What It’s Like to Drive the New Bentley Continental GT Convertible

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In a world awash in supercars, you might wonder what car data really matters anymore. So what if this Bentley boasts a 626-horsepower, twelve-cylinder engine? So what if it’s a rare breed—an all-wheel-drive convertible, one capable of 207 mph and sprints to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds? Who cares that it seats four people, and with a reasonably sized trunk, too?

 

But rather than singling out the appetizer from the main course, it’s the entire meal that matters. This is a Bentley, and the beauty of this car is something you can’t rack up to a single statistic or data point: It drives beautifully and effortlessly, especially on winding roads that aren’t ultra-tight.

Bentley knew precisely what they were creating with this car. They didn’t try to make it Ferrari sporty. They didn’t even try to make it Mercedes AMG brutish. In the Andalusian countryside of southern Spain, we tested the Continental GT over gorgeous, serpentine, but also frequently pocked asphalt, and even though we spent eight hours behind the wheel, we emerged barely mussed.

That’s impressive, but is the Continental GT Convertible perfect? Not quite. For the fine print, keep reading.

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Gravity is a Beast

Our full-throated endorsement notwithstanding, some numbers about this new Bentley that do matter include its weight—5,322 pounds—and the size of its massive iron brake rotors, which at 16.5 inches front, 15 inches rear, are the largest ever on a production car. Think: The brake rotors on this behemoth are larger than the wheels on many plebeian econoboxes. And that first digit is also nearly double the heft of the smallest fuel sippers on American roads. Do some basic physics and you realize that a lot of mass likes to stay in motion, or something like that, and when that mass is a Continental GT Convertible flying toward an apex at 80 mph, you need a lot of power to slow it down. So at times the ragtop Bentley could be overmatched by the tightest roads. Loading up the front wheels of the baller Convertible ahead of any apex without slowing first meant significant understeer and waiting, and waiting some more, and eventually gaining back enough grip to complete the turn just before running out of pavement.

A far smarter approach was to keep those brakes toasty by decelerating very hard before the turn, easing off, and steering. Speaking of the latter, there’s not a ton of feel to the tiller. We knew there was 22-inch rubber gripping the road somewhere out there, but it felt just a bit too remote. That’s a slight bummer, but not a deal breaker. It’s also an understandable compromise for such a massive vehicle.

Bentley is owned by the sprawling VW Group, which includes Audi, Bugatti, and also Porsche. But Bentley didn’t want to make a Porsche clone. This car rides on an air suspension, and it has an obvious priority for comfort. It can get sporty, but the goal was clearly a firm, but not rigid ride for all passengers, and the automaker positively nailed that.

Another way to think about it: VW Group doesn’t want to eat its own. A Porsche buyer and a Bentley buyer might be the same customer, and making certain that their cars drive differently is just intelligent branding.

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Baubles of Beauty

Might we add that no Porsche on earth has quilted leather seats like this? Or, really, no car does, because when you combine all four perches the hand labor amounts to over 310,000 stitches and an astonishing 1.7 miles of thread per car. Just numbers, right? Wrong. As any decent tailor will explain to you, thread, properly sewn, leads to pliability and breathability. High thread-count sheets are less coarse; they’re like a second skin. And the seats in the Bentley are like the finest furniture. On top of that, they offer heating, cooling, and massage functions. We couldn’t find an uncomfortable position, period.

We’d be remiss to not mention the lid, too. It opens and closes in 19 seconds and is deployable at speeds up to 30 mph, which is handy if it starts to sprinkle just as you’re crawling away from a stoplight. But more saliently, this roof fits exceptionally tight. With the top closed, the new Bentley Continental GT Convertible is as quiet inside as a metal-roofed car. And despite Brexit woes, Bentley hasn’t lost its Britannia mojo, meaning there are seven beautiful colors of top on offer (including an option to have the lid made of tweed—ideally to match that hunting sport coat you might wear while cruising). That said, you’ll likely only need a sweater, because those excellent seats also come with venting just behind your neck that blows toasty air. It’ll come in handy when driving with the roof down in chilly Scotland (or up Highway 1 in Carmel).

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Aspen Dreamin’

California is exactly the kind of place where Bentley is likely to sell most of these convertibles: The company predicts two-thirds of all Continental GTs sold in the U.S. will be in cloth-top guise. That’s probably a good guess. Bentley sales have topped 10,000 worldwide since the Great Recession, largely on the back of the Bentayga SUV. But if you want something different, a semi-pragmatic convertible is quite appealing. And don’t forget that the GT’s all-wheel-drive will stretch the market well beyond the Sunbelt. Why not tool around Aspen and après in your Continental cloth-top? For that, you’ll have to wait until the second half of the year, when the Bentley Continental GT Convertible goes on sale.

[Starting at $236,100; bentleymotors.com]

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