Just a Little off the Top
2019 Bentley Continental GT Convertible Review: Road Trip Wonderment
In terms of grand tourers, the qualities that best classify the segment are nebulous. But we can usually settle on the fact that a good GT needs to strike a balance of comfort and performance over a substantial journey. Some bend the needle in either direction but the all-new Bentley Continental GT is already in a position to be the ideal choice for those seeking a lavish road tripper. It’s tempting to imagine that the GT Convertible is the same sans roof, but it wouldn’t do the car justice. Popping the top changes the experience dramatically, and suddenly, we’re debating whether the ideal GT is the one that doesn’t get in between you and road trip wonderment.
The Good: The elegant profile with the top down, the yards of leather and all the stitching that holds it together. Naim’s choice sound system with seat bass thumpers is a treat, as is the W12 under the bonnet.
Who It’s For: Luxury buyers in sun-abundant areas seeking a daily driver. Like the coupe, the convertible is sure to draw in current Bentley owners seeking an upgrade. Also professional, soccer players (sorry, “footballers”).
Watch Out For: Performance chops are there, but they have limits. Those who get carried away will meet stiff resistance. The neck warmer is loud and doesn’t do much unless you’re pressed flush against the seat.
Alternatives: The world of luxury performance 2+2 convertibles is an exclusive set, but there are some alternatives to Bentley’s offering. They include:
Review: Chock full of luxury and packing performance heat, the Bentley Continental GTC takes everything good about the coupe and makes the sky the actual limit in terms of roof options. For a car that leans quite heavily on its heritage in terms of design, the current evolution incorporates the cabrio conversion in a balanced way. With the top down, there’s never a sense that the swept-back rear pillars and windshield were nixed. With the top up, the change is less seamless as the fastback style of the coupe gives way to a more traditional three-box layout.
Like its coupe iteration, the GTC keeps its tell-tale haunches, giving them a crisp pinch in the bodywork to highlight them, leading the eye down the door and to the large fascia. The front overhang is reduced on the new Continental, thanks to moving the front wheels forward 135mm. On the front and back, the lights have been redesigned to be more contemporary, allowing the oval taillamps to exist outside of boxy frames and the front four LED matrix headlamps to adopt a cleaner, bolder look. The whole package rides on either 21-inch tri-spoke wheels or optional 22-inch rims.
Naturally, there’s a wealth of color combinations to mix and match. Seven exterior roof colors can be combined with 17 body colors – initially, in any case. There are loads more, depending on how far down the bespoke Bentley rabbit hole you wish to dive down.
One can also swap the classic chrome elements with a blackline package to add a darker edge to the grill and side skirts, add or remove badges, elements of brightwork and add a model-year-limited centennial package. This marks any Bentley made this year with special gold-enhanced badging marking its lineage to the company’s founding in 1919.
Fittingly, the most specific element of the GTC – the convertible roof – is fairly innocuous. Deploying or packing down in 19 seconds, the Z-fold roof can’t avoid the inherent problem of the stark contrast that comes with non-hard-top convertibles. It doesn’t look great when up, but you can lean into the situation and get the top in optional tweed. Looks are about where the negatives end for the Z-fold roof because as far as function goes, it’s brilliant. Posted up, the interior rarely betrays the sensation that you’re not in the coupe. While there is some wind noise at speed, it never reaches anywhere near a distracting volume, and you may even forget for a while that the top does indeed come down.
Once it does, the interior blossoms for the world to see. Hand-stitched leather seats from Scandinavian cowhide sit in a cabin join 10 square meters of wood veneer to make up an extremely luxurious environment for a road trip. Swiss-watch inspired Côte de Genève machining can be cut into aluminum for the center console, while a selection of woods, stitching and patterns make up the rest.
It’s not just good to look at, either. 20-way seats make finding the optimal driving position a breeze. A digital display cluster brings all the info needed to the forefront, aided by a head-up display projected onto the windscreen. This accompanies the 12.3-inch digital MMI display, which sits in the center of the dash. This is your gateway to a myriad of car menus, navigation, and music options. Intuitive and mirroring normal tablet gestures, it’s easy to tap, pinch and zoom the screen for whatever you’re looking for.
And when you’re not looking for anything, you can put the screen away via a slick rotating panel. The rotating display flips between three panels: the MMI screen, a panel with analog gauges, and a blank piece of veneer when the car is switched off. When I drove the coupe, I called it “luxury theater” in that this would probably not be a worthwhile option outside of the novelty, but talking to Bentley interior design chief Darren Day has convinced me otherwise. “When this car sits at Pebble Beach in 20 years next to its contemporaries, it’ll still look good.” He’s right.
What Darren is getting at is that this option to stow away the destined-for-obsolescence display future-proofs the Continental – or at least its interior – from ever looking dated. The tech in cars today will eventually become ugly, non-functioning relics bolted to car dashboards, but the Continental can at least hide it behind some timeless style.
Looking into the Continental GTC is great and all, but looking out is where the most fun is had. It takes a grand tour to really put a grand tourer to the test, so our testing route took us to the south of Spain. Starting in Marbella, we’d drive along the coast, turning north for a solid day’s journey to Seville, taking the scenic route along the way.
Saddled with a 6.0-liter turbocharged W12 engine, the Bentley is eager to haul its luxury haunches away in a hurry. Cranking out 626 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque, the Continental can get all 6,316 lbs of itself from 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds. With enough road, the drop-top can reach 207 mph, which is sure to mess up your hair a bit.
A chilly morning had us start the day with the top up, where it kept the wind out while we jammed to the optional 18 speaker Naim sound system, with added bass thumpers in the seats so we could feel the rhythm on the move. Driver settings are accessed through a center console dial, that can switch the cars characteristics from comfort, to full sport, or to a customized setting that maps things like throttle response, suspension and steering to a single selection.
The GTC goes from wafting luxury carriage to brutish speedster in short order. Dropping the top and flicking the settings into sport at the sight of twisty mountain roads, the Bentley descended into them like a fighter plane that encountered an enemy squadron. For such a large engine, the W12 is very conservative with its bark, and it takes some coaxing to get it to shout. Still, it’s a superbly unique experience and having the roof stowed away delivers it to your ears in a way that would only be enhanced by pointing its pipes directly at your ears. Getting to the first corner is quick, but the substantial weight of the car is managed by a 48-volt anti-roll system, which uses actuators on the anti-roll bar of each axle to mitigate any rocking. For what its worth, it does an admirable job, making the GTC capable of tackling bends it would otherwise struggle with. A three-chamber air suspension, double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension are on hand to do most of the grunt work.
Power is fed through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that does an admirable job the majority of the time but can be bullish in certain performance applications. Climbing up a mountain pass, I found that it was eager to keep me in a higher gear than I wanted, starving me of desired revs. I figured switching to manual would give me the control I needed, but even in this setting, the GTC disallowed a few perfectly reasonable downshifts. I quickly grew tired of arguing and begrudgingly relinquished control. The Bentley has a clear, rigid demeanor it needs to maintain, and it won’t stand for trying to push beyond it.
In the end, though, these gripes didn’t add up to much. Stares and head-nods signaled the approval of those admiring our luxury rocket, while we lapped up everything the senses provided. The sun lit up the hills around us while the smells of the olive trees blew through the cabin, a W12 cranking away in our ears like a steam engine.
Verdict: The Bentley Continental GTC delivers everything the coupe does and adds the drop-top option with little compromise. The cabin keeps quiet with the roof up, and the splendor of the great outdoors is at your disposal with the flick of a button. Its ragtop isn’t as good looking as the coupe, but chances are it won’t be up most of the time, anyway.
2019 Bentley Continental GTC Specs:
Powertrain: 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 TSI; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
Torque: 664 lb-ft
Weight: 5,322 lbs kerb weight, 6,316 lbs gross weight
0-60: 3.7 secs
Top Speed: 207 mph
Bentley hosted us and provided this product for review.
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