Bentley will reveal a £100,000, 180mph luxury saloon next spring, followed by a soft-top Continental GT in 2006. The twin-pronged attack will move the great British marque towards production of 6000 cars a year.
This is the first image of the gorgeous drop-top convertible, scheduled to go on sale in summer 2006. The key engineering feature is a lightweight and compact fabric roof, chosen for its ease of packaging into the tight confines of the Continental GT’s bodyshell. The coupé, upon which the rag-top is unashamedly based, has an underfloor fuel tank, which leaves a space between the rear cabin and luggage bay for the roof to fold away fully. This leaves the clean and uncluttered styling as revealed in our artist’s impression.
The convertible will need only minimal extra strengthening to retain body stiffness lost when the roof is removed from the coupé. Thanks to the choice of pillarless design for the Continental GT tin-top, the platform is already unusually stiff.
Powering the soft-top will be the same twin-turbo 552bhp 6.0-litre W12, driving through a six-speed automatic to all four wheels. Expect performance to be pegged slightly behind the coupé, with 0-60mph in about 5.5sec and a top speed of 185mph.
Despite parent company VW not yet signing off the design, US dealers have already started taking deposits on the GT convertible. A price of around £120,000 is likely in the UK.
Arriving before the convertible is Crewe’s answer to the Maserati Quattroporte and Mercedes S-Class. Expect the new four-door saloon to be launched at either the January 2005 Detroit Motor Show or March 2005’s Geneva show.
The four-door, codenamed BY611, will share the GT’s basic architecture, powertrain, suspension and sub-systems, but will have a longer wheelbase and its own body skin and upper structure.
‘Budget is not a constraint in creating this saloon,’ said one well-placed source. ‘They want to do it right and design a car that works as a whole.’
The seating position will be a little higher and the rakish A-pillars of the Continental GT moved slightly upright to give a more traditional saloon look. The redesigned pillars will help Bentley designers to raise the saloon’s roofline, giving more headroom and the feeling of space demanded in a luxury saloon.