Not that any crossing is happening. The GT3-R inspires neither competition nor spite. Rather, it triggers the opposite: a sense of incredulous awe. Between ad-libbed negotiations around Crown Heights (“trade you these sneakers for the car!”) and the commentary of yuppie trail runners on Bear Mountain (“that guy has too much money”), the car commandeers odd reactions; people move out of the way on the FDR, pedestrians wait on the sidewalk in Midtown, dudes gawk, while women walk right past. When this big, Glacier White beast comes into view, it takes a second for people to make sense of what’s coming. For a second, it stuns. It’s recognizably a Bentley, yes, but what Bentley is it?
The GT3-R comes in the wake of Bentley’s joining the Pirelli World Challenge (United States) and the Blancpain Endurance Series (Europe), and is something of an expensive talisman created to offer to those who care most about the brand. It’s something for the 1 percent of the 1 percent to play with on unpopulated roads, during track days, and on drives up mountain switchbacks. The highly tuned twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 sits under a carbon fiber cover, good for 572 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. The exhaust is all cackle and pop. It rolls on 21-inch gloss black wheels that show off the 16.5-inch and 14-inch front and rear discs of the carbon silicon carbide braking system.
Inside, the car is the expected Bentley luxury — trumpet vent knobs, diamond stitching, a Breitling analog clock (what Luc Donckerwolke, Director of Design at Bentley, calls “the formal language of the brand”) — with touches of race-inspired sportiness. Green contrast stitching weaves together the diamonds, Alcantara splits space on the seats and steering wheel alongside Beluga hide (named after the caviar, not the whale). Carbon fiber replaces every surface that would, on any “normal” Bentley, be wood: doors, rear sill, passenger dash. There’s a boast that the car drops 220 pounds from the next-lightest Continental, but lightness, even when visually perceived, is not the prevalent concept of this car. Green leather contrasts with the black, and on the exterior, there are Union Jacks and two-tone green stripes running down the classic Bentley power lines.
Engine: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8
Transmission: 8-speed Quickshift
Torque: 516 lb-ft
0-60: 3.6 seconds
“A British muscle car means there’s muscle, but there’s a shirt on the top of it”, says Sangyup Lee, Head of Exterior and Advanced Design at Bentley. “It’s about a driving machine. So you have to love it. Otherwise it doesn’t work. That’s how I see the sports car. I mean, if you don’t fall in love with the car when you look at it the first time, then that sports car proposal just doesn’t work.”
If you don’t fall in love with the GT3-R the first time, you won’t get it. You won’t understand a $341,025, 4,839-pound performance sports car that’s the size of a small yacht and turns nimble as a Hobie Cat on a quick breeze. And that’s okay. It’s not a car for everyone.
This is a car for the Bentley enthusiast who wants to dabble in the racing side of things, and only 99 GT3-Rs are being shipped to the USA of the 300 being made and distributed worldwide. The scant number of GT3-Rs created feels not only exclusive, but about true to the potential demand. There’s ultimately absolutely nothing lacking in the drive of the car, as Chris Harris discovered, and as we experienced in our road test through the windier roads of the Hudson Valley. It took to corners like a car half its weight, ate up pavement in gigantic swallows and slowed all its mass down with composure. It’s a brute, but a refined one at that — a street tender, British performance sports car with a button-down shirt, glasses, sophistication, and enough muscle and arrogance in its two tons of stickered, striped body that every grown-up kid on the sandlot gets a clear impression. Even if they don’t know who or what this new bruiser is or where he came from, they know right away: they’re not going to mess with him.