never aware of the brake-induced torque vectoring helping the car rotate; the chassis' transient responses feel nicely linear at all times, and because Bentley engineers have not had to resort to very stiff spring, damper, and roll-bar settings to achieve the same level of agility, the GT3-R remains impressively composed even on bumpy roads.

2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R Once in the turn, you can get on the gas earlier and take advantage of the all-wheel-drive traction to grunt the car past the apex. In simple terms, the GT3-R makes all its time over other Conti GTs getting into and through the middle of a corner; in that relatively small window between the initial turn-in point and, say, 10 feet past the apex. On a racetrack, that’s the difference between winning and losing. On the road it has you grinning with delight; no car this big and this heavy should feel this agile. The incongruity of it all is at the core of the GT3-R's charm.

As good as Bentley's engineers are, however, the laws of physics are immutable. Push the Bentley GT3-R hard—very hard—and all that mass, and the fact that 57.5 percent of it is carried by the front wheels, takes its toll. For all its apparent playfulness at canyon-carving velocities, the chassis becomes much more one-dimensional at track speeds. It's still quick—the quickest Bentley we've ever lapped around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and by a considerable margin—but it works the front tires very, very hard as they struggle to overcome inertia and contain the understeer.

There are more maneuverable, more powerful, less expensive, and—objectively—much better sports coupes, but none with the unique character of this Bentley. It's big and fast, edgy and opulent, and surprisingly capable, exactly the sort of car Woolf Barnato and the Bentley Boys from the 1920s would expect a modern sporting Bentley to be.

2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R

2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R
© Provided by MotorTrend

2015 Bentley Continental GT3-R
ENGINE TYPETwin-turbo 90-deg V-8, alum block/heads
VALVETRAINDOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT243.7 cu in/3993 cc
POWER (SAE NET)571 hp @ 6,000 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET)515 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm
REDLINE6,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION8-speed automatic
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REARControl arms, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multi-link, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar
BRAKES, F;R16.5-in vented, drilled carbon-ceramic disc; 14.0-in vented, drilled carbon-ceramic disc, ABS
WHEELS, F;R9.5 x 21-in, forged aluminum
TIRES, F;R275/35ZR21 Pirelli PZero
TRACK, F/R65.5/65.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT189.2 x 76.5 x 55.3 in
WEIGHT DIST., F/R58/42 %
HEADROOM, F/R39.6/- in
LEGROOM, F/R41.3/- in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/RNot available
CARGO VOLUME12.6 cu ft
0-30 1.3 sec
PASSING, 45-65 MPH1.6
QUARTER MILE11.6 sec @ 119.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH107 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT24.8 sec @ 0.81 g (avg)
2.21-MI ROAD COURSE LAP103.51 sec
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH1,600 rpm
BASE PRICE$341,025
AIRBAGSDual front, front side, front curtain, driver knee
BASIC WARRANTY3 yrs/Unlimited miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY3 yrs/Unlimited miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE3 yrs/Unlimited miles
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY259/147 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB1.20 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUELUnleaded premium

2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Bentley Continental GT3 R

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