Luxury British auto maker Bentley is on a roll. After releasing the Continental GT coupe last year, its sibling, the Continental GTC cabriolet, comes to town this year.
“Bentley is a company on the move. New models have boosted our sales. In the first eight months of this year, we’re up 31 per cent against last year. In total, we sold at the end of August 4,016 cars to our customers worldwide. It’s our best start into the year since 2008 and it demonstrates the interest in our latest models,” says Wolfgang Durheimer, chairman and chief executive of Bentley Motors, before our drive in the Continental GTC begins from Pula, a 3,000-year-old city in Croatia, and winds along the coast of the Adriatic.
The second-generation 2012 Continental GTC builds on the foundation of the last cabriolet, which debuted in 2006. But it ups the ante with engineering and design tweaks inside and outside. The GTC now has a wider track (48 mm wider in the rear and 41 mm wider in the front), it’s slightly longer, has a higher waistline, retuned suspension and larger wheels. Twenty-inch wheels are now standard; 21-inch wheels are optional. You can choose between 17 leather hide colours, seven wood veneers and eight colours for the fabric roof.
Don’t let the GTC’s conservative shell fool you – it doesn’t scream look at me like a Ferrari or Lamborghini. Its refined elegance falls under the radar. But mark my words – it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine delivers 567 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Nail the pedal and you’re thrown back into the luxurious leather seats, hitting 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds. Top speed is 314 km/h.
The Continental GTC is equally at ease and at home driving leisurely around Croatia – strangers were stopping us to ask about this Bentley and its price tag ($234,000 in Canada; in the United States, it’s $213,000).
Power is sent to all four wheels via a new quick-shift, six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddles, which cuts shift times by 50 per cent and enables double downshifts. The all-wheel-drive-system is now split 40 per cent to the front tires and 60 per cent to the rear compared to the 50-50 bias of the last version.
However, fuel consumption isn’t its strong point, although the engine is flex-fuel capable – it can run on E85 bioethanol, gas or a combination of the two.
Unlike most super cars that give you a pounding headache after about 10 minutes behind the wheel, the Continental GTC is a car you can drive everyday. The ride isn’t jarring or uncomfortable – it’s smooth and refined. Only a subtle grumble note emerges from the exhaust, echoing faintly through the cabin. But the cabriolet is long and wide so if you need to turn around on a dead-end street, a three-point turn won’t do the trick. You’ll need a few more turns and a bit more patience.
The Adriatic coast is striking – almost as nice as the Italian coast. The roads are beautiful, sweeping and smooth. Coupled with 25-Celsius-plus temperatures, it’s an ideal backdrop for a cabriolet.
Lowering the soft top roof is a cinch, too – it’s a graceful manoeuvre that works even while driving up to 32 km/h. There are no latches or clasps to fiddle with. Just one button does the trick and you’re basking in the Mediterranean sun in less than 25 seconds. And when the roof meets the tonneau cover, the result is a clean unbroken line in the design.
I love the air conditioned front seats and massage function. The new neck warmer system is great, too. It has three settings to keep your neck warm when temperatures dip. But I don’t like the location of the buttons. Hidden on the side of the seat it’s difficult to see what setting you’ve selected. It would work better on the door or centre console.
An 8-inch touch-screen navigation with a 30 GB infotainment system is new. It’s somewhat fickle, but more user-friendly than the last version. The Google maps display is an excellent addition, too.
Although there is more rear legroom than the last version, it’s still cramped in the two rear seats. Only kids would be comfortable. There’s 260 litres of trunk space, but the roof eats up a good portion when it’s lowered.
From the outside, the Continental GTC is stunning in appearance – top up or down. Its harmonious lines blend with the curves in the sheet metal beautifully. The GTC gets new jewelled headlamps with LED day-time running lights in a traditional four-lamp format as well as a revised, more upright matrix radiator grille.
Inside, the attention to detail is impressive – I appreciated more after a tour of Bentley’s manufacturing plant in Crewe, England. The plant employs more than 3,500 people who craft the Continental and Mulsanne, Bentley’s flagship car, by hand. There are only a handful of robots on the floor. People do everything else including stitching the leather on the steering wheel by hand – a feat that takes up to 17 hours per wheel. Only four people in the shop can do it.
The Continental GTC is a pure British convertible that’s true to its roots – a nice addition that’ll likely push sales even higher for the luxury car company.
2012 Bentley Continental GTC
Type: Two-door, four-passenger luxury convertible
Base Price: $234,000
Engine: 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged, DOHC, W12
Horsepower/torque: 567 hp/516 lb.-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km – EU Cycle): 25.4 city/11.4 highway/16.5 combined; premium gas
Alternatives: Ferrari 458 Italia Spider, Aston Martin Virage Volante, Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi R8 Spyder, Jaguar XKR cabriolet, Maserati GranTurismo convertible