By Andy Enright
Feel-good motoring doesn't come a lot better than being behind the wheel of an open-topped Bentley. The GTC versions of Bentley's Continental marry old-school raffishness with the right high tech stuff under the bluff bodywork. Should you want to live out those Woolf Barnato fantasies but don't want to drive a relic, this is most certainly the car to look to. With used examples now starting to appear in reasonable number, you could well pick up a bargain. Here's how.
2 dr convertible (6.0 petrol [GTC, Speed, Supersports]) Feel-good motoring doesn't come a lot better than being behind the wheel of an open-topped Bentley. The GTC versions of Bentley's Continental marry old-school raffishness with the right high tech stuff under the bluff bodywork. Should you want to live out those Woolf Barnato fantasies but don't want to drive a relic, this is most certainly the car to look to. With used examples now starting to appear in reasonable number, you could well pick up a bargain. Here's how.
The Bentley Continental GT coupe had already been on sale a full three years before the drop top GTC version first landed in dealerships, firmly establishing itself as the fastest selling vehicle in the company's long history. The GTC was originally paraded before the world's press at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show. Mechanically similar to the Conti GT, the GTC featured two seats and a soft top roof and instantly filled Bentley's order books, rounding out the Continental portfolio into three discrete lines, GT coupe, Flying Spur saloon and GTC convertible. The 200mph GTC Speed model arrived in August 2009, bumping power up from 552 to 600bhp and getting bigger wheels, lower profile tyres and firmer suspension. At the same time, the standard GTC also came in for a facelift, with a more prominent grille, while uprated dampers improved ride quality. Adaptive cruise control and carbon-ceramic brakes appeared on the options list. Still not quick enough? In that case you might well want to squirrel away a few more quid for the Continental Supersports Convertible which packs 621bhp and arrived in autumn 2010.
What You Get
I must admit to not being wholly sold on the styling of either the Continental GT coupe or the Flying Spur saloon, but the drop top is a breathtaking piece of design. The stance of the car looks quite different to the coupe's, especially when the hood is raised. With a low turret look effected by a small glasshouse, the GTC's appearance is poised and cohesive. Drop the roof and it looks even better. A stainless steel ring runs around the whole cabin and the longer rear deck looks neatly composed. Bentley have striven to avoid the large number of shutlines and creases that are often part and parcel of packaging a convertible roof and the rear of the GTC is extremely clean. The hood itself deserves a mention. Although it's not the quickest folding mechanism around at 25 seconds from roof up to roof down, it's nevertheless a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. With seven bows to preserve stiffness, it features a triple lined fabric construction to ensure the best acoustic and thermal insulation properties. The outer layer is thicker than that of any convertible while the middle insulating layer is also a good deal thicker than the entire roof sections of most drop tops. The inner layer is made from high quality cloth which echoes the roof lining of Bentleys from yesteryear. Even during the operation of the roof, not one mechanical part is visible. A heated glass rear window is a necessity and there's even an interior light incorporated into the headlining. A neat convenience feature is that the roof can be operated even after pulling away at speeds of up to 20mph, so there's not that anxiety you often get when attempting to operate a soft top in a traffic light queue.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The Continental GTC has proven extremely reliable with very few problems reported from engines or gearboxes. The GTC is a big, heavy car and you should check the condition of the front brake pads and discs. The carbon ceramic discs offer better durability but are still a long way from being discs for life. Batteries can be flaky on cars which don't get a lot of use, and conscientious owners use a battery conditioner to preserve its life. The 40,000 and 60,000 mile services are more expensive, usually costing around £1,000 a pop. Check that the hood is working properly with no rips or discolourations, run the rule over the easily-kerbed alloy wheels and check the bodywork paint finish fastidiously.
(based on a 2007 Continental GTC excl VAT) Replacement parts for the Continental GTC vary in price wildly. Those which are common to Volkswagen group products like the Phaeton aren't horrifically expensive with a starter motor retailing at £159. The Bentley specific bits are eye-wateringly dear though. A replacement windscreen with rain sensor is £1,285 while a headlamp unit is £925.
On the Road
All that power is transmitted to the road via a rear-biased four-wheel drive set up which gives the Continental GTC a handy advantage when the going gets slippery. The link between the driven wheels and the engine is made by a six-speed automatic transmission built for Bentley by ZF. This can be overridden via paddles behind the steering wheel should you wish, or else it can be driven like a conventional automatic. This was a surprisingly controversial feature, with some engineers arguing that a car with this much torque didn't need a six-speed gearbox. Yes, you could lock the Continental GTC into third gear and surf languidly along for much of the time, but the enthusiast owner profile eventually dictated the six ratios. Another first for Bentley was the attention to aerodynamics. A car that can accelerate to 60mph in less than five seconds and on to the far side of 190mph requires sufficient 'aero' that its owner can be assured of it remaining dirty side down. The Continental GTC benefits from the expertise of the best aerodynamicists the Volkswagen Group had. The venturi tunnel under the rear of the car and the cooling ducts in the engine bay all attest to their labours. With the hood down, the GTC Speed will reach a top speed of 195mph, or 200mph with the hood up. The Supersports model can hit 202mph and gets to 60mph in just 3.9 seconds. Many felt that the Supersports had changed the fundamental character of the GTC, losing a lot of its lazy charm along the way.
The Bentley Continental GTC is undoubtedly the best-built premium convertible on the used market. It features a bulletproof engine and gearbox and a mix of tried and tested VW Group parts and custom parts. The Karmann-built hood has proven durable although replacements are expensive. There is no shortage of very well looked after low mileage examples on the used market, so be fussy, bargain hard and don't pay over the odds for aftermarket extras. The Speed version is well worth tracking down, though Bentley might well have overplayed its hand somewhat with the keen to overachieve Supersports version.