What is it?
Bentley has just revealed a convertible version of its second generation Continental GT, identical in every important way to the coupe except that it now has an elegant powered hood that takes 19 seconds to erect, can be lowered or raised while the car is being driven at speeds up to 31mph (50km/h) and whose total assembly — plus the requirement for extra chassis stiffness — adds just over 100kg to the coupe’s already substantial 2295kg kerb weight. And which brings its own new level of versatility to two-door luxury coupe ownership.
Because this car was engineered from the beginning with a bespoke platform shared only with Porsche’s Panamera, and the need for a ragtop was taken into account at the earliest design stage, the hood intrudes less into the cabin, requires less chassis reinforcement and disturbs the car’s aerodynamics less (drag factor rises only fractionally to 0.32) than in the outgoing car.
The result is a rarity in the UK, a luxurious convertible with decent seating for four, though even here the largest occupants probably fit better in the front.
What's it like?
It’s a big car, for sure, fractionally longer than the outgoing car at 4.85metre overall length and with 100mm added to the wheelbase. Mainly, this moves the front wheels forward, an action that greatly improves body proportions and removes the last sign of a relationship with the old VW Phaeton limo, the car that provided the original Conti’s platform.
The engine is the recently revised 6.0-litre W12, now with both direct and indirect fuel injection (to spread torque and cut CO2) as well as variable valve timing and many more mechanical refinements. The engine produces 626bhp at 6000rpm, plus a mighty 664lb ft of torque, an output that easily beats even the most powerful versions of the previous GT.
Like its predecessor this car has four-wheel drive, but the emphasis of the system has completely changed. You now get a set-up that retains rear-wheel drive most of the time, delivering an adjustability of handling the old car never offered. If necessary it can divert up to 38% of its torque to the front wheels in the Bentley or Comfort suspension settings, or 17% in Sport, all according to demand from the sophisticated chassis electronics. As the above suggests, the Conti now uses the same three-chamber air suspension units as its coupe sibling, and the Panamera. And instead of the old Slushmatic, you now get an eight-speed twin-clutch gearbox.
All that power and torque easily overcomes the Convertible’s weight to make 3.7sec 0-60mph sprints possible (it concedes an undetectable 0.1sec to the fixed-head model) and the 0-100mph time is a Ferrari-rivalling 8.0 seconds. In truth, there’s little else different between coupe and convertible. The siblings have virtually the same chassis balance, the same steering response and the same ride quality because Bentey’s engineers have done such a brilliant job of eliminating the chassis flex and scuttle shake so often present in big convertibles.