There are few motoring brands with as rich a history as Bentley. From the very first Bentley models – the company was founded 99 years ago, in 1919 – Bentley has been known for quality cars built with luxury and performance in mind. Indeed, Bentley cemented its reputation for speed and durability with five victories in the ultimate motor race of the early 20th Century – the gruelling 25 Hours of Le Mans – between 1924 and 1930 (and would return to the venue victorious in 2003).
Any new Bentley is a major event, and an all-new Bentley Continental GT Convertible is very much a momentous occasion. Long regarded as the ultimate luxury ‘Gentleman’s Express’, the Continental GT Convertible is announced in its 3rd generation, and is a car that will set the standards in genuine GT motoring from now on.
World’s Greatest Grand Tourer
Bentley doesn’t hold back when it comes to claiming it makes the ‘World’s Greatest Grand Tourer’s’ and, quite frankly, neither should they. The level of engineering and build quality on recent Bentleys has been second to none, and if we’re honest about it, the big Continental – in both closed and open form – is truly in a class of its own.
It’s debatable whether the buyer of the new Continental GT would even take a second glance at other GT’s – say, for example, the Ferrari Portofino – as they are cars for someone else. The Bentley, as it always has been, is a car of distinction, one that is at once understated and yet makes a statement; here is a driver with taste and style, and one who knows what quality is all about.
Where do we start? The all-new Bentley Continental GT Convertible has a hard act to live up to – previous incarnations have all been stunning cars – yet there is no doubt the team behind this car will have drawn on copious knowledge gained and improved such. Let’s talk first about the magnificent 6.0litre W12 engine, a true jewel in the crown.
This superbly engineered powerplant, each one hand built by the unrivalled craftsmen at the famous Crewe factory, is hailed as the most advanced 12 cylinder engine in the world. We have no reason to disagree. 626bhp and a colossal torque, delivered through a dual-clutch 8 speed transmission and provided to all four wheels, takes the Continental GT Convertible to 62mph from a standstill in just 3.8 seconds, and a top speed of 207mph.
With a Variable Displacement system – shutting down half the engines when suitable – and advanced Start-Stop technology, fuel consumption is notably reduced to around 20mpg in normal driving conditions, an impressive achievement in what is by no means a small vehicle. This is all helped by a supremely efficient engine management system, which performs no fewer than 300 million software calculations per second. Yes, we did say 300million, every second.
We could go on as the list of technically advanced specifications is vast, but we want to talk about how it looks, and what it’s like to be inside.
Bentley Family Looks
Take a look at this car and you know instantly you are looking at a Bentley. So defined and recognises is the Bentley style that it is unmistakeable. The new Continental GT Convertible retains the sleek and stylish looks of the predecessor, yet is more artfully sculpted, and looks stunning with the roof up or down.
On second glance, you may notice this model is lower and longer than the outgoing model, and this is due to the front wheels being placed 135mm further towards the front. This allows a longer and lower bonnet line, and overall a more evident look of grace and elegance.
The rearrangement of the wheel positions is not just for looks, but also to improve the already impressive handling of the car. Continuous Damping Control (CDC) is in place to help keep the car level and steady, constantly adjusting the dampers to suit the handling requirements. Air suspension is used as per norm, the steering is engineered to be sharp and responsive, and the braking system is the most powerful every incorporated in a Bentley, with excellent stopping performance provided by large, superbly engineered disc brakes featuring no fewer than 28 pistons.
Overall, this is a car that looks simply sublime, yet one that is not as outlandish as some others in this class, and one that handles with supreme ability and provides the highest level of comfort to both driver and passengers.
Inside the Bentley Continental GT Convertible
As would be expected of an Bentley, the interior is sumptuously finished yet is also designed to be practical, comfortable and relaxing. Quality leather upholstery, exotic and beautiful veneers, and a superb finish everywhere you look are part of the Bentley allure. The hood – fully tailored, exquisitely made, and available in classy Tweed should you wish – is a gem in itself, and can be raised or lowered in under 20 seconds, at up to 30mph on the move. With the roof lowered, an al new design of neck-warmer keeps you comfortable on the move.
The centre console – always a focal point – is designed for ergonomics and also to be as attractive as possible. A clever touch is that the driver can choose whether to have the digital dashboard on full view, or to utilise the Bentley Rotating Display, and do away with all the computerised elements. Customers can choose from three possible audio systems – among an impressive range of other options both inside and out – with the standard system being a 10-speaker, 650-watt model.
Other options include a City Pack, which adds useful touches such as hands-free boot opening and traffic sign and signal recognition systems, plus a variety of options that add to the sporting element of the car, including a choice of wheels and trim options.
Put simply, Bentley has taken things to a new level of refinement and performance with the new Bentley Continental GT Convertible, and it is entirely possible that this is the greatest Grand Tourer in the world today.