8 / 10
To call the Bentley Continental GTC V8 the ‘baby’ of the range doesn’t do this mega-luxury four-seat convertible justice.
Yet that is what the V8-engined versions of Bentley’s second generation coupe and convertible are. Having exclusively utilised a heavy and thirsty 6.0-litre W12 engine since the first generation models launched in 2005, Bentley has now installed a ‘little’ 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine to create a new range starter.
The net result is less fuel consumption – down from 14.5L/100km to 10.9L/100km – and around 25kg of weight taken off the nose, though the Continental GTC V8 tested here still weighs a portly 2470kg overall.
With 373kW of power at 6000rpm, and 660Nm of torque at 1700rpm, driving through an eight-speed automatic to all four wheels (40 per cent to the front, 60 per cent rear) the infantile Bentley clocks up a claimed five-second 0-100km/h.
It isn’t exactly crawling, then, though stretching $42,500 from the $407,000 GTC V8 to the GTC 6.0-litre W12 raises outputs to 412kW/650Nm and cuts the time to triple figures by 0.4 seconds.
Despite the power and speed, the heavy Continental GTC is not a sports car, but it is one that looks and feels, if not a million bucks, then at least half that…
Firstly, the styling is fantastic. Bentley is all too aware of its withering – in age, not number – buyer profile, but this second generation Continental GT should pull down the average substantially.
It looks like the previous Conti, but LED encrusted headlights, muscled rear haunches, piano-black trim bits and (optional) 21-inch alloy wheels delivers on a 21st century interpretation of a Bentley.
Inside, it looks a bit daggy with the real wood panelling of our test car, but slick aluminium bits are available, with a huge selection colours for the leather, carpet and headlining, and a selection of contrast or cross stitching.
Actually, the contrast stitching was a $3660 option in our test car, in addition to a wonderful dark grey canvas hood ($4018) seemingly modelled off a pair of jeans. Proving that a big starting price doesn’t mean everything is standard, other options on our test car include Naim audio system ($14,064), rear view camera ($2273), massage front seats with ventilation ($2180), neck warmer ($1923), and the biggest of all, Mulliner Driving Specification ($24,524) which mainly adds bigger wheels and alloy pedals and trim.
It is a gouge, no doubt, particularly as a rear view camera is standard on a $30,000 VW Golf 103TSI … and the Bentley utilises satellite navigation from a previous generation Golf.
Colour screen operation and equipment omissions aside, from the central Breitling clock to the perfect seats and alloy trim, the interior itself is a wonderfully crafted and indulgent place to be.
What also separates the Continental convertible from half-a-million dollar rivals is its decent, if not generous, amount of rear legroom and Golf-matching 350 litres of boot space, roof up or down. Rivals such as the ($466,500) Mercedes-Benz SL600 have no rear seat, or in the case of the ($308,500) BMW M6 Convertible and ($338,000) Maserati Gran Cabrio, the rears are cramped.
It’s a neat niche that the Bentley GTC V8 finds itself in, and further capitalises on out on the road.
With the four-ply roof and double glazed windows up, this convertible is quieter than most luxury sedans. Despite the decently large external dimensions (Continental is 1.9 metres wide) and hefty kerb weight, the light and direct steering makes the car feel smaller and lighter than it is.
The Continental GTC V8 also has the best ride comfort of any car we’ve tested on 21-inch wheels; better than almost every expensive luxury car, in fact.
Four settings for the adaptive suspension are available – in incremental adjustments from Comfort to Sport – yet moving between them is like using an infinitely adjustable knob rather than a big switch with separate stages.
In the softest mode the ride is truly plush, with a wonderful wafting comfort that still, astonishingly, delivers excellent body control at speed. It is the best mode; the default setting. Yet moving upwards only delivers slight differences, progressively tightening up body movements but only becoming slightly harder. It is a first-class suspension setup.
It also means that on rough country roads it’s possible to readily deploy the twin-turbo V8 and reel in distances at speed that would cause many more firmly-sprung sports cars to starting bumping and hopping around.
A distant warble on light throttle snaps into a creamy crescendo when the throttle is pinned, distinctively V8 and lovely, but always with the sort of refined edge in keeping with its personality. There’s even subtle exhaust crackle on overrun, noticeable only with the roof down.
The eight-speed automatic is faultless, smooth and slurring in normal conditions, where it mostly takes advantage of its peak torque delivery at just 1700rpm, and is crisp yet still subtle in Sport mode.
Only the plasticky paddles, and the slight delay between wanting a gear and getting a gear in manual mode, let the automatic down.
The stability control system is also very cautious, even in Sport mode, although the Bentley is fundamentally finely balanced and enjoyable particularly on fast, sweeping bends.
As the road tightens, though, the Continental starts to feel heavy, particularly on the nose, and the all-wheel-drive system requires patience on the throttle if understeer is to be avoided.
Better to crush kilometres while enjoying the massaging seat, with warm air wafting down your neck, ensconced in plush leather but with one eye on nature and an ear out for the burbly V8 top down.
In not attempting to be a sports and luxury car jack-of-all-trades – like the M6 convertible, SL AMG and Maserati – the Bentley GTC V8 is actually arguably the more complete package.
Opulence, in this case, isn’t a lesser trait compared with focused sports cars. The Bentley GTC V8 is focused on sheer indulgence, and is a wonderful personality all its own.