Roofless revelation: behind the wheel of Bentley's Continental GT covertible
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Maybe I’m not the right person to report on a Bentley launch? I mean, I think I’m too young to appreciate a big wafty cruiser from the tweedy British carmaker.
This was just one of my preconceived perceptions when invited to the international launch for the new Bentley Continental GT Convertible, in the Costa Del Sol and Andalusian countryside. Turns out, I’m not too young at all. This, Bentley’s 100th year, the sixth consecutive year it will sell more than 10,000 cars globally, will be its most successful to date. That’s thanks in no small part to a broader appeal and continued growth in Asia Pacific markets where the average age of their customers is 38 in China, 31 in Taiwan.
Bentley as a brand and as a product, is full of surprises.
The Continental GT Coupe road car and the Continental GT Convertible were developed simultaneously. You’d think, especially given Bentley’s Volkswagen Group parentage, there would be a regimented design hierarchy where the Coupe’s shape dictates the Convertible’s visuals. Instead those taut, unapologetic crease lines and haunches evident in the coupe were, surprisingly, all designed with empathy for the topless variant from the outset.
Under the bonnet is Bentley’s signature W12 twin turbo mill, perhaps the most predictable element. Understandably a 6-litre force-fed 12 cylinder outputs plenty of power and torque, 467kW and 900Nm in fact.
To put that in context, that’s almost identical horsepower to a Lamborghini Huracan EVO, but with a further 300Nm of torque on top.
For a solid 300km I enjoy the sights and sounds of the mountainous Andalusian passes with the roof retracted. It’s a special Z-folding roof, that can be raised or lowered in 19s at speeds up to 50km/h. It’s a complicated mechanism but it does ensure a smaller stowed roof dimension and therefore a sportier silhouette. It’s also much quieter. In fact, the new Convertible GT cabin is as quiet as the previous generation Coupe model.
This has to be the ultimate in Grand Touring, you can chew through the kilometres without blinking an eye in this car. All the while encircled by the mirror-like grand black finish paired with your choice of Crown Cut Walnut, Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus, Liquid Amber, Tamo Ash, Koa, or Burr Walnut veneer.
There’s no shortage of handcrafted interior treatments and creature comforts on offer, like the 12.3in high resolution display that rotates electronically to reveal even more of that rich veneered wood when desired, a sublime audio system, diamond-patterned knurling adorning the controls, heated neck warmer and armrest, and massaging seats.
Somewhere before Seville, the road detours on to 50km of the smoothest tarmac you could ask for and I have a safe place to activate Sport mode and stretch the legs.
The GT Convertible reveals yet another surprise. Sporty is an understatement in describing how competent this big car is.
0-100km/h takes just 3.8s, well and truly in supercar territory in other words, yet the acceleration is buttery smooth.
The W12 engine, AWD with electronic torque vectoring and the 8 speed-DSG transmission all work in harmony under high loads, seamlessly apportioning up to 85 per cent power to the rear wheels and propelling the car with emphatic turns of speed.
The front axle has been moved forward over the previous generation car to improve balance and a trick, electronically controlled sway bar benefits handling and accuracy of turn in. Handling prowess at the limit probably isn’t high on the Bentley owner wish list, but it’s nice to know the car is as engaging to drive as it is to look at.
So, the Bentley Continental GT Convertible continues to defy perceptions about the Bentley brand — it’s contemporary, with an exuberance on the road that will appeal to a wide demographic.
Given the genuine hand-fettled feel to the interior and the deluge of technology that goes into this car, the $412,000 start price is understandable and you can option things from there.
I would suggest the Naim audio upgrade, but there’s also — and, I’m not making this up — a Tweed roof option.