Bentley Continental GTC
When the convertible version of the Continental GT was unveiled at the New York Auto Show in April 2006 it was stated by Bentley Motors that this was their third step in their new product and segment strategy. First step had been the introduction of the Bentley Continental GT Coupé, soon to be followed by the launch of the 4-Door-Saloon Bentley Continental Flying Spur. Sales of the ‘big’ sized Bentley Arnage Saloons plus a few of these that were stretched to Limousine-dimensions were considered as sufficient, too. In the lucrative market segment of luxury motor cars the combined sales of rivals like Rolls-Royce Phantom and Maybach didn’t reach the sales figure of the ‘big’ Bentley.
From the very start orders poured in for the new convertible. That was a well-deserved result reflecting Bentley had done their homework carefully indeed. Although the Bentley Continental GT Coupé had offered all the benefits of an impressively well-designed basis it had been a demanding task to develop a convertible that would be on a par in performance and handling – and would meet or exceed all the self-esteemed standards as regards a torsional rigid top-less car. To design the coupe’s coachwork had been less difficult, because on that one the roof as an integral part of the structure provided stiffness to the chassis. Steel reinforcements to the sills plus additional cross braces that run beneath the cabin were the engineers’ solution. The package was extended to include the use of steel tubing in the A-post and windscreen surround. A major task was to remove unwanted resonance, too. To achieve that improvements were made to the mounting of the rear subframe – and there had been need for work in that area anyway in order to gain the room to be able to stow the folded roof. The soft fabric roof is operated electro-hydraulically and the rather complicated mechanism occupied space and added weight. Summing up all the significant reinforcements etc. it was a remarkable result that the weight had risen by just 145 kg over that of the coupé body.
The layout of engine and drivetrain didn’t show any major difference from what had met with much applause on the other models: A 6.0-litre twin turbocharged W12-with a 6-speed automatic, 4-wheel drive and progressive air springs. Gear changes could be manual via either the gearlever or paddles mounted behind the steering wheel – or the transmission was left in automatic mode. Four pre-programmed suspension settings could be selected by the driver which automatically adjusted the computer-controlled shock absorbers to match driving styles that covered a range from ‘Comfort’ to ‘Sport’. With the accelerator pressed down firmly the engine’s 552 bhp/411kW propelled the car to 60mph within 4.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 195mph (312km/h). The manufacturer promised that even with the hood down the car could be driven at a top speed of a fraction above 190mph. The hood could be raised or lowered even when driving – as long as the speed didn’t exceed 20mph (ca. 30km/h).
The fact that top quality cloth had been selected for the headlining might have detracted one or the other from considering what a fine piece of engineering the construction of the folding top was on a convertible that could be accelerated to almost 200mph. However the rollover protection obviously was most advanced ‘State of the Art’. The very moment that the car’s onboard computer detected a situation that the car was about to roll during an accident, two reinforced steel hoops, installed beneath the rear headrests, were deployed in fractions of a second. In conjunction with the strong windshield frame this protected front and rear seat passengers.
Cabin space wasn’t of dimensions that allowed to talk about a roomy interior. However with sculpted new backrests of the front seats an additional 30 mm knee space was achieved in the rear. And by arranging for the centre console to finish with a veneered panel just aft of the front armrests rear space was further augmented. The convertible showed rear seats with an uninterrupted surface whereas on the coupe the centre console was running through. It was fair though to state that the convertible didn’t offer four full seats but was a true 2+2.
W12-cylinder-engine (72deg angle between two main banks, 15deg between staggered cylinders), bore x stroke 84 x 90.2 mm, capacity 5998 cc; 4 valves per cylinder, 4 overhead camshafts; Bosch Motronic digital engine control, twin Borg-Warner turbochargers, air to air intercooling, 552bhp/411KW at 6,100rpm, torque 650Nm (479lb ft) at 1600 rpm; ZF 6HP26 6-speed automatic gearbox; four-wheel drive with central Torsen differential, independent suspension front and rear; air springs, ASR electronic traction control, Bosch ESP 5.7 electronic stability program; TEVES ventilated disc brakes front 15.9in diameter (405mm) and 1.4in (36mm) thick, back 13.2in diameter (335mm) and 0.9in (22mm) thick, anti-lock device (plus HBA >Hydraulic Brake Assist< and EBD >Electronic Brakeforce Distribution<), MSR drag torque control; wheelbase 108.07in (2745mm); Overall weight 5,500lb (2,495kg); tyres 275/40R19 on 19in rims (optional 19in split rims or 275/35R20 on 20in split rim 7-spoke sports alloy wheels); max. speed 195mph (312 km/h), 0-60mph 4.8 sec (0-100km/h 5.0sec).