It's funny in a way, the whole "what is a Bentley, what is a Rolls-Royce?" tradition we've grown up with. I always thought of Rolls as the car one didn't drive but was driven in. The back seats always held more allure than the fronts. A Bentley was a car that the owner actually drove. There is a wonderful photo from the '60s of Mick Jagger piloting an old Bentley down some typical English road on his way to yet another gig. The point being that a Bentley will always be a driver's car. The latest offering from Crewe-the Continental GT Convertible-is the latest reinforcement of that assertion.
For the launch, Bentley set up shop at an exclusive private resort in Napa Valley, and it proved to be the perfect choice. The sight of so many Bentleys cruising about one of the country's more desireable areas could have helped fill the order books from the locals alone.
Eager to emphasize that this car is much more than a GT with a chopped roof, Bentley rolled out the big guns from engineering, led by project engineer Dr. Ulrich Eichorn. All the changes made were to ensure that the convertible would be the coupe's equal in the many areas that traditionally suffer when a tin-top makes way for a softy. Dr. Eichorn even provided a look at what was considered and discarded during the process.
Visually, the GTC differs little from its hard-top sibling. The additional steel reinforcing to sills and cross braces gives the car a torsional rigidity which is reportedly unmatched by any other production convertible. The A-pillars and windshield frame have also been significantly strengthened.
Such extra mass usually results in the excessive vibrations we've come to accept with soft-tops, but Bentley has found ways to reduce these annoyances to the same levels found in the coupe. The rear subframe mountings have been played with to the point where the company views the redesign of the rear suspension to be the GTC's masterstroke.
The roof could also compete for that accolade, consisting of three layers and seven bows. However, it's the sound deadening and resulting silence at speed that is most impressive. The weight difference between the GT and GTC is minimal, the convertible just a couple of hundred pounds heavier. This weight target was achieved by employing items such as aluminum front fenders (which will also eventually find their way onto the coupe). Still, at 5500 pounds the GTC is no lightweight. One wouldn't expect a car of this bulk to handle, but the GTC is a mover.
The six-liter W12 has twin turbochargers that assist it in pumping 552 peak bhp to push the GTC way up into triple-digit speeds, should you desire. Bentley claims its top speed to be 195 mph with the top up and 190 top-down. The flush, smooth body with the roof completely hidden away is a huge aerodynamic advantage. There is one thing that's evident and astonishing: you can have a normal conversation, without having to shout, at about 135 mph-with the top down. Not that we'd be so negligent as to try such an experiment, of course.
Overall, the GTC is difficult to categorize. As a convertible, it could be mistaken for just another drop-top on the boulevard. There are many offerings out there that make great beachfront cruisers for those warm summer nights. What sets the GTC apart is its performance and handling. It has no business being this good. It's closer to a Lotus than the marshmallow feeling in a modern Benz, more Porsche than Maybach. Bentley has raised the bar so high in the soft-top game that it will take years before any other manufacturer gets to the level now occupied by the GTC.
Over the past few months, there have been several letters and e-mails regarding the vehicles covered in ec. Comments include "losing our way" and "where are the features of cars for the everyman?" Having been a fan of car magazines since I was young, I am surprised why anyone wouldn't want to be exposed to the great rides that fall into the category of dream-mobiles. Cars like this amazing Bentley GTC. Most of us at ec own the usual things that probably reflect our readers' choices. The stuff we get the opportunity to test graces our driveways for about a week and then, like Cinderella, we're back to a rolling pumpkin.
So what if most of us can't afford a car like this? Any gearhead would want to know about the major players, the innovative products, the levels of technology involved. And we all need to dream. Victor Hugo said: "There is nothing like a dream to create the future." Who's going argue with that?
2007 Bentley Continental GTC
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
6.0-liter W12, dohc, four valves per cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled
Progressive air springs, Continuous Damping Control
Length x Width x Heigh
(incl. mirrors, in.)
189.1 x 82.7 x 55.0
Wheelbase: 108.1 in.
Curb Weight: 5500 lb
Peak Power: 552 bhp @ 6100 rpm
Peak Torque: 479 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
0-60 mph: 4.8 sec
Top Speed: 195 mph (roof up)
Why we love it: A reliable super-car, quiet, nothing else quite like it
Why we don't: Not enough presscars in the fleet to allow us a long-term loaner
The Price Tag: $189,990