The Bentley Continental GTC is the perfect tool for making a big impression, as June Neary discovers
Will It Suit Me?
There's something rather imperious about a Bentley. Whether this company makes the 'best cars in the world' or not, the cars they produce demand a certain respect. And none more than the car I've been checking out this week, the gorgeous Continental GTC convertible. It's also a vehicle that demands a certain 4804mm of parking space, something my driveway signally failed to yield. With its elegantly proportioned rump jutting into the pavement, I had to conclude that the Continental GTC might have been a little too much car for me and my modest mortgage.
I must admit to not being wholly sold on the styling of either the Continental GT coupe or the Flying Spur saloon, but this GTC drop top is a breathtaking piece of design. The stance of the car looks quite different to the coupe, especially when the hood is raised. With a low turret look effected by a small glasshouse, the GTC looks 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 moist 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.
Behind the Wheel
The GTC is so much more than a Bentley Continental GT that's had an angle grinder taken to it. Designed alongside the coupe model, the GTC features a different rear suspension design. Although the basic trapezoidal multi-link arrangement is much the same, the air dampers have needed to be positioned lower and are now attached to a new trapezoidal link. The rates for the air springs and damper hydraulics have also been revised to give a more yielding ride on the softest of the four pre-programmed suspension settings that run from Comfort through to Sport. 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 comes courtesy of a six-speed automatic transmission built for Bentley by ZF. This can be marshaled 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. The Continental GTC benefits from the expertise of the best aerodynamicists the Volkswagen Group had and the venturi tunnel under the rear of the car and the cooling ducts in the engine bay all attest to their labours. The interior is demonstrably Bentley with acres of leather and wood veneers. The fascia has been designed with a notion of symmetry, the centre console rising up to divide two swathes of veneer that were designed to resemble the Bentley winged logo. The Continental GTC is a proper four seater, the backs of the front seats having been scooped out to offer additional knee room for rear passengers.
Value For Money
For £130,500, value for money is always relative. Yes, you could spend a lot less on something with a lot less cachet. But you could also spend a lot more on assorted Italian exotica. Plus with its impressive amount of standard equipment and healthy residual values, the GTC looks competitive in terms of 'whole life' costs.
Could I Live With One?
Much as I'd love to, I get the impression that while this Bentley may be from Mars, I am definitely from Venus. We're operating on separate social orbits and I feel rather self-conscious in a car that costs so much, especially when people gaze in to see who's behind the wheel. It's a towering achievement and, on merits, probably the finest car I've driven, but it's just a little too much for me. My husband on the other hand is asleep in it as I write. I've been forsaken.