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By Drew Johnson

After an earlier sighting, our spy photographers have spotted the next-generation Bentley Continental GT coupe undergoing some shakedown testing in the European Alps. The next Bentley Continental GT coupe is expected to hit the market in 2011.

The front fascia of the Continental GT is in line for a generous reworking. The front fenders have been smoothed out, as well as the front bumper and mirrors. The lower section of the car gains the addition of a full-length chrome accent strip, wrapping all the way to the rear bumper.

Functionally, the headlights have been modified, and possibly house LED lighting in addition to projectors. The latest prototype appears more complete than the previously spied car — albeit covered in more camouflage — indicating the Continental GT is nearing production-ready.

According to a report by Automobile, the next Continental models will be based heavily on Audi’s A8 flagship model, rather than the much heavier Volkswagen Phaeton platform. The switch will result in a shorter front overhang, a more desirable and longer wheelbase, as well as a wider track width. The end result is a more luxurious ride, better handling and more room for passengers and cargo.

One major advantage of adopting the A8′s platform is the switch to a largely aluminum spaceframe, which drops roughly 400 pounds of unwanted weight from the car. Although still far from a lightweight, the next Continental GT should weigh-in at a much more reasonable 4,800 pounds.

Under the hood expect the trusted W12 that underpins so many Bentley models, and as always, it has been tweaked to output something in the realm of 580 horsepower and 515 lb-ft of torque. The W12 will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

For the sport-oriented and premium priced “Speed” models, expect power to be in the realm of 650 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. There is also speculation that a 4.2-liter 375 horsepower, 590 lb-ft of torque turbo-diesel could make its way into a new Continental model.

The 2011 Bentley Continental GT will likely make its formal debut at the 2010 Paris Auto Show.



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