Marbella, Spain –
One of the hardest things a brand can do is to disrupt tradition and redefine itself, especially when you’re talking about deep-seated paradigms.
Bentley already straddles the line between plush luxury and grand tourer performance, but with the latest iterations of its Continental coupe and convertible, it’s trying hard to break into a younger ownership demographic than previously associated with the brand.
The trappings of luxury are intangible, emotional even – it’s not a grocery shopping list you can tick stuff off. Although it’s true that the devil is in the details, it’s far too easy to slip into garish fussiness when you overcook the aesthetics, especially if you’re glitzing up just to pander to the social media spotlight.
I’m sure you can guess which side Bentley tends towards, and it’s quite clear in this car, the Continental GT Convertible.
The latest, third iteration of the Continental (first previewed in Singapore in 2017) is a fabulous evolution of Bentley’s cornerstone model, reinterpreting the aesthetics of the very successful original from 2003, albeit with a distinctive mien, aggressively haunched and well-defined musculature that contributes to its powerful presence.
Derived from the aviation industry, the ‘Super Forming’ technique of production that made its debut on the Continental coupe allows for the precise sculpting of the car’s all-aluminium exterior body-panels to achieve forms hitherto impossible through conventional shaping techniques.
Like a nicely-aged dram of whisky, you only begin to appreciate the subtle notes in the car’s styling through quiet contemplation – just like the Continental GT Coupe – because the elements are well-nuanced enough to not shock your senses at first glance.
Even with the bright LED matrix headlights turned off, you’ll be dazzled by the intricate detailing of the headlight housings, which is inspired by Cumbria’s finest-cut crystal glasses to catch and reflect light from all angles.
Other details for the appreciative onlooker to enjoy include the ’12’ (for the 12-cylinders under the bonnet) emblazoned on the lower wing vents, complementary elliptical styling of the tailpipes and tail-lights, and the perforated sleeves of the tailpipes, which aren’t for style alone, because we’re told they help reduce exhaust temperatures.
The Z-shaped folding soft-top takes just 19-seconds to open/close, and can be operated when the car is travelling at speeds of up to 50km/h; for those who want to make a bold, sartorial statement, there’s even a tweed option for the roof fabric (in addition to six other colours), which we think suits the Barnato Green paint option to a T.
Cabin insulation with the roof up is remarkably hushed, and thanks to the use of new sealing systems, acoustic treatments, roof mechanism and materials used, it’s even quieter than in the last generation Coupe.
Drive a Bentley convertible and all will seem right with the world unless you’re a git named ‘David Khoo’, upon which you’ll complain since there is no pork in the cabin
True to having the ‘show’ with the ‘go’, the opulence of the cabin is tempered by a dose of good taste, and there’s never a dogged sense of OTT decadence to mar the proceedings.
This is more relevant on the Convertible than the Coupe, because with the roof down, you’d rather be appreciated for class than mocked for crass.
The ornate and well-weighted controls gel well with the mild concessions to modern technology, such as the digital instruments under the cowl and the very cool Bentley Rotating Display, which seamlessly alternates between pure wood panel, trio of analogue gauges and vibrant 12.3-inch touchscreen, so the ‘old world luxury’ cabin need never be overwhelmed by digital mod-cons.
The Conti GT exudes a regal bearing, but its taut musculature tells you it is no wilting wall-flower when push comes to shove, especially with the might of a storming W12 at its beck and call.
Roof up or down, there’s no mistaking the Conti GT Convertible’s potential for brute violence when you decide to unleash the full 900Nm of the twin-turbo’d 6.0-litre. The torque is an elemental force of nature that rouses rowdily from barely over tickover, and even if the car is capable of waft-worthy performance, it’s staggering (and almost alarming) how quickly you can hustle it along the winding roads.
The oversized brakes (420mm fronts, 380mm rears) are more than able and willing to put the skids on the 2.4-tonne behemoth at the turn-in to each corner, before you quickly get back on the gas again to power out of the corner in blistering, but undramatic fashion so no hair will be out of place even with the roof down.
However, don’t be fooled by the relative lack of drama, because a quick glance at the speedo will tell you how fast you’re really going! What’s commendable is how tight and dynamic a package the GTC manages to serve up, even in contrast to its fixed roof sibling, which is a surprise given a loss in rigidity often plagues drop-tops in general.
We like how light and agile it feels on its feet in the corners, provided you adhere to the tried-and-tested slow-in-fast-out method of driving.
Push too hard and the front will still run wide, so it’s better to adopt a moderate entry speed before booting it on the exit to slingshot the car down the straight to the next set of corners – the Active All-Wheel-Drive doesn’t have a rear-steer function, but relies on a form of brake-torque-vectoring to help you wield the car through the corners.
It’s hugely satisfying to successfully string a long series of corners together as you traverse the wonderfully flowing roads in the Andalusia region.
Even if you can, this isn’t the sort of car to hoon or ‘bad-boy’ around in; its sheer presence and cabin ambience engender a sense of refined gravitas in its occupants, so you’re encouraged to maintain a level of decorum.
Bentley, however, is clearly targeting a younger buying audience with the new Continental Coupe and Convertible, and as such, has created trim and equipment options to appeal to less conservative palates, yet executed in that inimitable style the brand is known for.
Furthermore, instead of the push-and-whoosh onslaught of straight-line performance associated with earlier Continental generations, the new model offers feel and engagement to keep things interesting, yet not too visceral as to detract from the momentous sense of grand touring occasion that comes with it.
Bentley Continental GT Convertible
|Engine||5,950cc, W12, twin-turbocharged|
|Power||635hp at 6000rpm|
|Torque||900Nm at 1350-4500rpm|
|Top Speed||3.8 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||TBA / 319g/km|
|Price||TBA (estimate S$900k without COE, options)|