Elegant, but burly like a bare-knuckle brawler, Bentley’s new Continental GT Cabriolet is both slick and rugged says James Fisher.
Convertibles don’t often do it for me. They’re heavy, because the chassis needs to be reinforced due to the absence of a hard roof, and the styling also suffers, because the roof it does have needs to fold away somewhere.
I understand the joy of driving alfresco, as the sounds, smells and fresh air are all sensations that make motoring infinitely more bearable. However, in England, these sensations don’t outweigh the inevitable pneumonia you’ll receive on the 360 days of the year when it rains.
However, I’m not in England and the 2019 Bentley Continental GT Cabriolet (GTC) isn’t a normal convertible. You fell into my trap, reader. You fell right in.
When I first see the GTC, at a drinks reception in the Marbella Club, the car is lurking by the pool. The child in me – inside all motoring journalists – is almost begging for a Keith Moon type to hop in and send it into the deep end. However, this is 2019 and there are rules about that kind of thing.
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It looks good. It’s Bentley to its core, full of elegance and an effortless chivalry, but it’s muscular, too, like an East End bare-knuckle brawler who takes his grandmother to church and back every Sunday. It’s Daniel Craig in Casino Royale – it’ll smash your head through a bathroom sink if you’re rude to a waiter, but it’ll do it while wearing black tie.
‘The interior is much nicer than my house, not to mention my parents’ house – and they sent five children to public school and have taste.’
With its top down, I’d say the GTC looks even better than the coupé. There’s some clever engineering at work here, as the roof appears to have been designed by whoever made the Tardis, disappearing into a space so small it beggars belief. This allows the graceful lines of the car to flow without being wrecked by the dreaded ‘hump’ that plagues so many of its competitors. When I spoke to Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark, he said there was only one angle from which the car didn’t look like magic.
He wouldn’t tell me where this was and, after 24 hours of looking, I couldn’t find it.
The interior is much nicer than my house, not to mention my parents’ house – and they sent five children to public school and have taste. Walnut-burr wood adorns everything and diamond-stitched leather seats look as if they belong in White’s rather than on the road.
Each ‘diamond’ has 726 stitches, which is exactly 726 more stitches than I’ve ever stitched in my life and the attention to detail in everything and everywhere is astounding and verging on sociopathic. The headlights are crystal cut, like the tumblers your father drinks his whisky out of, and are so bright they can see into the future.
The door handles, steering wheel and centre console all feel excellent and expensive (because they are) and the car would make a more than pleasant study to run away to for when the children are telling you why they’re going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. However, a car is for driving and the GTC is very good for that, too.
As you enter, the car hands you your seatbelt in the same way a Parisian waiter hands you your coat when you haven’t tipped generously enough. It’s just one of the many tiny aids that make up a so much more enjoyable whole.
Gadgets and gizmos abound, whether it’s the lane-assist system that makes eating up miles on the motorway a desperately easy task or the air scarf that keeps your neck and head toasty as you rip through the countryside.
‘The only thing missing from the interior is a log burner and a labrador on your lap’
The most impressive, however, is the digital display that, at the push of a button, rotates into an analogue console, with a compass, a thermometer and a chronometer. It’s a ‘digital detox’, the various Bentley minions gleefully tell me. ‘It allows you to just focus on driving.’ That’s lucky, as we had 275 miles of Andalusian countryside to get through before reaching our final destination of Seville.
The GTC is heavy – 2.8 tons of heavy – but, as a result of the sheer volume of technology infused into the chassis, as well as the monster 6.0-litre W12 that powers it along, it feels as nimble as Muhammad Ali. It’s a marvel of engineering; the car is always in control, which is deeply reassuring if, like me, you’re not a Formula 1 driver. It allows you to attack corners at pace, confident in the knowledge that, if a mistake is made, Big Brother will be watching you and will be happy to bail you out before disaster strikes.
A dial on the centre console allows you to choose which Bentley you want. Comfort mode turns it into a boat that wafts from olive grove to olive grove in such comfort and collected calmness that you feel the only thing missing from the interior is a log burner and a labrador on your lap.
Sport mode is the Hyde to comfort’s Jekyll, unleashing all the power, stiffening the suspension and turning this grand tourer into a four-wheeled javelin that arrows along the road and through the corners.It makes the car the ideal all-rounder, giving the driver what they want, when they want it and all in decadent comfort.
One hundred years ago, Walter Owen Bentley founded his eponymous company. As we arrive into Seville, surprisingly refreshed after a whole day of driving, a horse and trap pulls alongside, ferrying a bemused group of tourists through this Moorish city in southern Spain. Their cameras click away and, as the light changes to green, the roar of the Bentley makes them jump slightly.
The horses, however, don’t flinch – they respond to confidence and composure and, in the Bentley, they see those traits instinctively. So will you.
On the road
Bentley Continental GT Cabriolet
- Priced from: £175k (£221,175 as driven)
- Power: 626bhp
- 0–60mph: 3.7 seconds
- Top speed: 207mph
- Combined fuel consumption, as if anybody really cares about such things in a car like this: 20.2mpg
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