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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 April 2019

The Bentley Continental GTC is a modern car with classic elegance

The car is available from the second quarter of this year at about Dh1,470,000

Dipping into VW’s development pool has also allowed Bentley to create a more luxurious and technically advanced car. Courtesy Bentley
Dipping into VW’s development pool has also allowed Bentley to create a more luxurious and technically advanced car. Courtesy Bentley

The last time Bentley launched a convertible, nearly 15 years ago, there was not much else around to challenge it on the luxury drop-top landscape but times have changed and thankfully so has the Continental GTC.

It’s fair to say that despite a midlife refresh in 2011, the previous Conti GTC was beginning to show its age when pitted against newcomers in this sector such as the Mercedes-­Maybach S65, Ferrari Portofino, Aston Martin Volante and Rolls-Royce Dawn. But now, the boot is on the other foot.

The all-new 2019 Continental GTC is a very different beast that feels far more Porsche than Rolls-Royce and there’s a good reason for that. Like the Continental GT coupe, launched last year, this ragtop iteration can thank its good family genes from parent company VW, and in particular Porsche, for making this 2,414 kilogram tourer act and behave like a car half its weight.

The new Continental GTC rides on a modular platform shared with VW’s front-engine and rear or all-wheel drive combo cars such as the Porsche Panamera, so aside from being 110 millimetres longer than the old model, it’s also 50mm wider, while the front axle has moved forward by 135mm for better weight distribution. The side effect is that it also allows it to have more rear overhang to balance out its good looks and keeps its giant, 22-inch wheels in perspective.

Despite being heavier than some seven-seat SUVs, this 2+2 convertible is 30kg lighter than its predecessor. This is because of the extensive use of aluminium superforming that uses tightly stretched heated aluminium panels. It not only saves weight, but also gives the car its distinctive ­razor-like creases and aids in its 20 per cent increased stiffness.

Dipping into VW’s development pool has also allowed Bentley to create a more luxurious and technically advanced car with a ZF eight-speed transmission fitted with Porsche’s PDK double clutch set-up to replace the ageing six-speed box, as well as driver-assist technology offered in two packages.

The City Specification includes ­traffic-sign recognition and city braking systems, while the Touring Spec consists of adaptive cruise control, head-up display and pre-sense braking. Aside from the new 626bhp, six-litre W12 bi-turbo engine introduced in the hardtop Continental GT coupe last year, it also gets its 48-volt Dynamic Ride rear anti-roll suspension, which is key to its athleticism on windy roads. Its steering is light but precise, allowing you to throw it into corners in a manner you’d never get away with in the previous model because the Dynamic Ride rear is constantly working out your next move and keeps the long rear end firmly planted.

Without the weight transfer lurches and confident in its stopping power – thanks to the largest iron brakes fitted to any production car at 420mm – the never-ending twists and turns of the Spanish coastline, where we drove it, never ruffled its feathers as it flowed gracefully, but at pace, from apex to apex.

The steering is light but precise. Courtesy Bentley 
The steering is light but precise. Courtesy Bentley 

The car is available from the second quarter of this year at about Dh1,470,000. That’s Dh420,000 more than the coupe, and for that, you get a Z-folding fabric roof that drops in 19 seconds while travelling at up to 50kmh. Bentley claims that the Z-style of folding along with improved insulation has cut interior noise by three decibels, making it quieter inside than the previous generation Continental GT coupe.

The almost complete silence inside the car and cosy cabin insulation with the roof up, plus the fact you don’t lose any boot space when the top is lowered, makes you wonder about the benefits of the heavier and more complex metal folding roofs used by some of its competitors. And while it’s 160kg heavier than the coupe, the GTC only loses 0.2 of a second for the sprint to 100kmh at 3.8 seconds but still tops out at the same 333kmh.

A wind break behind the seats means that you can barrel along a proper highway with the roof down and not be blown around inside, while heated seats, a heated centre console lid, heated steering wheel and an air curtain blowing hot air on to the back of your neck from the seats ensures that you remain toasty warm sans roof.

A wind break behind the seats helps when the roof is down. Courtesy Bentley 
A wind break behind the seats helps when the roof is down. Courtesy Bentley 

Aside from the air curtain seats, the interior remains as is from the Conti GT with all the hallmarks of real timber, leather and chrome, mixed with ambient mood lighting that includes razor-thin LED strips across the dash and down the doors into the rear where it mimics the outside’s curvy hip line.

Bentley likes to tell us it uses 712 stitches for each diamond quilted in to the seats, equating to 310,000 stitches per car. Given the high-tech gizmos now needed in modern cars, the GTC also carries 920 computers on board and somehow manages to hide eight kilometres of wiring.

Aside from the air curtain seats, the interior remains as is from the Conti GT. Courtesy Bentley
Aside from the air curtain seats, the interior remains as is from the Conti GT. Courtesy Bentley

The interior consumes 10 square metres of timber veneer that takes nine hours to install and is machined to 0.1mm thickness, while its party-trick rotating 12.3-inch infotainment screen is also carried over from the coupe as an optional extra. This feature, which is unique to Bentley, rolls the high-tech LCD screen around to reveal either three analogue dials comprising a compass, temperature gauge and stopwatch for a more classical look or just clean timber veneer.

In a way, the rotating screen best sums up the Continental GTC as a car that has leapt into the modern era with the very latest technology but hides it behind a veneer of classic elegance.

Updated: March 21, 2019 03:46 PM

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