Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible 2014 Review
April 7, 2014
- Big dimensions can be daunting
- Pricey options
$182,380 - $209,660
Your brain struggles with the concept of worth when you get behind the wheels of cars that cost around the same as a small apartment -- and in the case of the Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible, an apartment in a desirable upmarket suburb.
But worth at this end of the scale comes not from bang for the buck, spec comparisons or resale, but from the Bentley heritage of meticulous engineering, top-shelf luxury and near-microscopic focus on detail. The GT Speed Convertible is the top of the tree for Continental range, powered by an engine that's a distant relative of the Bugatti Veyron's portable power station, and fitted out with more attention than is applied to a royal tour wardrobe.
At this level, it's unlikely a discussion about free floor mats is entertained with anything other than wry amusement. The GT Speed Convertible is a $495,000 proposition before you add the $8000 Crystal Black paint job (you can specify a $56,449 prestige paint if the mood takes you). The paint is deeper than the Indian Ocean and is, as you'd expect, gorgeous.
The car is bursting with goodies. From the keyless entry and start, you don't even have to put much effort into closing the door - just get it to the latch and a near-silent electric motor will bring it home. Inside is a beautifully handcrafted interior. A substantial centre console houses a big screen for the sat-nav, television, digital and terrestrial radios, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and information about the car, including ride height.
In our car, the seats are both heated and cooled ($1859), with an optional $2030 heater caressing your neck for cold-day-top-down drives. If you're feeling sore after a bumpy night on the private jet, the massage function that comes with the seat ventilation will help ease your tension, if only a little.
Active dampers allow you to select one of five programs, or you can just hit the Sport button. You can also raise the ride height for low-speed manoeuvres and speed bumps, the car remembering to lower again once you reach 80km/h. The fitout is near faultless. You can sneer at the A3 indicator stalks all you like, but you'd only know where they were from if you were a) a cynical journalist who thinks people care about this stuff or b) if one of the servants gets around in the source vehicle and gave you a lift somewhere once.
The eight-speed automatic can be left to its own devices in normal or Sport mode or you can choose to do some work by shifting with the exquisite matte-black finished paddles or the wrong-way-round Audi-sourced shift lever. Stick with the paddles, they're lovely to the touch and work perfectly.
The Bentley GT Convertible is the drop-top version of the company's now legendary Continental Coupe. The roof can be optioned in a number of fabrics, but this multi-layer, metallic dark grey (a $4195 option) design suited the deep black of the bodywork. At this price level, anything but a glass rear window in the soft top just wouldn't do, so it is, of course, heated as well.
With the top down, the proportions are lengthy, certainly and it is a high-hipped car. Rear seat passengers, while comfortably accommodated, sit deep in the shell. Forward of the A pillar, it's all Continental, so from the dead ahead, it's hard to tell you're in the convertible. It's a polarising design and is similar to its predecessor, so previous owners won't feel too left out of the party.
Inside is trimmed in basically whatever you want. The materials are stunning, right down to the vestigial organ stop-style vent controls. The smell of the Bentley cabin is almost intoxicating - the leather soft and supple, everything is beautiful to the touch.
The Continental is bristling with safety features, as one would expect from the VW Group. Six airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, active cruise control, brake force distribution and reversing camera.
The 6.0-litre engine is configured in the VW Group's curious W formation. Three banks of four cylinders - it's really a V8 with another four cylinder strapped to it - make the W. Two turbos are along for the ride. All of this considerable hardware produces a heady 460Kw and 800Nm of torque.
The all-wheel drive system is another piece from the VW's armory and the ubiquitous eight speed ZF gearbox also does duty handling the massive power and torque loads. Under the body is an active damping system that can also raise or lower the height of the car by 25mm. There are five suspension tunes available, but not even the sportiest will cause undue stress in the cabin.
Someone has put a lot of thought into one tiny detail. Step into the car, let the door close and press the starter button. There's short whirr, something you'd expect from either a race car or an aeroplane. It's almost entirely unlikely there's a technical reason for this and if there were, the Bentley engineers could have made it silent.
The whirr lets you know that the big, 12-cylinder heart of this engine is about to burst into life. It does so without histrionics and settles into the smoothest of idles. This isn't a car you'd expect to be particularly easy to drive. The corners are all high set, so while you can see the forward edges of the car, you can't see beyond them, particularly down to the sides.
But it is tremendously easy to drive. In traffic, with everything set to Comfort, it's a wafter. You just need to wave your toe at the throttle and the 800Nm of torque will get things rolling quietly and smoothly. Part of the trick of this car is that it looks huge, but it really isn't. You could never accuse it of being small, no, but it's not gargantuan either.
The seats are unbelievably comfortable and adjustable and every direction, as is the steering wheel. Getting comfortable is easy and you can set a memory for your position.
Press the button - whirr, whoofle - and the W12 comes to life and falls almost silent. You could be driving anything - despite being low-set and with the convertible roof knocking a few more units of visibility out of your sightlines, the GTC is easy to get around in, even with its gigantic wheels.
The real fun, though, is dropping the hammer. In Sport mode the exhaust emits an angry snarl, the nose lifts a tiny bit and you are slung ever onward in a seemingly endless rush of power. The eight speed fires home the gears smoothly - we've never found a fault with this transmission and in the Bentley, we still can't - and there's barely a let-up in forward progress.
The sheer presence of the GTC clears the way ahead, in true plutocrat express style. One often wonders if the car weighed a few hundred kilos less whether you'd need a pilot's licence - the all-wheel drive would keep you nicely planted and you'd be baiting a number of track day warriors into the bargain the car would be so fast.
Despite its 2500kg heft (45kg of which is paint), the GTC handles beautifully. While it does tend to understeer, you really, really have to be asking a lot of the chassis for it to come to that. The grip from the huge 21-inch rims and 275/35 tyres ensure epic performance and roadholding no matter what the conditions.
With wheels this big, you'd expect at an atrocious ride, but part of the enormous heft of the GTC is taken up with active air suspension. It's not only able to change the ride height but it also tips the car into corners while smoothing out the horrors of Sydney roads.
But hustling feels a bit wrong in the Continental, the Convertible especially. Floating around taking in the world around you, which is obviously closer to you when roofless, is a pleasure all its own.
$182,380 - $209,660