If there’s one thing you can count on from exotic car manufacturers, it is the fact that we’ll see one-off cars from time to time. Some are the manufacturers’ attempts to celebrate a significant event in their history, while others are commissioned by loyal customers with deep pockets. Perhaps, it’s our imagination, but being only in February, it seems that there’s an unusual number of these cars this year.
Bentley’s addition to this growing list of one-offs is the new Continental GT Azure. The car commemorates the 70th birthday of the memorable R-Type Continental, JAS 949 (good luck remembering that name whenever the subject comes up).
It’s no secret that Bentley is synonymous with style and elegance when it comes to automobiles, and that reputation has been with the carmaker for much longer than I’ve been alive. Both the Azure GT and JAS 949 accentuate this. Speaking of the R-Type Continental, only 208 examples were ever built, but that didn’t stop the car from having a significant impact. At the time of its release in 1952, the R-Type was the fastest -four-seat luxury saloon on the planet.
Referred to as ‘a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances’ its three main design elements, the roofline, rear haunch, and power line from the front wheel, inspired the first generation Continental GT back in 2003. These design elements live on in current models of the Continental GT.
Interestingly, the JAS 949 is considered as one of the most iconic members of Bentley’s 43-car Heritage Collection. It’s on display at the carmaker’s new carbon-neutral campus in Crewe. The car has been kept in good running condition and is driven regularly. Since its delivery to the first owner, it has retained its immaculate ivory exterior color, red interior, and 4.6-liter engine.
Like a parent would dress up a young toddler in a suit that matches his grandfather’s on an anniversary day, Bentley has given the Continental GT Azure an appearance that matches that of its ancestor. While there’s no chance of you mistaking one for the other, It does add an elegant touch to the press photos and, perhaps, increases the appeal of the Continental GT Azure. Heritage aside, the GT Azure has the typical Continental GT look and comes with 22” hand-finished wheels compared to the 16” wheels you’ll find on the JAS 949. However, the finish on the wheels of the new car is close to that of the older car.
So what about this claim of the Continental GT Azure as a ‘modern magic carpet’? Well, you could use that description for a handful of luxury cars in the class of the Bentley Continental, but maybe the GT Azure steps this up a bit. The seats include a massage function with six programmable settings to ensure the constant comfort of the occupants (show me a magic carpet that can do that!). It also comes with adjustable side bolsters, comfort headrests, and electric seatbelt adjustment. Add to that Bentley’s 48V active anti-roll control system that elevates ride comfort, and if this were a boxing match, that magic carpet would be down for the count at this point.
Still not impressed? Standard features include the Touring Specification, which offers driver-aid systems that might possibly allow you to relax more on that drive home. The car has a collection of radar and cameras to offer Adaptive Crusie Control, Lane Assist, and Traffic Assist, so the likelihood of being in an accident is significantly reduced.
All that comfort is all well and good, but what is this bad boy packing under the hood? Here, we have a V8 TSI with 32 valves that produces 542bhp at 6000rpm. Assuming the JAS 949 was animate, those numbers would make it appreciate the fact that it’s definitely a museum piece with an engine that produces 153bhp at 4000rpm. Bentley is just being naughty by putting those numbers in the press release.
The Continental GT has always been a favorite at Fortloc (never mind the heavy look). This is a car that demands your attention when it arrives at any event, and you’re not likely to find any car enthusiast who can ignore it. Though the GT Azure looks like any other current Continental GT, It elevates this mystic by its association with the JAS 949. The only question left is which would you choose? A magic carpet or a Continental GT Azure?