Continental remains an icon of British motoring
By Bill McCarthy
There is no doubt that the Continental convertible is breathtaking. Breathtaking in looks, breathtaking in performance and, breathtaking in price.
Paying well north of £180k for a car takes it beyond the means of the majority, but if you can afford it, it is a hugely desirable grand tourer that remains a British icon
If a car can be described as beautiful, then this Bentley both with the roof up or open car, fits that description – a compelling combination of elegance and power.
It never failed to get admiring looks, and comments on the stunning green colour of this particular model.
Bentley is German owned, VW in fact, but the hand-built features are a tribute to the master craftsmanship of British expertise at their factory in Crewe.
Now in its third generation the GT features a tailored roof that can be deployed or stowed in just 19 seconds, with the car travelling at speeds of up to 30 mph (50 km/h).
We love our convertibles in the UK but the weather doesn’t always play ball. But the Continental makes the wind in the hair experience throughly enjoyable. A discreet neckwarmer is integrated into the front seats, together with a heated steering wheel and heated armrests.
It looks sensational, with a low slung predatory look, featuring muscular haunches, swooping bonnet and the latest LED cut-crystal effect matrix headlamps. Sitting on 21 and 22-inch wheels it looks a powerhouse – and it is, with a four litre twin-turbo V8 engine on this model propelling the car to 60mph in four seconds.
The interior is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and opulence, almost decadence. Just like its sibling the Flying Spur, it is a riot of handcrafted wood and leather of choice and chrome, together with jewellery-inspired diamond knurled finish switchgear and classy analogue style clock.
This model added the optional Mulliner Driving Specification which includes three-dimensional diamond quilted leather to seats, door casing and rear quarter panels, sports pedals and jewelled fuel and oil filler cap and embroidered Bentley emblems.
On the road, the car is a superb drive and brutally powerful. The 542bhp V8, mated with a seamless eight-speed transmission, delivers incredible acceleration, with the throaty roar of the V8 through the quadruple exhausts adding to the enjoyment, especially with the roof down.
It goes on to a theoretical 198mph, nearly three times above the legal speed limit in the UK. All the power is all well and good, but it needs to be kept in a straight line and that is where the intelligent four wheel drive kicks in, delivering traction where required.
There are four driving modes that adjust engine, suspension and gearbox settings, which, given the enormous power in ‘normal’ mode, seems fairly superfluous.
Listing all the features would fill a book, but tin addition to a host of bells and whistles, the centrepiece is a 12.3-inch central touchscreen system including HDD-navigation, two SD card slots, Bluetooth and WiFi streaming, a CD/DVD slot and digital radio.
Also included is Apple CarPlay, Sirius satellite radio, 60GB solid-state hard drive and 4G telephone system.
Like other German car makers, Bentley provides plenty of options with the rotating display, a particularly clever piece of kit. It switches between touchscreen, three analogue gauges (compass, chronometer and outside temperature) and unbroken veneer.
But boot space is also surprisingly good, even with the roof stowed in the rear, with 235 litres, enough for a couple of small cases.
Safety is vital with such a powerful car and the kit, some optional, features huge brake callipers, stability and traction control, a full complement of airbags and features including Active Lane Assist, Traffic Jam Assist and Park Assist with 360 degree all round cameras, infra-red camera, and head-up display.
Hugely aspirational, but practical and British built. What’s not to like?
Bentley Continental GT Convertible
Mechanical: 546bhp, 3,996cc, V8 petrol engine driving all wheels via 8-speed auto gearbox
Max speed: 198mph
0-60mph: 4 seconds
Combined mpg: 22.6
CO2 emissions: 284g/km
Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles