GTPlanet Quick Drive Review: Bentley Continental GTC

Bentley’s Continental GT is effectively the brand’s “entry level” offering, with the coupe coming in at just over £180,000 ($224,000) before any options. Having originally launched in 2003, as the first new vehicle since the marque became part of the Volkswagen group of companies, it’s now in its third generation.

Loosely based on the Porsche Panamera, the Conti is a classic grand tourer which mixes mass production at Bentley’s Crewe factory in the UK with the brand’s reputation for hand-built vehicles with incredible standards of materials, quality, and personalisation. Even better, this GTC model comes with a folding fabric roof.

What Makes it Go?

The Bentley Continental range is available with either a six-litre W12 or a four-litre V8 twin turbo, which it shares with other brands under the Volkswagen umbrella. However the W12 is only available on certain models – standard on “Speed”, optional on “Mulliner” – so our regular (in as much as that term applies) GTC comes with the V8.

That produces a considerable 542hp and 568lbft, which – even considering that the Conti is not a light car at all – is enough to get us to 60mph in just under four seconds and on to a top speed of 198mph… which we didn’t test out on the roads near Bentley’s Crewe HQ (more about that another time). Torque heads to all four wheels through an intelligent all-wheel drive system via an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

It’s not a particularly fuel-efficient combination, despite cylinder deactivation tech, and the additional weight and slightly worse aerodynamics caused by the convertible roof do put a mild dent in the standard figures. However the combined economy is 22.6mpg (imperial), and the enormous 19.8-gallon tank means you’ve got an effective range of almost 450 miles.

What’s it Like to Drive?

If you like your sports cars small, lithe, and light, a glance at the spec sheet won’t fill you with glee. The GTC V8 comes in at over 2.4 ton in weight, it’s close to 4.9 meters long – and 40% of that is outside the wheelbase – and almost 2.2 meters wide.

But it’s got a Bentley badge on the nose, and if Bentley has a reputation for anything other than luxury it’s all-round performance. It may be a century ago now, but you don’t win four successive 24 Hours of Le Mans by accident – and the coupe model of this very car holds the production record at Pikes Peak…

In general terms, the GTC is really quite a comfortable cruiser. We drove it back-to-back with a Flying Spur and while it’s pretty clear that the Spur is considerably more refined and soothing than even the GTC’s Comfort driving mode, the Conti doesn’t let that much of the outside world get in – which is impressive considering there’s a giant hole above the seats.

Flick the knurled drive select dial over to Sport and it’s much more of a driving machine. Everything tightens up – steering, the three-chamber air suspension, gearbox shift modes – and the exhaust note steps up a couple of notches. It’s actually a really decent thing to drive even if you don’t add the qualifier “for its size”, with very little lean and a surprisingly keen nose. That’s helped out by some of the biggest brakes we’ve ever seen – the 420mm front discs are larger than the 16-inch alloy wheels on the car I drove across to Crewe…

It’s probably best left in “Bentley” mode though, which is a factory preset blend of the other modes to give the best all-round driving experience. However, if you think you know better than Bentley, there’s also a Custom mode (which you should set to Sport for the exhaust and leave everything else alone).

And on the Inside?

First up, the GTC is a full four-seat convertible. We’d add a mild caveat to that: considering the sheer size of the front seats, and the relatively low roof line when the top is up, it’s not going to be great in the back for adults over longer stretches, but you will fit in there.

While rear legroom and headroom is okay (and shoulder and hip room is pretty good), you’re going to find it almost impossible to be uncomfortable in the front seats – 12-way electric adjustable as standard. There’s plenty of places to stow stuff too, although the centre armrest cubby is rather shallow, and the boot is a little on the small side at 235 litres.

However the crucial part about the cabin is that we can only tell you what this one is like. Bentley offers a few billion different standard customisation options, as well as the extensive Mulliner personalisation scheme which allows you to recreate just about anything you want. There’s a stock Mulliner option that’s literally rocks; Bentley cuts up actual rocks and makes veneers out of them.

That means that while our car is a little bit… Premier League footballer in its St. James Red body and piano black/contrast split veneer, you can specify what you want if you have enough money to do so. Whatever you go for it will be spectacularly plush, well-made, and from the highest quality materials.

While our car is pretty well optioned, there are some pecularities on the standard specifications. If you just bought a GTC and ticked no boxes at all you might be disappointed to find there’s no seat heating or cooling (both come on the next grade up, the Azure), and it’s particularly odd that Apple CarPlay is included but Android Auto is not available at all.

How Much Does it Cost?

Ahhhh, if you have to ask… Bentley doesn’t generally make its prices – for the cars themselves or the optional extras – public, even on its website!

The Continental GTC range starts at around £196,000 – about £15k more than the coupe – and we’d estimate the options on the car we drove would push that up into the region of £210,000. In the USA the convertible range begins at a little under $300,000.

What are the Main Rivals?

There’s actually surprisingly few cars that hit the same targets as the Continental GTC. If you want to go sportier, there’s the Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Cabriolet or the Ferrari Portofino; both undercut the Bentley, but the accommodation is more compact and less luxurious. At the other end of the scale is the Rolls-Royce Dawn, which might be Bentley’s only real rival for cabin opulence.

We’d also be looking at the Aston Martin DB11 V8 Volante, and the Mercedes SL63.

What’s the Verdict?

It’s supremely difficult to judge a car of this type by objective standards. The simple fact is that at this kind of pricing there’s very little you can’t pay to make better, and it ultimately comes down to how you like the bits you can’t change.

As it is, the GTC is right up there as one of the very best four-ish seat grand tourers around, and it really depends on just how deep your pockets go as to how good it can be. Unless you have a desperate need for a 911 – which is the better drivers’ car – or a DB11, it should be the only car on your shopping list in this class.

Also it comes in purple.

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