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Car Review

Bentley Continental GT Convertible review

£167,000 - £231,080
910
Published: 17 Feb 2023
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

There are a lot of very big numbers associated with the Bentley Continental GT Convertible, many of them very good. The engine, for example, is either twin-turbocharged V8 with 550bhp or a 6.0-litre W12. The 626bhp version has now been superseded by the GTC Speed.

Less good is how much the GT weighs. Its 2,414kg (that's 170kg more than the GT) bulk in W12 form means this two-door cabriolet is some 100kg heavier than a five-door, seven-seat, fully-loaded Land Rover Discovery. Or if you’d prefer, not far off four Ariel Nomads. Yes, four.

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Any gizmos to make up for the bulk?

Not unlike some of its VW Group stablemates (Porsche, Lamborghini and Audi), Bentley has chucked a lot of technology at the GT to make it handle like it doesn’t weigh as much as a small country. To try and outfox physics. A 48-volt anti-roll system for flat cornering and torque vectoring front-to-back and side-to-side means the GT does things a near 2.5-tonne car should not be able to do. It steers, grips and goes very well indeed; night-and-day better than the barge it replaces, which used to struggle to keep its mass in check.

There’s a measure of fun to be had driving this new one quickly - it’s still a heavyweight, and proud of it - but there’s no heaving or lurching, as direction changes are handled ably, without fuss or furore. So long as you don’t go crazy, you’ll be just fine.

Why? Because where you notice the weight is on the brakes. These may be the biggest steel discs ever fitted to a production car, but they still aren’t quite tough enough for the job. In everyday driving they’re just fine, but use them hard and often and things start to unravel. The other thing is that because this is a convertible, despite loads of strengthening (especially for the sills and A-pillars) there is a weeny bit of scuttle shake. Nothing like as much as a Mercedes S-Class Cabrio, but enough that you might notice a wee bit of a wobble through the steering column over rough roads.

Your passenger will notice if they rest their hand on the top of the windscreen as you’re driving along. No big deal. Either way this is still a tremendous car in which to do distance: the ride is smooth, seats comfortable and interior quiet and opulent. Proper Bentley.

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Tell me about the powertrain.

All-wheel drive and a smooth, quick-shifting eight-speed, double-clutch gearbox (which it doesn’t really need, because all the torque is there from just 1,300rpm) means despite the weight, the GT is hugely fast. 0-60mph only takes 3.7 seconds with the W12, while the top speed stretches beyond 200mph. Just probably not roof down.

Introduced in 2021, the GTC Speed is possibly the quintessential distillation of ‘modern Bentley’. And if that sounds pompous, then put it this way: it’s bloody tremendous, and possibly the best Bentley built since Volkswagen took the reins at the turn of the century. 

And funnily enough, raw speed has little to do with it. With a top speed of 204mph, it’s barely any faster in the irrelevant top speed stakes than a standard (now discontinued) Conti GTC with the 6.0-litre W12 engine. Here it’s been lifted to 650bhp, but when the standard car already develops 626bhp and the car weighs the thick end of 2.2 tonnes, that’s like stirring a teaspoon of sugar into a chocolate cake mix. Hardly changing the recipe radically, is it?

So, what’s its secret?

Bizarrely, it’s the handling. The last thing you’d expect to be remarkable in a big, bluff, boaty Bentley. Like the Continental GT Speed coupe, the GTC has been treated to a complete refresh in where it deploys its torque, so this opulent and dignified grand-tourer – which can cruise into triple figures with less wind noise through the canvas roof than most hard-top hatchbacks – feels properly rear-driven. Not in a lairy way, more of a caddish suggestion that if you really open the taps, the Conti has some sporting juice in its blue-blooded veins.

And that’s refreshing. Bentley often talks up itself as a more sporting brand than Rolls-Royce, say, but in the 12-cylinder cars, this is a lot less evident than the V8 models we tend to prefer. The W12s feel like the grown-up, buttoned down examples, and it’s the lustier V8s with their less ponderous cornering we find ourselves falling for.

But in the Speed… something magical has happened. You still get that sense of limitless power and industrial torque, enveloped in a luxuriant world of leather, wood and turned metal, but somehow there’s a character shift. A sense of ‘I’m here to entertain, not just cosset.” This is genuinely a Bentley you might take ‘for a drive’, rather than a cruise. Selecting Sport mode might seem a rather ignoble action in a Bentley – the sort of sullying nonsense you’d expect of an Audi driver. 

But here, the Speed rewards you with a hilarious biddable yet always comfortable chassis. And of course, phenomenal pace. It’s so complete, so intoxicating, it’d give even the most ardent Bentley critic their flying-B epiphany. As soft-tops go, this is truly one of the very best in the world right now – an Aston Martin DB11 Volante, Ferrari Portofino or Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabriolet wouldn’t even come close in our affections. This car is the rare proof that Speed can be big and clever. 

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Bentley Continental GTC 6.0 W12 Speed 2dr Auto
  • 0-623.7s
  • CO2
  • BHP659
  • MPG
  • Price£N/A

the cheapest

Bentley Continental GTC 4.0 V8 2dr Auto
  • 0-624.1s
  • CO2260.0g/km
  • BHP550
  • MPG24.8
  • Price£167,000

the greenest

Bentley Continental GTC 4.0 V8 2dr Auto [Touring Spec]
  • 0-624.1s
  • CO2260.0g/km
  • BHP550
  • MPG24.8
  • Price£173,290

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