First DriveDrop-top version of Bentley's fastest-ever Continental GT blends thunderous performance with sublime posing potential
First DriveOur favourite drop-top Continental GT variant gets even better thanks to a raft of engine, suspension and aero tweaks
What is it?
Anyone familiar with the second-generation Continental GT will recognise the latest GTC’s sharper styling lines, more upright grille and striking LED headlamps. Bentley wants this to be viewed as a more overtly sporting convertible – and one that gets you noticed.
That message should be carried through into the driving experience. The new GTC is 70kg lighter than its predecessor, has a 40mm wider track, retuned steering for sharper responses and sportier suspension settings.
The all-wheel drive system now has a 40/60 split front to rear, changed from 50/50 in a bid to dial out some understeer and allow a degree of steering on the throttle should the mood take you.
The 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged W12 now produces 567bhp (up from 552bhp), while torque is up by 37lb ft to 516lb ft and is coupled to a new six-speed transmission – dubbed ‘Quickshift’ – which halves gearchange times to 200 milliseconds and allows double downshifts. The 0-60mph sprint takes 4.5sec, 0-100mph is dispatched in 10.9sec and the top speed is 195mph.
The interior, too, is completely reworked in line with the GT’s, and includes a much-needed, all-new touchscreen infotainment system. Thinner front seats also increase space in the rear. As ever, leather, metal and carpeted surfaces abound, and Bentley promises roof-up noise insulation so good that “you’ll believe you’re in the coupé”.
What’s it like?
That a car of this size and weight that can take you from a standstill to 62mph in less than five seconds but still feel unrushed is nothing short of remarkable. That’s largely thanks to peak torque arriving so early in the rev band, and it bestows the GTC with a flexibility that means you have breath-taking pace on tap, or can lazily waft along.
The ride is reasonably forgiving, even on the optional 21 inch wheels fitted to our test car. Rivals perhaps have an edge here, but the standard is still extremely high. On very broken surfaces and under load the inherent compromises of taking the roof off are noticeable, but for the vast majority of the time – and on the mostly smooth test roads - the ride is excellent.
The handling is reasonable. While the Continental is obviously no sportscar, it does have a reassuring amount of feel without being overtly involving. It is also an excellently stable car in a straight line, even at higher speeds. Overall, it is a moderately involving car to push on in, and there’s certainly fun to be had from doing that.
Only the gearshift mechanisms disappoint slightly. The mechanical gearlever doesn’t feel special enough, while the steering wheel mounted shifters feel ill-placed and plasticky for a car of this provenance. It’s a shame as the shift itself is decent. The car also stops well even on standard brakes, another significant achievement given its size.
It’ll come as no surprise to learn that the interior is as well put together and luxuriously appointed as you’d expect for a car emerging from Bentley’s acclaimed Crewe HQ. It is a suitably special place to be up front, although the additional rear legroom thanks to the sculpted seats probably only goes so far to make travelling longish distances possible with small children. Adults in the rear seats would still struggle for kneeroom and height.
The new touchscreen multimedia system is a much-needed step forward too. The last generation dated the car to the previous decade the moment you got in an switched it on; this version looks much better, and works reasonably well.
Interior quirks – or irritations, depending on your point of view – are limited to foibles such as the positioning of the column stalks – it’s all too easy to hit the gear paddle when trying to indicate, for instance. Time and familiarity would help overcome this, no doubt.
There aren’t many compromises to make for having the fabric roof, either. Roof up the refinement is excellent, and there’s not much loss by taking it down. Wind buffeting is restricted to a small amount for the very tall, and the extra noise intrusion isn’t enough to stop conversation.
Should I buy one?
If you want a car that combines opulence, elegance and outright pace, all with the option of putting the roof down, then you should consider it. The GTC is remarkable for retaining so many of the coupe’s qualities and a credit to the no-compromise engineering standards at Bentley.
Yes, there is a price to pay for all this – both in terms of at the point of purchase, running costs and subsequent upkeep – but if those are the sort of fripperies that concern you then you won’t be in the market for this sort of car anyway.
The GTC isn’t a perfect car, but it is charming and effective. Rivals such as the Aston DB9 or Virage, or Ferrari California, have their own merits, but none come in a comparable package.
Bentley Continental GTC
Price: £149,350; Top speed: 195mph; 0-62mph: 4.8sec; Economy: 17.1mpg; CO2: 384g/km; Kerb weight: 2495kg; Engine: W12, 5998cc petrol; Power: 567bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 516lb ft at 1700rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd auto