Of all the Bentley cars, the Continental GTC may seem the model that adheres least to the company’s core values. Isn’t it more of a Californian sun-drenched wafter, the frivolous, less masculine offering, rather than a British upper-class bruiser like the others?
From the outside looking in, it’s a view many hold. But slide behind the wheel of the new 2011 Bentley Continental GTC and it is still very much everything a Bentley should be, and that means lashings of power, a pretty useful chassis and luxury slathered exquisitely about the place. Read on for CAR’s full first drive review to find out more.
Perhaps the less eagle-eyed will struggle to spot the difference, but the new Conti GTC is sharper and less blobby than its predecessor. The long curves in the sheet metal have all been tightened and sharpened, giving this car altogether more intent. Watch one come roaring up behind you, its wide grilles sparkling in the sunshine and broad shoulders kissing the verge and centre line, it’s hard not to conclude it’s an elegantly muscular beast.
Inside, anyone who has been in a well specced Polo might have a faint aura of recognition, especially with the switchgear in the centre console, and for buyers, opinion may swing on whether they see such utility as handily well proven, or anathema in a car with pretensions to exclusivity.
But the Google Earth-based sat-nav and infotainment is a big leap from the ageing, clunky set-up in the old Bentley cabrio, although it gets the annoyingly low Touareg/Phaeton indicators, which sometimes leave you fumbling with the gearshift paddles by mistake when trying to turn.
Elsewhere, there’s enough Crewedity to be special: the glasses case, with matching veneer shell and seat leather interior cushioning, is a thing of Faberge-esque beauty, while the quality of the leather, and the way it wraps perfectly around the seats is second to none. It’s all handstitched together with hundreds of utterly, perfectly matched little crosses – whoever does this is a genius of dexterity and patience.
With the GTC’s multilayered hood up, the engineers reckon sound is so well deadened it compares with the coupe, and the acoustics of the awesome Naim sound system actually perform better, but it would be hard to judge just how good it is without a back-to-back comparison.
In the back of the convertible GTC, those climbing in have been granted about three centimetres more legroom, which could transform a long journey from uncomfortable to merely inconvenient, but just like sitting in the front, it’s still a very special place. Because it’s a Bentley.
Because it’s a Bentley, the GTC only comes with the W12 6.0-litre twin turbocharged engine, producing 567bhp and 516lb ft of torque, and it’s epic. The new 4.0-litre V8 comes next year, but for now we’ve only tested the W12.
A convertible of this near-five metre length, and two-and-a-half tonne weight, just screams of largesse in every sense of the word and it can be hard to square the feeling of cruising opulence with the brutal power at your disposal.
But it’s bloody quick in a straight line and the new faster changing QuickShift six-speed auto lifted from the Continental Supersports keeps those lunatic levels of torque (there’s barely a curve, just a dead straight line from less than 2000rpm) and effortless power coming snappily through at all times.
To start with, marrying these two seemingly contradictory characters together can be a bit unnerving and a slightly surreal – perhaps like finding yourself on the bridge of an ocean liner tipping over the edge of a waterfall – but the chassis is eminently capable of harnessing every last pound foot and using it to slingshot you to your next G&T.
The ride quality on all but the stiffest setting is wonderful on most roads on our Croatian test route, and thanks to a phenomenally rigid body (the greatest torsional stiffness of any soft-top on sale, says Bentley) you won’t hear any creaking or feel too many shimmies, except over the most wayward of road surfaces. The steering feels less assisted than before, although not exactly communicative, and allows you to place the car with astonishing accuracy.
Add in the four-wheel drive system, which allows the GTC to stay fairly neutral in corners, and you can feel all the wheels, now set on a wider track thanks to more space in the front wings, squirm together if you push it at speed, which with the momentum this thing carries is a staggering feeling. But there’s a 60:40 bias to the rear wheels and at slower speeds it acts likes a typical rear driver, stepping out if a dollop of torque or a slimy surface proves too much for the tyres not facing dead ahead.
Since the first Continental GTC was launched in 2006, there’s been a lot of sniffiness about this car, mainly due to perceptions of gaudy, spray-tanned inhabitants, which might well be right, or wrong. But as a dashing, handsome, very fast and extremely capable four-seat luxury convertible it is extremely hard to beat.