Car reviews - Bentley - Continental - GTC Convertible
Stunning to look at - top down or up, effortless performance, classy ride comfort even on optional 21-inch wheels, $40,000 cost saving over W12, fewer fuel stops
Room for improvement
No high-tech driver’s aids, smaller V8 only saves 25kg of weight, small boot
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19 Sep 2013
Price and equipment
Sit down while I write a big cheque the cheapest two-door convertible in the Bentley range starts from $407,000. To put that price tag in context, Bentley will assume you belong to the subset of the chattering masses known as the ultra-high net worth individual, pulling in the region of about $60 million a year. It won’t be your only car, either, but one of a collection.
Long, low, big-hipped and with those split headlights and figure-eight exhaust tips, it’s a stunning car to look at.
The Conti GTC is about $70,000 more expensive than the Teutonic twin-turbo 4.4-litre BMW 650i convertible, $50,000 more than an oh-so-Italian Maserati Grancabrio MC and Aston martin’s drop-top DB9, and, well, not much else.
Rolls-Royce is yet to announce a ragtop version of the $645,000 Wraith – watch this space.
The argument is that you get a lot for your money, and in a sense it is right.
Considering the amount of artisan work on prominent display throughout the interior of our test car – almost everywhere a hand falls the surfaces are either double-stitched leather or deeply stained wood veneer – it is more a work of art than a mode of transport.
Standard kit includes the plush cloth roof, 20-inch alloy wheels, electric-adjust steering column, dusk-sensing Xenon headlights and rain-sensing wipers, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, 14-way electric adjust heated front seats, a pop-up spoiler that appears at 120km/h, a Bluetooth phone connection, and an eight-speaker audio system including iPod connectivity and 15GB of onboard storage space for a music library.
The other thing is that judging by the number of options fitted to this car – they total almost $60,000 – with a slightly deeper dip in the pocket a buyer can guarantee there is no chance that there will be another one like it on Australian roads.
The options range from $24,524 for the Mulliner driving specifications including the unique-looking 21-inch wheels, a sports setting for the air suspension, drilled alloy pedals, diamond quilting on the seats, and flying B vents on the wings, $14,064 for the high-end, uniquely British Naim audio system, $3660 for the contrast stitching around the cabin (offset nicely against the plush red leather), $2180 for the massaging front seats with heating and cooling, $1923 for a system that blows warm air on the back of your neck, $1802 for an electric bootlid, and $4018 for the dark grey metallic hood.
However, there are also things that probably shouldn’t be on the options list.
This runs to $765 for plush floor mats, $457 for armrests in the centre console, $1043 for a wind deflector to cut down on buffeting in the cabin, $2273 for a reversing camera, $243 for a first-aid kit, and $1208 for a space-saving spare wheel.
On the road, taxes included, this pushed the price of our test car to an impressive $497,772.
Despite selling cars in the 21st century, The modern-day GTC still has part of its foot firmly in the 19th – although with a few modern twists.
Jumping behind the wheel of the Continental GTC is a snap. The long, heavy door opens wide and closes with a reassuring thud once you duck under the low sill of the cloth roof. An arm extends from behind the seat to offer you the seatbelt.
Once settled inside, there’s acres of space. The big seats are more armchair than sportscar, and it is easy to find a comfortable driving position with the seemingly infinitely adjustable electronics hidden away on the side of the seat. Our test car’s controls were incredibly fussy, also housing a button for the massaging function, and yet another pair to control the temperature of the neck warmer anywhere from a spring sun’s sweet kiss right up to scorching hot.
The thick-rimmed steering wheel is quite plain and conventional-looking, embellished with the flying B symbol and nicely knurled silver buttons. In behind it, a conventional looking instrument cluster with a tacho (counting in 100s of RPMs) and a speedo (with a ring of kilometres an hour on the outside and miles an hour on the inside) split by a digital screen and a pair of analogue temperature and fuel gauges. To the right of the instrument cluster is the dash-mounted ignition tumbler for drivers who prefer to crank the V8 by hand.
The centre console is simple in its layout, featuring a Breitling analogue clock in between round air vents with the traditional organ-pull controls at the top.
It moves down into a large LCD screen showing some graphics borrowed from a Volkswagen Golf – revealing the origins of the current Bentley range – to traditional knurled knobs to control the climate control settings.
There’s plenty of small-item storage at the base of the console, falling back to a line of controls that range from the keyless engine start button, to the five-way adjustable suspension settings, seat heating/cooling controls, and the button for opening and closing the roof.
Behind them are a pair of generous cupholders, and two drop-down armrests with internal storage space. Lift them, and there’s a small tub with a 12-volt socket.
The deep rear seats feel very hemmed in with the roof in place, although stow it and they become close to the best seats in the house. You access them by pulling on a chromed lever on the side of the front seats, which flip and automatically slide forward to open up access.
Down the rear, the boot is small and wide, but big enough to swallow a few decent items of luggage. A high lip means you can’t use it as a picnic bench.
Because our test car has the more premium audio system that appears to squeeze a woofer in between the rear seats, we lack a ski port through the boot. I’m not disappointed.
Roof in place, the Continental GTC V8 is quiet and serene, and the gentle pitter-patter of rain on the four-layer cloth roof is charming.
Unfortunately, you need to stop to drop it. In the 21st century, many others like to stow the roof while moving.
There are no driver assist systems such as active cruise control or lane departure warning available, either. You drive this car, not the other way around.
Engine and transmission
Instead of a twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 under the bonnet mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the V8 version displaces only 4.0-litres, but retains the twin blower setup and the eight-speeder.
Performance is down on the W12’s 423kW of power and 700Nm of torque, delivered from 1700rpm and with a 0-100km sprint of 4.7secs, to just 373kW and 660Nm from 1700rpm, giving a 0-100km time of 5.0secs flat. You’re not giving up much, then.
One of the important traits that Bentley has carried across to its new engine is the effortless acceleration that the 2470kg Continental GTC V8 – it is only 25kg lighter than the W12 version – possesses, helped by the silky smooth transmission sending drive to all four wheels.
Fuel use on 98RON premium juice drops from 14.9L/100km to an official 10.9L/100km. In reality, our few days behind the wheel driving it like a gentleman rather than a boss showed real-world figures just more than 15.0L/100km.
Ride and handling
Let’s get something clear right away, the Continental GTC is not a sports car.
What the V8-engined GTC is good at, just like its larger-engined sibling, is eating up the kilometres. With the suspension on comfort mode and ignoring the stalky plastic – ugh – paddle shifters behind the steering wheel to leave the transmission to its own devices, the GTC is an excellent touring car.
Stiffen up the suspension to its more sporty setting, which also adds more weight to the steering, and on a windy bit of tarmac the big Bentley lacks the feedback to lend confidence to the driver. Grip from the all-wheel-drive system that sends 60 per cent of the drive to the rear wheels is superb, but remote-feeling steering and the lack of feel from the taught but disconnected suspension system count against it. The eight speeds means you’re constantly changing gears with the paddle shifts as speeds rise and fall.
Under a light throttle the engine is neither seen nor heard. However, get a bit frisky and the Bentley lets out a mute V8 bellow to show its focus. If you want a bit more audible theatre, there’s something on the options list to accommodate that makes the V8 more raucous.
Safety and servicing
There’s no crash test rating for the Crewe-built Bentley, and its four airbags only cover the front-seat occupants. Still, cars like this have a very low crash profile because, quite frankly, owners of highly expensive cars generally don’t drive them in the style that exposes them to such risks. Ask any insurance company.
If the Bentley should end up rolling onto its roof, bars shoot out from under the rear deck to protect occupants. The parking brake is electric, and the car includes a tyre pressure monitoring system.
Servicing is a hit-and-miss affair depending on how far you drive it. The Continental GTC is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty that includes roadside assistance should the drop-top Bentley fail to proceed.
Nothing says more about you than a Bentley convertible. It’s not the most rewarding car in terms of dynamism, but in terms of a large, comfortable, cosseting tourer that brings the outdoors indoors, not much else will come close.
Thankfully, it hasn’t yet come kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Let’s keep it that way.
Maserati Grancabrio MC (From $355,000 before on-roads).
More traditional rear-drive sports car with a focus on dynamics rather than comfort. Looks a little dumpy alongside its still stunning hard-top Granturismo, and uses a 4.7-litre V8 mated to a twin-clutch six-speed automatic transmission.
BMW M6 Convertible (From $308,145 before on-roads).
An executive jet that looks rather plain on the outside, but packs a straight-line punch on the road. BMW’s focus is all about the driver, so expect this one to be the sweetest-steering of this lot. Packs a twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
Aston Martin DB9 Volante (From $380,500 before on-roads).
Pure eye candy with a bit of performance to match. Big 5.9-litre V12 under the bonnet sending power to the rear wheels via a six-speed auto. Not the most liveable of GT cars, but like the Maserati, everyone will look twice as you glide by.
MAKE/MODEL: Bentley Contimental GTC V8
ENGINE: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
LAYOUT: Front-engined, all-wheel-drive
TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed automatic
TOP SPEED: 301km/h
EMISSIONS: 254g/km CO2
SUSPENSION: Air springs with continuous damping (f)/(r)
STEERING: Speed dependent variable rack and pinion
BRAKES: Vented disc (f)/vented disc (r)
PRICE: From $407,000 before on-roads
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