Bentley Continental GT Convertible is drop top gorgeous
The new Bentley Continental GTC has a strong claim to be the world’s finest convertible. Others might be more luxurious, nimble or even faster (although not by very much), but only in the Bentley is such a convincing total package. First impressions of this imposing motor car are that the interior is as cosseting as the exterior is imperious. Make no mistake, for regardless of how anachronistic that term might be, a ‘motor car’ is what this is, through and through.
The Continental is sometimes described by company insiders as Bentley’s ‘bread and butter’, the core model that marked its rebirth back in 2003 and which now, in a much altered, improved, and enhanced new version, continues to be the most recognisable product from the Crewe-based manufacturer.
For many, the Continental GT is the physical manifestation of what a large, expensive, luxury sports car should look like. It ticks all the boxes in the mind of the viewer, for better or for worse. Always handsome, but now tantalisingly close to classically beautiful, the car has lost none of its lustre in droptop form. For about six months, Prospective customers have done without the choice of an open-topped Conti for several months, a significant absence in the line-up and not the kind of limitless choice this type of buyer is used to.
Developed in parallel with the coupe, the convertible version loses none of the stately elegant, becoming one of the most most sinuous and seductive designs Bentley has undertaken in its 100 year history. Head designer Stefan Sielaff is – like many UK-trained German car designers – a committed Anglophile. Over his four years at Bentley he has studiously assembled an international team capable of distilling ‘Britishness’ – that ephemeral and frankly indefinable quality – into every model in the range. Admittedly, as a VW Group member Bentley has access to technology and development budgets independent manufacturers can only dream of.
Happily, it deploys these resources with serious aplomb, and as a result the Continental GT siblings have easy claim to be the most complete luxury cars in their sector. They’re not as sporting as an Aston Martin, nor as refined as a Rolls-Royce, nor are they as raucous as a Lamborghini or as overtly technical as a McLaren, or even as in your face as a Ferrari. Instead, they’re ‘just’ Bentleys, a refreshingly straightforward expression of wealth in a world where conspicuous consumption has reached a raging clamour (encouraging the rest of the world frequently rages right back). Admittedly, this solidly elegant foundation allows the GTC to be specified in limitless ways, effectively representing all things to all people. Sober, discrete and stylish luxury? Or outrageously loud expression of taste? Bentley’s design team has created the ultimate template, a willingness to accommodate that accounts for the brand’s 10,000 annual sales (making it the self-proclaimed leader in the luxury sector).
Behind the wheel, the convertible shares the many admirable qualities displayed by its hard-topped sibling – effortless power, handling that belies the Bentley’s size and weight, plus an interior that is, in almost every respect, one of the best you’ll find in any car, anywhere. Interiors matter more in a convertible, naturally. If you can whip the top off (which takes just 19 seconds), you get a birds-eye view of a sumptuous trimmed cabin, a nest of hand-stitched leather, a vast choice of wood veneers and knurled metal knobs and dials. The performance almost feels like an afterthought, so superior is the experience of wafting along beneath a (hopefully) clear blue sky, surrounded by craft and attention to detail. But it’s all there, and the GTC has a zest and thrust that defies its size.
This is conspicuous consumption writ large and unembarrassed, a beautiful object that exceeds every reasonable envelope simply because it can. One hundred years after WO Bentley set out to build the very best cars in the world, the company that bears his name is still rising to the challenge. §