Ah, a convertible version of the Continental GT coupe. Hollywood housewives and the French riveria will be delighted.
Yup, it's the open top Continental, the GTC. A Crewe cut was always part of the GT model family, even if the cabrio has required some thorough engineering to create. Losing the coupe's roof required additional strengthening to sills, cross-braces for the front and rear suspension, and beefed-up A-pillars to stop the body from flexing. And the rear suspension had to be completely redesigned to lower the shock absorber mounts by 210mm. The penalty is a 110kg weight gain, over the already lardy GT coupe. And there's been no upgrade to the engine, not that the twin-turbo W12 was lacking urge.
Okay, it's well engineered. How's it look?
Perhaps the GT coupe is a little too familiar on our roads or it could be the footballer associations, but the GTC definitely has an added touch of class. How long that will last when it becomes the WAG's default choice of flash car remains to be seen. However, there's no doubting the GTC is a handsome car, with real presence. It’s a simple three-box shape and the rear end looks far happier than the coupe's over-heavy rump. As for the roof, it looks good when it's up, and it folds away in a laconic, unflustered fashion. Bentley says it could have made the roof fold away quicker, but that would have been ungainly and there's nothing wrong with it taking 25 seconds instead of 20. It also works at speeds up to 20mph, so there’s no need to do anything as gauche as stop if the rain begins to fall.
But the roof's fabric? Why not a folding tin-top?
Bentley's official line is that the customer preferred the 'classier' fabric option. And when they are happily shelling out £130,500 before the car is officially confirmed, those customers are always right. It helps that a fabric roof is easier to package into a smaller space. Regardless of reasons, the fabric hood works a treat and seals out the weather and the sounds of the outside world very well. Gabbling away to your passenger is no problem all the way up to and beyond the legal limit. The only noise we noticed was a little wind whistle from where the front and rear windows join the roof.
And with the roof down?
If you're sitting up front, there's no great problem with the wind rushing past. At 70mph, we could easily conduct a civil conversation with our front seat passenger and neither of us finished the journey with hair resembling Boris Johnson's on a seaside outing. It's not so good for those in the rear, but then the seats are only really big enough for children, so they'll either love it or travel separately. Bentley has tested the GTC with the roof down and found that it's 5mph down on the 195mph top speed recorded with the roof up. However, they did find that buffeting for those in the rear seats ceases to be a problem above 160mph as the air pressure shifts further behind the car. The same engineers also discovered 190mph wind blast is enough to rip your arm off, so it's not recommended that you stick an arm outside of the cockpit at such speeds. No word if this was discovered in the wind tunnel or on the M6.
Blimey, it's quick then…
Oh yes. The GTC has the same 552bhp W12 twin turbo engine as the GT coupe and Flying Spur. Considering the GTC squashes the scales with its 2495kg frame, it's all the more impressive that it shifts from 0-60mph in 4.8 secs. What's even more stirring is the way this British leviathan overtakes with breezy nonchalance. Plant your foot and the six-speed auto takes very little time to drop a gear or three before conspiring with the W12 engine to propel you forward with the utmost haste. When you do have to moderate the behaviour of your right foot, the W12 surprises with its crackly exhaust note. It's all very Spitfires at dawn.
...but it must handle like a supertanker?
Not a bit of it. The GT coupe is a tidy handler to begin with and the GTC has all that extra stiffening to keep it from bucking and flexing. In fact, we reckon the GTC is the best handling and best riding of the three Bentley models based on this platform. Four-wheel drive helps with controlling the engine's power and there's never anything so ungracious as wheelspin when taking off sharply, even with 479lb ft of torque on hand from just 1600rpm. Through corners, the GTC steamrollers its way around with a deftness that belies its size. The steering may not be the last word in feel, but then this is not meant to be an outright sports car, but a Grand Tourer.
The GTC may cost £130,500, but with the pool of millionaires worth $30m or more growing at 9 percent year-on-year, there are plenty of people who can afford one. Or three. Indeed, Bentley already has 2500 orders and the GTC waiting currently runs to 12 months. And the new model will push Bentley production past 10,000 cars per year for the first time ever in its history. In 2003, it made 9800 cars. The GTC builds on the strengths of the GT coupe and Flying Spur saloon. It's handsome, refined, effortlessly quick and beautiful to sit in (up front). But the extra chassis bracing ensures that the GTC copes with lumpen surfaces far better than the coupe. In fact, the GTC feels more rigid than any convertible we can remember. It sounds grotesque, but the GTC feels like it's worth every penny of its £130,500 list price. The convertible is the pick of the new Bentley generation.