Car reviews - Bentley - Continental - GTC Convertible
13 Dec 2006
By CHRIS HARRIS
IT HAS been something of a bumper year for Bentley in Australia.
The Volkswagen-owned company has hit the old-fashion tonne in sales. That means that more than 100 well-heeled Aussies have been able to settle into the velvet-soft leather of an Arnage, Continental GT or Continental Flying Spur, with sales 30 per cent higher than last year.
This is not an inconsiderable number when you consider that the Bentley entry price is a cool $353,000 for the Continental Flying Spur, essentially Bentley’s "entry" model. This year 35 GTs have been sold, 60 Continental Flying Spurs and five Arnages.
Now, following its recent debut at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney, the $399,500 Continental GTC convertible has arrived – and already a queue has formed for this sleek 2+2 ragtop, with 74 orders taken since its unveiling.
Bentley’s regional manager for Australia and New Zealand Jon Dawe said that so far 74 orders had been taken for the GTC, with the $375,000 GT remaining one of the company’s most popular models since it was launched in 2003. All up, 215 have been sold to date.
GTC production allocation numbers have not been finalised for next year as yet, however Bentley claims it will always endeavour to fulfiling our customer’s orders "within 12 months" of placing the order.
Bentley’s public relations manager for South-East Asia and Australasia James Barclay said the GTC was aimed at top-end Mercedes-Benz and Porsche buyers but also the Aston Martin Volante and various Ferrari convertibles.
"We’re hoping there will be conquests from other brands for the GTC," he said.
However, as with most Bentleys, owners tend to have more than two cars in their garages – the average Arnage owner has five vehicles in their garage.
Bentley has made sure the spirit of the GT remains in the GTC, despite its drop-top boulevard image, according to Mr Barclay "Like the GT, the GTC is a traditional grand tourer in the true sense of the word," he said.
Unlike other modern convertibles, which have adopted folding metal hard-tops, Mr Barclay said it was Bentley’s view that a soft-top was "in the true tradition of convertibles". "Our customer groups also wanted a fabric roof," he said.
The GTC becomes the second convertible to grace the Bentley range, following the return of the evocative Azure name for Bentley’s Arnage-derived flagship four-seater convertible.
Like the steel-roofed version, the GTC is part of the mid-size Bentley (MSB) family, which has also spawned the Volkswagen Phaeton luxury limousine. The GTC shares the same powerplant as the GT, as well as the top-shelf twin-turbocharged and intercooled version of the Phaeton’s 6.0-litre 48-valve W12 engine, which develops 411kW at 6100rpm and a muscular 650Nm of torque from just 1600rpm.
The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic with sequential shift function as well as steering wheel paddle shifters.
All this power is harnessed by an all-wheel drive system, with a Torsen differential sourced from the Audi A8 to deliver a top speed of 312km/h with the roof up (306km/h with the roof down – just 12km/h shy of the hard-top), while taking 5.1 seconds to hit 100km/h dash 0.3 seconds more than the GT.
Traction and stability control help harness the power while the brakes include 405mm/335mm diameter front/rear front discs – claimed to be the largest-diameter brakes of any series production car on sale.
To match this supercar-like performance, the GTC’s body has been stiffened while the seven-bow, three-layer fabric electric roof provides hard-top-like acoustic damping and a heated rear window.
To allow for the folding mechanism in the boot, the GTC’s rear air-suspension height has been reduced and modified so that there is still 235 litres of luggage space.
Similarly, engineers spent a lot of time on making sure the roof stowed perfectly and did not "bow" at speed. The roof can also be lowered at speeds up to 30km/h and stows in 25 seconds.
At 2495kg, the GTC is 110kg heavier than the GT, due mostly to the extra body stiffening and rollover protection hoops behind the rear seats.
Physically, the GTC is 9mm higher than the GT but sits on the same wheelbase of 2745mm and is the same width and length at 1916mm and 4804mm respectively.
It also shares the same suspension system – a four-link set-up at the front and multi-link rear axles with computer-controlled air springs (shared with other VW vehicles) with four suspension settings.
As it shares much with the GT and Flying Spur stablemates, the GTC offers a similar choice of sumptuous interior packages.
There is a choice of four burr walnut wood veneers for the dashboard, upper door trim and console as well as premium leather in a choice of 17 colours, including the rear tonneau cover. The carpets and seatbelts can be matched to the leather and the multi-function steering wheel.
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