TESTED: Bonkers $460k entley Continental GT convertible
THE new Bentley Continental GT Convertible is long overdue.
The first new convertible from Crewe in nearly 15 years, it is an altogether different beast to its predecessor and feels far more Porsche than Rolls-Royce.
There's a good reason for that - it has the same Volkswagen family genes. And just like a Porsche, this almost two-and-a-half-tonne tourer behaves like a car half its weight.
The new drop-top rides on a modular platform shared with the Panamera, so apart from being 110mm longer than the old model, it's also 50mm wider and the front axle moves forward by 135mm for better weight distribution.
This full-size convertible is heavier than some seven-seat SUVs. Extensive use of aluminium superforming, which uses tightly stretched heated aluminium panels, still brings it in 30kg lighter than its predecessor. This not only saves weight but also gives the car its distinctive razor-like creases and delivers a 20 per cent stiffer chassis.
Dipping into VW's gene pool also enabled Bentley to fit Porsche's eight-speed double-clutch auto as well as adopting driver assist technologies, which are available in two far from cheap option packs.
The City Specification includes traffic sign recognition and city braking while the Touring Spec comprises adaptive cruise control, head-up display and pre-sense braking.
The Convertible shares the new 467kW, 6.0-litre twin-turbo engine introduced in the Continental GT coupe last year. It's a W12, meaning it combines two narrow-angle V6 engines.
It also gets the "Dynamic Ride" rear anti-roll suspension, which is key to its athleticism on winding roads. Its steering is light yet precise, allowing the driver to throw it into corners thanks to the tech keeping the long rear end firmly planted.
On the launch program, the never-ending twists and turns of the Spanish coastline never ruffled its feathers - the Convertible flowed gracefully and briskly from corner to corner.
There were no weight transfer lurches and the stopping power was considerable, thanks to the largest iron brake discs (420mm) fitted to any production car.
Despite being 160kg heavier than the coupe, the drop-top adds just 0.2 of a second to the 0-100km/h sprint time, at 3.8 seconds. It tops out at the same 333km/h.
The Continental GT Convertible will arrive in Australia from the second quarter of this year, priced from $462,240 before on-roads.
That's a $40,000 premium over the coupe and for that you get a Z-folding fabric roof that operates in 19 seconds while travelling at up to 50km/h.
Bentley claims that the Z-style roof, with improved insulation, has cut interior noise by 3dB, making it quieter inside than the previous generation.
We can attest to the lack of noise and cosy cabin insulation with the roof up and the bonus with this style of roof is that you don't lose any boot space when the top is lowered. It shows up the heavier and more complex metal folding roofs used by some rivals.
A wind break behind the seats means that you can barrel along at proper highway speeds with the roof down and not be blown around inside. There is heating for the seats, centre console lid and steering wheel and, to keep occupants toasty warm with the roof folded, an air curtain blowing hot air on to the backs of their necks.
The rest of the interior remains as is from the coupe, the hallmarks being timber, leather and chrome. Ambient mood lighting includes razor-thin LED strips across the dash, down the doors and into the rear to mimic the curvy exterior hipline.
The interior consumes 10 square metres of timber veneer machined to incredible thinness and painstakingly installed in a nine-hour operation.
A unique Bentley feature, the three-faced rotating dash panel also carries over from the coupe as an option. It displays the hi-tech 12.3-inch infotainment screen, three analog dials (compass, temp gauge and stopwatch) for a more classical look or just clean timber veneer.
It's a giant leap forward over the previous GT drop-top but it needs to be - such rivals as the Mercedes-Maybach S65, Ferrari Portofino, Aston Martin Volante and Rolls-Royce Dawn weren't around the last time Bentley made a convertible.
Threads and looms
Bentley likes to tell us it uses 712 stitches for each quilted diamond in the seats, equating to 310,000 stitches per car. To operate all the hi-tech functions, the convertible also carries 920 on-board computers and 8km of wiring.
Bentley Continental GT Convertible
Price: From $462,240
Engine: 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbo, 467kW/900Nm
0-100km/h: 3.8 secs
Top speed: 333km/h