We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Mon 1 Jan 2007 12:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Smooth operator

What makes a great convertible? CEO Middle East has examined a number of brands from Asia to Europe, and now it is the Bentley Continental GTC’s turn. And it was no surprise that the flip-top stunner is a must for any executive

Just taking a great car and hacking off the roof doesn’t always mean the convertible version will be great.

So much can, and has, gone wrong over the years, including poor handling and the all important looks.

CEO Middle East

puts on its shades, rolls back the roof and tries out the new Bentley Continental GTC to see if they got it right.

Convertible cars all feel special. From the cheapest, most basic model with a folding top to a top-of-the-range sports coupe, the simple ability to drive around on view to the world makes it feel really good. As long as the weather is on your side and the smoke belching trucks aren’t covering you in fumes, driving with the wind in your hair really cannot be beaten. All most all convertible cars are derived from a hard topped version, which usually leads to the roofless version being a rather little heavier, a little slower and a little more awkwardly designed piece.

It’s not often that the manufacturers can manage to match the original hard top model, let alone beat it.

So when Bentley cut the roof of a car, they do a little more than take an angle grinder and torch to the metal. The GTC has obviously been thought about far more than the range gap fillers many of the manufacturers churn out to bump up summer sales. The result is a car that really is quite fantastic. It’s not a step backwards, but a completely new approach to the original model. It might share its hardware with the GT, but it looks different, drives differently and opens up a whole new world to Bentley owners.

As far as the design is concerned the front is identical to the GT, which is a pretty good route to follow, as the original car is beautifully thought out. The curving nose and double round headlights look great and the lack of design clutter on the whole body really help to keep the car looking great. The sides again follow the design of the hardtop model, but the rear is where you will find the major changes. The back of the GTC seems to have more in common with the Flying Spur than the original GT. With the folding roof open or closed the boot lid and rear panels appear longer than on the GT. From some angles it could be accused of being a little too long and slightly out of proportion. The huge alloy wheels finish off the exterior and reveal the massive brake callipers needed to bring the GTC’s kilograms to a sharp halt.

The neat roof mechanism looks great up or down, folding away out of sight under the rear panel. With many other manufacturers opting for the folding hard top system, its great to see a well thought out and functional soft top.

On the inside it’s the usual Bentley trademark interior. A cross between a luxury hotel and a gentlemen’s smoking club, the whole package is a very nice place to spend some quality time. The seats are amazingly comfortable and the trim levels are astounding. The dash is very clear and well designed, with the signature Bentley Breitling clock in the centre. The stereo system is as good as your average nightclub and the amount of control you have over the finest details of the car from the on-board computer is almost too much.

The rear seats are equally as comfortable as the front ones. However, a small word of warning. If anyone is sat in the rear whilst the roof is being retracted they will get a nasty shock. The folding system actually bumps rear passengers on the head as it performs its final movement before disappearing into the boot.

Pick your driving companions carefully!

Overall, the interior is up to and probably beyond the normal levels expected in a Bentley.

The engine in the GTC is the same W12 as the one in much of the Bentley range. It’s amazingly smooth and incredibly powerful. At low revs it’s quiet and unassuming, but once you open up the full 6 litres, the noise from the twin pipes is nothing short of orchestral. The gearbox is again excellent, giving you complete control over the car in either full auto or tiptronic, using the F1 style paddles. The gearshifts are so smooth you could be forgiven for not realising it had actually changed. In tiptronic mode you can really use the full power of the engine, although to be honest most drivers will probably spend 99% of the time driving in full auto. The tiptronic paddles are a great toy to play with when the mood takes you, but are probably not really necessary. The push button power handbrake takes some time to get used to, but works really well.

On the road the Bentley is surprisingly agile. Although the car is quite heavy and fairly large when compared to its competitors, it’s easy to manage regardless of the road surface or levels of grip. In fact the weight of the car seems to help it hold its poise on the road, gluing it to the tarmac and stabilising the ride. But if you feel the need to fiddle with the set up, the suspension height and stiffness of the springs can be altered on the move from the centre console. This allows you to choose between a range of comfort and sports settings. In any mode the car soaks up the bumps with ease and gives the passengers an unflustered ride. The steering is also very light, making the big Bentley easy to park and turn in tight areas.

In the corners the GTC can be pushed extremely hard, as the four wheel drive system keeps everything well in check. Once up to speed the car automatically adjusts itself to suit the conditions. And when you really need to slow down, the amazing brakes will bring everything to a very quick stop.

Considering the fairly recent low times for the Bentley name, it’s amazing that they don’t seem to be able to make a bad car. Okay, the Arnage is a bit overweight, and the GT has a slightly dodgy rear end. You could even accuse the Flying Spur of being stuffy if you really scratched around for a bad comment. But on the whole, Bentley makes a damn good car. The GTC is elegant, powerful, fast and on the whole well designed. The addition of a soft top allows you to really enjoy the world and equally gives everyone else a great view of the exquisite interior.

Okay, so it has its small faults, but they are really minor points. Yes, they make you pay for perfection, but if you can afford it, it’s well worth it. If you’re in the market for a soft top grand tourer, make sure you get down to the local Bentley dealer and try the GTC. You might not buy it, but you’re sure to leave with a smile on your face.

Verdict:

The Continental GT was and is a great car with very little to criticise. So if you can chop the roof off and make it even better you can’t go far wrong. If you’re looking for the very best way to get the wind in your hair, then this is probably it.

Engine:

6.0 W12

0-100 kmph:

5.1 secs

Top speed:

312 kmph

BHP:

552

ME price:

US$208,000 (AED765,000)

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall