Unveiled at the New York International Automobile Show in April, Bentley’s Continental Grand Tourer Convertible is a sleek top-down version of the British luxury car maker’s Continental GT and four-door Continental Flying Spur. The 2+2 Continental GTC follows the wake of the Azure — Bentley’s ultimate Arnage-marque four-seater convertible. The Continental GTC should appear in the Valley this fall and list at about $189,990.
The company’s chairman and chief executive, Dr Franz-Josef Paefgen, calls this elegant car “emotional”: “The GT coupé may be the driver’s car and the Continental Flying Spur the more practical four-door Grand Tourer, but the new Continental GTC is the show piece for Bentley design.”
Top down or up, the GTC Convertible is powerful: With a top speed of 195 mph — 190 with the roof down, if you dare — its potent 12-cylinder 6.0-litre engine connects to twin Borg-Warner turbochargers. The result: a 5,500 -pound car that jumps to 60 miles per hour in just 4.8 seconds via 552 brake horsepower and 479 pounds of torque.
At whatever speed, the GTC Convertible is also exuberantly poised, with an advanced air suspension featuring continuous damping control through four adjustable settings, and a new rear suspension system. Because of its ultra-stiff body structure, driving is less of a challenge to the driver than a challenge to the road to bring it on.
The GTC Convertible is unabashedly pedigreed: natural wood veneers; highest-quality leather hides; 260 liters of luggage compartment volume; a three-layer, soft fabric roof with heated glass rear screen that operates electro-hydraulically with acoustic damping when you want to put the hat back on. What’s more, Bentley has made sure that all of today’s acoustic and communications hardware rides onboard.
“The Continental GTC is the most distinctive new Bentley yet,” Dr. Paefgen says. “It is very elegant and at the same time effortlessly modern. It will appeal to many different customers: people who are tired of driving sports cars that require too much effort; people who want to move up from more standard convertibles; and people who want to make a statement about what they drive, yet still own a car that they can use every day of the year.”
The 12-cylinder power plant represents motoring technology at the highest. A 48-valve head with four camshafts operate using continually variable valve-timing, and a seven-bearing crankshaft helps deliver quiet, effortless power.
The Borg-Warner turbochargers produce a flat torque curve: Performance is ensured without turbo lag or a shift down through the gears. With particularly impressive low-rev torque — a Bentley signature — the torque curve remains constant, 1,600 rev/min to 6,000 rev/min.
Ensuring compliance with emissions regulations, the turbos are designed with a bypass valve that automatically sends exhaust gases to heat the catalytic converters when the car is started cold. At other times, this valve operates as a wastegate.
The car’s six-speed automatic transmission, built by ZF, maximizes shifting efficiency and fun. You can select an effortless automatic mode or converse directly with this remarkable engine, engaging a clutchless manual in which gearing takes place through the lever or paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. Allied with this is an all-wheel-drive system with Torsen differential for stability and grip.
A progressive air-spring suspension keeps the ride as comfortable as it is emotionally charged. At the front is a four-link arrangement and, in the rear, a trapezoidal multi-link axle with computer-controlled air springs. Replacing conventional coils are fully variable, electronically controlled shock absorbers. Select from four suspension settings, Comfort through Sport. Above 152 mph, the suspension automatically lowers, ensuring minimum lift and maximum stability.
The Continental GTC also allows you to engage or disengage traction control and an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), which offer additional security and governance. A revised steering system reduces friction while enhancing responsiveness.
Finally, a massive braking system ensures that stops are as impressive as the gos: The ventilated front brake discs are the largest diameter discs of any series production passenger car. The system features a Bosch anti-lock system and electronic pressure distribution. In addition, a tire-pressure monitoring system instantly tells you if you’re low in pressure on any of the wheels.
Convertibles are great, but normal ones shake. Remove the roof, and, generally, remove stiffness. This “scuttle shake” doesn’t exist with this car; the engineers developed a chassis with torsional stiffness in the region of 30Hz — superb for a convertible.
Steel reinforcement went to the sills, additional cross braces run beneath the cabin, and the engineers reinforced the A-pillars and windscreen with strengthened steel tubing. Resonance disappeared by improving the mountings for the rear subframe, and vibration was essentially eliminated. All the Available in a variety of colors, the GTC’s roof folds easily, slipping into the small stowage area behind the rear seats in just 25 seconds. The three-layer construction provides superb acoustic-damping fabrics: a padded outer layer for protection; an insulating inner; and an inner layer whose material recalls the roof linings on early Bentleys. No moving parts are visible either.
Bentley designers have also ensured that the roof is perfectly taut and not “bowed” or “pitched” when raised — apparent in convertibles of lower pedigree. To highlight craftsmanship, the leather hide tonneau cover has carefully positioned stitch lines.
From bonnet to bootlid, Bentley means detailed craftsmanship. Unbleached veneers — choose from birds eye maple, madrona, piano black, or dark-stained burr walnut — appear on the fascia, upper door trim and front console. Laser technology provides for dramatic curving not possible before; they are then hand lacquered, machined and polished. Always book-matched for symmetry, the veneers are applied to thermally stable aluminum substrates to ensure durability and flexibility.
Similar attention is apparent in the Northern European hides for the seating, door panels, waistrails, dashboard and rear tonneau cover. The steering wheel, for instance, requires eight hours of stitching — by two needles simultaneously. For the headliner, customers choose from eight colors. Jewelry, too — so much a Bentley signature — mixes polished and satin metals, and symbols such as the “Winged B” badge and the matrix grille adorn the exterior. In addition, Bentley Mulliner options are available including aluminum fascia panels; a four-spoke wood and hide steering wheel; and lambswool rugs for front footwells.
As with every Bentley, comfort is key: Designers have achieved extra room by sculpting the front seats. And convenience: Skis can be passed through from the boot area between the rear seats, and the boot can also hold two golf bags.
The adjustable electric front seats are also heated (with an optional massage function). And, all of the latest contemporary infotainment will keep the most discriminating in touch with their musical passions and the world including a DVD satellite navigation system; a premium audio system; and a six-CD auto changer in the glove compartment.
Also included are features such as BluetoothTM remote SIM access profile telephone system; keyless entry and ignition systems; console-mounted start/stop button (in conjunction with keyless ignition); and comprehensive anti-theft systems.
What’s more, an advanced rollover protection system deploys from the rear headrests. The computer senses a roll, and two reinforced steel hoops deploy, working in conjunction with the reinforced windshield frame to protect you and your passengers.
“The refinement and dynamics that we have succeeded in engineering into a large convertible are amazing,” says Dr Ulrich Eichhorn, member of the engineering board. “It has the dual character that every Bentley possesses. You can drive along in something that is better appointed than your drawing room and then you can give a supercar a run for its money whenever you want.”