Test Drive: The 2012 Bentley Continental GTC
It was an exciting flight to Pula, Croatia, to drive Bentley’s 2012 Continental GTC. Not long ago Croatia was engaged in a fierce war. An undiscovered landmark on the European map, it is now full of energetic tourism and is geographically one of the most extraordinary locations I have ever seen. Our stay in Rovinj at the Hotel Monte Mulini off the Adriatic Sea was a picture-perfect rendering of what one would see on Travel Channel. Croatia is also one of a few parts of the world where truffles are plentiful, and the world record for the largest truffle ever was recorded here.
On the eve of our driving tour through the country, the Bentley staff opened the floor to its chairman and CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer, who introduced the second generation Continental GTC and briefed us on the company’s positive outlook and growth with great passion and vigor. Since driving the $212,800 super convertible, I can truly relate to his enthusiasm. It is open-top luxury redefined.
Under the Hood
It has been five years since the first GTC launched, so you can imagine the amount of new technology and sophistication instilled into the new vehicle. The formula begins with a 6-liter, twin-turbocharged W12 engine with 567 horsepower and 516 lb.-ft. of torque available up to 2,000 rpm. W.O. Bentley, founder of the British motoring company, came from a railroad engineering background and preferred powerful, unstressed, high-capacity engines. The company is still keen on that philosophy, though an 8-cylinder will soon be on the way and will afford Bentley a better marketing position to attract new customers.
The GTC’s rapid acceleration capability was evident when we needed to pass several slower moving vehicles on open roads. Like tennis phenomenon Serena Williams, the engine to vehicle size combination is powerful, quick and a bit intimidating (as well as charming and tranquil). When it comes to fuel efficiency, it is possible to achieve 11 city mpg and 19 highway mpg in the GTC, which can also operate on ethanol (though mileage will decline somewhat). Full-time all-wheel drive is standard, as is the new QuickShift transmission (borrowed from Bentley’s Supersports models) that allows for double downshifts. Track width has been increased and available 21-inch wheels provide a dominant stance. A programmable air suspension and adjustable springs (comfort or sport) allows the driver to manipulate the vehicle’s ride quality to his or her liking. Additionally, 0 to 60 mph clicks off in 4.5 seconds—similar to some of your favorite two-door sports cars.
Form Follows Function
Overall the 5,501-pound GTC is 150 pounds lighter, three-tenths of a second faster and structurally stiffer than its predecessor. Its lines are more distinctive and flowing, inlcuding a new front fascia. My favorite color combination is the granite gray exterior and merlot soft-top (seven-bow construction, three fabric layers) with a matching leather cabin. It is wondrous. The interior offers the availability of 17 various hides and seven unique veneers. And as Bentley would say, “Everything that looks like metal is metal.” (For example, the dandy organ stops that control the vents.) The four-seater luxury convertible is quite comfortable up front thanks to new seat designs with a massage function and an integrated neck warmer. They are also narrower, allowing for additional rear legroom. The back-seat spacing is the only qualm I have, since an adult would be cramped over long periods of time.
I plugged in my iPhone and let the bass vibrate through the high-end Naim audio system. A convertible must have powerful sounds and this one does, employing defense technology utilized for helicopter sound deadening. Google Earth enhances the eight-inch navigation touch screen, so there was no chance of getting lost in a foreign country. (I was amazed by the detailed graphics.) The second set of “turn by turn” instructions that appear in a micro window over the steering wheel is a definite plus, and all of the vehicle’s key operations can be set by touch on the new screen. It is good to see Bentley advancing into the world of connectivity, which it has previously seemed to ignore. The Mulsanne Executive Interior Concept with its video conferencing, multiple iPads and Mac Mini could be the ultimate technology link.
Back on the road, time moved slowly as I took in the beauty of the region and the exquisiteness of the car. If I were to deliver a discourse on the new Continental GTC, it would go something like this:
The Winged B: Its immense merits are sure to leave an inspirational imprint on the entire luxury market. Simply put, it is fluent in excellence.
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