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Bentley Continental GTC first drive review

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    Bentley's upgraded topless tourer is a case of saying yes to excess. Photo Gallery

Paul Pottinger road tests and reviews the Bentley Continental GTC.

Bentley Continental GTC 4

A responsible publication would at this point post a warning to the sensitive that this article contains superlatives and references to indecent levels of decadence. There's nothing about Bentley's  upgraded topless grand tourer to encourage economy with language, anymore than driving this land yacht with a speedboat's attitude is about economy and restraint.

VALUE

Sorry, what was the question again?

"Value" isn't a word one uses in proximity to one of these. It's a bit like offering a Russian oil billionaire (a species, who along with China's new money elite, comprise a big chunk of Bentley buyers) domestic sparkling wine rather than champagne.

You can still get a very decent apartment in some Australian capitals for less than the approximately $530,000 asking price of the folding roof Bentley. I've lived in smaller rooms than the GTC's interior and stayed in no hotel so lushly upholstered.

There's nothing quite like it this is side of a Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe and for that you're looking at more than double the ask for the Bentley. The rivals listed below are chosen as much for their ability to go topless as for any real comparability.

TECHNOLOGY

The unique Crewe-built twin turbo 6.0-litre W12 has been around for some seven years, just that it's now capable of accepting E85 fuel and, more to the point, is even more muscular putting out 423kW and a mountain crushing 700Nm. Few petrol engines exceed this power, and only one turbo diesel - cousin Audi's top draw A8 - exceeds its torque.

Married to the QuickShift six speed auto from the Continental Supersports, it is a formidable drivetrain that, with the uncannily Audi derived rear biased all-wheel-drive system, gets the GTC's 2.5 tonne displacement from zero to 100km/h in an unfeasibly fast 4.5 seconds en route to claimed maximum 314km/h.

There's the usual talk at convertible launches about enhanced body stiffness. More tangibly you have a four mode Continuous Damping Control. The front track is 41mm wider, the rear 48.

Massive midlife upgrades and sweeping generational changes are left to lesser lights, but such other tech upgrades as have been made are significant, such as the 30 GB hard drive that includes a Google Earth derived sat-nav that's as familiarly usable as it is sophisticated.

Even Bentley isn't immune to the legislatively driven engine downsizing, so a bespoke of the new 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 (made for Audi's S6 and S7) is en route though there's no certainty as to when that'll reach our part of the planet. It's felt that what  "you V8 loving Australians" as we we called will gravitate toward it.

DESIGN

Tweaks and embellishments don't exactly abound and you'd want a connoisseur's eye to see them at first glance. Me? I had to read the handout to be sure.

Bespoke LED daytime running lights flank an apparently more upright grille with a rear profile in the "double horseshoe" manner of the flagship Mulsanne. There's a choice of 20 and 21-inch alloys from five spokes to 10, all enough to make you want to park meters from the kerb.

Mainly and sensibly it's a case of honing a few creases and addition a bit more lustre. As ever the GTC looks indecently attractive with the lid folded down, less so with it up. In any either configuration it's a muscularly handsome beast with one of the most distinctive front ends in the world. When this grille fills your rear vision mirror the temptation is to gawk rather than get out of the way.

Within ... Well, it's as though an Edwardian gentlemen's club has been fashioned in the shape of an auto interior. Even the dash is finished in soft-touch leather or which there are 17 shades to complement the seven handcrafted hard veneers. But those wands could have come out of the Volkswagen Group communal parts bin.

Bentley has matched Benz with neck warmers for going topless on a cold day. Those being chauffeured in the back also get a bit more leg room. No vulgar, weight adding metal lid for the GTC. It's a tailored multi-layered fabric job that folds down in 25 seconds.

SAFETY

The day a safety agency can afford to crash one of these to assess its star worthiness is the day we all start swilling schooners of Veuve Cliquot and smashing the empty vessels in the fireplace. It's just not going to happen.

Nor is there any need for this particular excess - festooned airbags, all conceivable safety measures and battleship build quality, the Bentley is bullet, and very possibly bomb, proof.

DRIVING

Torque of this sort is not cheap but it is so readily attained - all 700Nm from as low as 1700rpm - a tidal wave on which  the Bentley's small truck tonnage is borne along if not effortlessly then certainly without expending too much effort.

Its remit is consuming klicks at a loping cruising pace, it's just that the GTC can do it at 200km/h while barely tickling 3000rpm. At Australian freeway speeds it seems barely to be moving.

While the likely client will also own  something honed and sharp for point and shoot driving, this coach acquits itself honourably if modes and transmission are set to the sportiest. In any circumstances comfort mode is a bit acquatic and a constant reminder that, though this incarnation is lighter than the one previous, it remains a lardy beast.

That this baggage isn't excessive says it all for the W12 which hauls with immense authority in drive or sport. Maximum power occurs just before the 6200 rpm redline, but this is in no sense about histrionics in terms of revs or even aural feedback.

The exhaust blast is best heard from week back rather than within and even with the top down conversations are carried without raised voices.

VERDICT

Visually an exercise in conspicuous consumption, to drive an exercise in leisure. Never mind your mortgage, live in one of these.

RATING

4 stars

Bentley Continental GTC

Price: about $419,749
Engine: 6.0-litre W12; 423kW/700Nm
Trans: 6-speed auto; AWD
Safety: Untested
Weight: 2485kg
Thirst: 16L/100km; 384g/km Co2
"Living large; in fact you'd live in it"

OTHERS TO CONSIDER

BMW 650i
Rating: Three and a half stars
Price: $248,300
Engine: 4.4-litre V8; 300kW/600Nm
Trans: 8-speed auto; RWD
Body: two door convertible
Thirst: 10.7L/100km

Ferrari California
Rating: Four stars
Price: $459,659
Engine: 4.3-litre V8; 338kW/485Nm
Trans: 7-speed automated manual; RWD
Body: two door  convertible
Thirst: 13.1L/100km

Maserati GranCabrio
Rating: Three and a half stars
Price: $328,000
Engine: 4.7-litre V8; 323kW/490Nm
Trans: 6-speed auto; RWD
Body: two door convertible
Thirst: 15.4L/100km.

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