The wraps have finally been pulled off the all-new 2018 Bentley Continental GT. Crewe’s consummate luxury grand tourer has been rebuilt from the ground up and is now lighter, faster and more opulent than ever before, filled with the latest technologies from the Volkswagen Group stable.

On the outside, the design is evolutionary in nature, inspired by the handsome EXP 10 Speed 8 concept. The large rectangular grille, quad round headlights and “power line” flowing from the front wheel arches to the rear haunches still remain, but the proportions have been adjusted by pulling the front axle 135 mm further forward, allowing for a longer, lower bonnet.

Equipped with LED matrix technology, the headlights feature a criss-cross design inspired by cut crystal glasses, and in conjunction with the optional welcome sequence gradually illuminate as you approach the car. The effect is mirrored on the tail lights, which are now shaped like ellipses to match the twin tailpipes. Speaking of which, the exhaust exits are enclosed in a perforated sleeve that reduces exhaust temperatures.

To create the more voluminous side surfacing and sharper, more complex lines, Bentley has utilised super forming along the entire body side, a process previously only used on the front fenders. The technique involves the shaping of aluminium that has been heated to 500 degrees Celsius.

Inside, the Continental GT continues to use a twin-wing design that echoes the shape of the Bentley badge, but it has been redeveloped to house the new technology on board. The upper layer is dominated by a digital instrument display and a new 12.3-inch touchscreen – the latter can be rotated when not in use to show only the wood veneer, or three analogue dials displaying the outside temperature, a compass and a chronometer.

As befits a Bentley, there’s over 10 square metres of wood in here – requiring nine hours to create and fit the inlays by hand – and for the first time customers can specify a dual-veneer option. The centre console is optionally available in aluminium and finished using a striped Côtes de Genève technique typically applied on the movements of luxury automatic Swiss watches.

The finishes on switches and dials have been tweaked, with some using pillow knurling instead of mechanical knurling for a softer, more refined feel, while others carry diamond knurling that adds a three-dimensional faceted surface on the air vents, bezels and other rotary controls. Bronze inserts have also been placed between surfaces of primary controls to create an extra level of fine detailing.

Slide into the front seats and you’ll find 20-way power adjustment as well as cooling, heating and massage functions. The quilted leather stitching is typical of Bentley, but the available “diamond-in-diamond” quilt is new here. Meanwhile, acoustic laminated glass is used on the windscreen and side windows to produce a nine-decibel reduction in noise compared to the outgoing model.

To fill in the newfound quietness, buyers can choose between three sound system options, including a base 10-speaker 650-watt system, a mid-range 16-speaker 1,500-watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSonic option and the top-of-the-range Naim system with a whopping 2,200 watts of output, 18 speakers and Active Bass Transducers built into the front seats, plus eight sound modes to choose from.

In terms of tech, the new car is available with Apple CarPlay connectivity, navigation with Google point of interest search and real-time traffic information, as well as Private eCall that provides instant access to emergency services. There are also two technology option packs on offer, these being the City Specification and the Touring Specification.

The former adds hands-free boot opening, pedestrian warning, traffic-sign recognition and city braking, while the latter throws in adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam assist, active lane assist, a heads-up display, night vision with an infrared camera, and pre-sense braking.

Customisation options are aplenty, with the full palette containing 17 standard exterior colours (up to 70 available in the extended range), 15 carpet options, eight veneers (plus four dual-veneer options) and 15 leather choices. Two 21-inch alloy wheel designs are provided as standard, with 22-inch lightweight forged items also available – as is a hand-finish option that gives a twisted polished finish.

Those looking for a sportier look for their car can choose the Mulliner Driving Specification, which features the larger wheels, “diamond-in-diamond” quilting, embroidered Bentley emblems, additional veneer options, sports pedals, an indented leather headliner and even a jewelled finish on the fuel filler. You can also personalise the front and rear stitching as well as the side sill plates, and as always Bentley’s Mulliner bespoke division can tailor your car to your heart’s desires.

With all the superfluous stuff out of the way, let’s get to the performance of the mighty bruiser. The 6.0 litre twin-turbo W12 engine that powers the Continental GT has been uprated with direct injection, pushing outputs to 626 hp and a staggering 900 Nm of torque. This enables the big two-door to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds before hitting a top speed of 333 km/h.

At the same time, the use of cylinder deactivation and start/stop – which can switch the engine off even when coasting to a stop – cuts fuel consumption to 12.2 litres per 100 km. That may still sound like a lot, but it’s a significant reduction from the 14.2 litres of petrol the previous mill guzzled every 100 km. Carbon dioxide emissions have also been slashed some 16% to 278 grams per kilometre.

For the first time on a Bentley, the new Continental GT uses an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, with the engine’s dual-mass flywheel replacing the torque converter. There’s a Sport Launch mode that uses careful clutch pressure sensing and pre-loading to provide quicker acceleration during a race start.

A new active all-wheel drive replaces the previous fixed 40:60-split system – it’s predominantly rear-wheel drive for optimum efficiency and dynamic performance, only sending torque to the front wheels when needed. This reduces understeer and is claimed to increase driver engagement.

The body structure of the new Continental GT uses mixed-material construction predominantly of aluminium, saving over 80 kg in body weight. Suspension is handled by multi-link axles front and rear, with 48-volt fully-adaptive roll control first seen on the new Audi A8. Bentley calls it Dynamic Ride, and uses electronic actuators to control the anti-roll bar on each axle, improving both handling and ride comfort.

Also fitted is air suspension with three-chamber air springs, resulting in 60% more air volume in the softest setting compared to the previous model. This allows more scope for tuning the suspension to either increase ride comfort or provide a more dynamic handling character when needed, depending on the which of the three drive modes (Comfort, Bentley and Sport) the driver has selected.

Other new chassis technologies include the latest-generation Continuous Damper Control (CDC) as well as variable-ratio electric power steering, which is said to improve feedback and isolation from unwanted road disturbances. The brakes are 15 mm larger at the front, measuring 420 mm.