Blue Sky Thinking

Think you already have a pretty accurate handle on what to expect from a big Bentley GT convertible? Steve Vermeulen did too. And then he drove it.

Yes, I should know better...

but I admit to some preconceived perceptions when opening the invite to the international media launch for Bentley’s new Continental GT Convertible in Spain.  

I’m too young to appreciate a big cruiser from a tweedy British carmaker, surely? Well, as it turns out, being wrong has never felt so rewarding. 

As it transpires, I’m not too young at all. This, Bentley’s 100th anniversary year, will also be the sixth consecutive year in which they will sell over 10,000 cars globally. It will be its most successful to date, thanks in no small part to the storied brand’s broader appeal than ever and continued growth in Asia-Pacific markets, where the average age of their customers will surprise you. It’s 38 in China. In Taiwan, 31. It would appear Bentley as a brand and as a product, is full of surprises. 

Behind the scenes, the Continental GT coupe and the Continental GT Convertible were developed simultaneously.  

If this was a typical car manufacturer, design wouldn’t be determined by just what looks great, but also many macro factors like sales and production optimisation. In other words, develop the higher volume coupe first and then make the best convertible product you can from that.  

Pleasingly with the newly-unveiled GT Convertible, those taut, unapologetic crease lines and haunches were all designed with empathy for the topless variant right from the outset. The result is… well, just look at it. 

Under the bonnet is Bentley’s signature W12 twin-turbo mill; perhaps the convertible’s most predictable element. Understandably a 6.0-litre force-fed 12-cylinder outputs plenty of power and torque; 467kW and 900Nm in fact. To put those stats in context, that’s almost identical horsepower to a Lamborghini Huracan EVO, but with a further 300Nm of torque on top. 

For a solid 300km I’m fortunate enough to enjoy the sights and sounds of the mountainous Andalusian Passes with the roof retracted. It’s a special Z-folding roof, engineered to ensure overall smaller stowed roof dimensions and a sportier silhouette for the car as a result. It can be raised or lowered in 19 seconds at speeds up to 50km/h. With the roof up it’s also eerily quiet for a soft-top; in fact, the new Continental GT Convertible’s cabin is as quiet as the previous generation hardtop GT’s.  

This, then, has to be the ultimate in Grand Touring. You can simply chew through the miles without blinking an eye, all the while encircled by acres of mirror-like grand black finish paired with your choice of Crown Cut Walnut, Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus, Liquid Amber, Tamo Ash, Koa, or Burr Walnut veneer.  

There’s no shortage of hand-crafted interior treatments and creature comforts on offer either. These include the huge 12.3”-high resolution display that rotates electronically to reveal even more of that rich veneered wood when desired, as well as a sublime audio system, diamond-patterned knurling adorning the controls, heated neck warmer and armrest, and massaging seats that are genuinely comforting on a long haul.  

Somewhere before Seville, the road we’re travelling upon detours onto 50km of the smoothest tarmac you could ask for and I have a safe place to activate Sport mode and stretch the W12’s legs. 

The Continental GT Convertible reveals yet another surprise. Sporty is an understatement in describing how competent this big car is. 

Zero to 100km/h takes just 3.8 seconds; well and truly in supercar territory in other words. Yet that acceleration is buttery smooth, rather than neck-snapping severe. The W12 engine, all-wheel drive system with electronic torque vectoring and the 8 speed-DSG transmission all work in harmony under high loads, apportioning up to 85% of power to the rear wheels and propelling the car with emphatic turns of speed. 

The front axle has been moved forward over the previous generation car to improve balance. Coupled with an intelligent, electronically-controlled sway bar benefits handling and accuracy of turn-in. Handling prowess at the limit probably isn’t high on the average Bentley owner wish list, but it’s certainly nice to know the car is as engaging to drive as it is to look at. 

The Bentley Continental GT Convertible defies my past perceptions about the Bentley brand. It’s contemporary with an exuberance on the road that rightly appeals to a wide demographic fortunate enough to consider it on the shopping list. 

Given the genuine hand-fettled feel to the interior and the deluge of technology that goes into this car, the $412,000+ORC start price is understandable. You can option in many other things from there; I would strongly suggest the Naim audio upgrade which is exceptional. But there’s also (and I’m not making this up) a Tweed roof option.   

Which, given all the surprises this car delivers, shouldn’t surprise me at all.  

Words by Steve Vermeulen 

Photos by Richard Pardon 

Related Articles

Crafting the extraordinary

Drawing inspiration from historical Fabergé pieces, the collection of Fabergé egg shaped, hoop and stud earrings, bracelets, gemstone statement cuffs and pendants perfectly channel 1800’s Romanov splendour.

Read More