Driving the Bentley Continental GT3-R

Bentley proves that luxurious amenities and raw speed make fine bedfellows…

While Bentley’s modern image is entangled with images of opulence, hallmarks of the brand’s early days include equal doses of racing grit and go-fast hardware. Decades after the notorious Bentley Boys swept four consecutive wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the late 1920s, the brand returned to victory at the famed race in 2003, proving once again that luxury and speed need not be mutually exclusive.

Channeling its racing history—which was rebooted in 2014 when the brand reentered GT3 endurance racing—the British carmaker has spun off a competition-inspired road car dubbed the Bentley Continental GT3-R. Differentiating itself from the standard Continental GT V8 S, the GT3-R generates 592 hp (71 more than the base model), has a shorter drive ratio and more aggressive transmission tuning for quicker acceleration, employs a torque vectoring rear axle to reduce understeer, and is equipped with carbon ceramic brakes for maximum deceleration. Notably, the GT3-R also enjoys a significant weight reduction of 220 pounds, thanks in part to its copious helpings of carbon fiber and the removal of its rear seats. Along with diamond-quilted Alcantara surfaces and discreet dispensations of acid-green trim, the interior assumes a greater sense of gravitas and purpose.

The real test of any racecar is its performance in its native habitat, and our time spent lapping Anglesey Circuit in Wales, UK, revealed the GT3-R’s surprising ability to hustle its 4,839-pound weight with relative aplomb. Acceleration is remarkably swift—in fact, this is the quickest Continental GT to date—and the brakes allow for shockingly short stopping distances, especially considering the sheer mass of the GT3-R. While direction changes do not occur with as much ease as markedly more lightweight cars (such as the Porsche 911 or the Ferrari 458 Italia), the Bentley acquits itself with high levels of adhesion, swift rates of acceleration, and surprisingly drama-free composure.

While the Continental GT3-R signals a refreshing exploration of the brand’s racing history, it also begs some intriguing questions: Will Bentley explore this theme further in future models that offer lighter weight, edgier handling, and more explosive performance? Enthusiasts await the answer with bated breath. (bentleymotors.com)

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