Wednesday 25th November 2020
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First drive: Bentley Continental GTC V8. Image by Bentley.

First drive: Bentley Continental GTC V8
The smaller engine is the greater engine when it comes to the glorious Bentley Continental GTC.

 



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Bentley Continental GT Convertible V8

5 5 5 5 5

If you're one of these 'one-percenters' or 'high net-worth individuals' that we've heard so much about, and you want the finest grand tourer that any amount of money can buy, look no further. With a V8 engine fitted, the Bentley Continental GT Convertible is approaching perfection on such a vector that, if it doesn't quite attain such an impossible status, nevertheless comes incredibly, incredibly close indeed to achieving it. This is a sublime example of luxury goods and, dare we say it, peerless in the exalted realm in which it operates.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Bentley Continental GT Convertible V8
Pricing: GTC V8 from 167,000, car as tested 208,295
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: active all-wheel drive, eight-speed ZF dual-clutch automatic
Body style: two-door prestige convertible GT
CO2 emissions: 260g/km (VED Band Over 255: 2,175 first 12 months, then 475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 23.3mpg
Top speed: 198mph
0-62mph: 4.1 seconds
Power: 550hp at 5,750rpm
Torque: 770Nm at 1,960-4,500rpm
Boot space: 235 litres

What's this?

A Bentley Continental GT Convertible, or GTC in shorthand, only one that has been downsized in terms of motive power. It's a move which Bentley has performed many a time before, of course, so don't be disappointed that the 635hp 6.0-litre W12 engine has been disposed of in favour of a 550hp 4.0-litre V8: it's something which has already happened within the ranks of the Bentayga SUV range and it has worked wonders there, while the second-gen Conti GTC had a V8 - two, in fact, if you also count the rambunctious V8 S derivative - to go with the W12 and Speed twins. Indeed, even though the only remaining vehicle in the current Bentley portfolio, namely the thoroughly regal Flying Spur, has yet to perform the drop in cylinder count itself, the fact there was a V8 Spur previously suggests it won't be long before this 4.0-litre biturbo unit makes its way into Bentley's four-door limousine.

Not that the Crewe marque gives you much in the way of telltale signs that this is somehow the 'lesser' Conti GTC. Apart from four oval tailpipes and subtle 'V8' badges on the front wings of the car, it looks identical to the W12 model; and the same goes for the interior, which is utterly divine from multi-layered, fast-folding fabric hood down to the deep-pile carpets. All of the grandiose theatre and exquisite craftsmanship that you'd expect of a Benters is present and correct in the GTC V8, and it helps that our UK test example had about the most perfect of perfect colourway specifications inside and out. However, it doesn't really matter in which hue you have your secondary hide finished nor which paintjob you go for on the Continental's shapely flanks, the car looks tremendous from any angle you care to view it.

How does it drive?

Since the new Conti, launched in 2018, switched to the MSB platform of the Porsche Panamera, it has lost the hefty feeling of the Continental GTs of old and replaced it with a lissom sportiness at odds with its two-point-something-tonne kerb weight. But if there's the option to hack a bit more ballast out of the package, without sacrificing its unstinting levels of comfort and refinement, why wouldn't you go for it?

You lose 79kg from the front end of the Conti GTC by opting for the V8 instead of the W12. You also forego 85hp and 130Nm of torque, which means you can no longer crack 200mph (207- plays 198mph) nor the four-second barrier for the 0-62mph dash (3.9 versus 4.1 seconds), if such things matter in the slightest (hint: they don't). High-end buyers can also save 12,500 by picking the 2.0-litre-smaller motor, although 12,500 is neither: a) as much as we thought the price difference between V8 and W12 would be, nor b) of any interest whatsoever to someone who can afford to fling 150,000-plus at a convertible.

What you do gain with the 4.0-litre biturbo variant, though, are three things, two of them subjective matters and one of them which is clearly quantifiable. The first two characteristics are improved handling manners, thanks to a sharper front end with keener turn-in, and a soundtrack to die for; seriously, Bentley might be planning a new, more focused GTC V8 S at some point in the future but it's hard to see how they could make the noise of it any more gratifying than this 550hp Conti. It snarls and gargles at all the right times, dropping back into subdued discretion when you want it to and bellowing its heart out through a fantastic exhaust system when you don't. The W12's somewhat flat, hissy voice doesn't stand a chance in comparison.

The demonstrable metric is cruising range, something that's a key part of the romantic grand tourer ideal of crossing continents in one sophisticated hit. If you actually do want to fling some expensively tailored luggage into the fairly decent 235-litre boot and install a glamorous partner of your choosing in the sumptuous front passenger seat, and then head off to the South of France via Germany, the Ukraine and maybe bits of Tuscany on the return, then fuel range becomes a motivating purchase issue. It's not that the V8 GTC will do 40 to the gallon; it won't, and Bentley itself only claims 23.3mpg combined - not that far in advance of the W12's quoted 20.2mpg. But that means on its 90-litre/19.8-gallon tank, the Conti V8 GTC will cover as much as 462 miles between fill-ups. It has cylinder deactivation, too, which makes the 4.0-litre run as a four-pot mill when there's low demand on the engine, and this feature would seem to work in reality. On a long motorway run back from Harrogate, one of the places where the Continental GTC looks right at home, the Bentley turned in 28.6mpg. That's just remarkable economy from something so big, heavy and plush as this, it truly is.

And travelling in the Continental GTC V8 is unmitigated bliss from start to finish. There's not a situation where it feels out of its depth or even the remotest bit flustered. It manages to ramp up the sportiness quotient from the W12 version, itself no slouch in the corners, so that it comes across as capable, engaging and enjoyable when you decide to chuck it about, rather than hefty, wallowing and a bit terrifying as some GTs can feel. Bentley's three driving modes, of Comfort, Bentley and Sport, all offer markedly different characters as they adjust the settings of the electrically assisted steering, three-chamber air suspension and throttle response from the mighty V8 engine, yet none of the modes have any facets of their make-up which makes them unusable, or indeed fallible, on British tarmac. The gearbox is a flawless gem, while traction is unimpeachable no matter what the conditions. And, with that rumbling symphony coming from under the vast expanse of the Bentley's bonnet, accompanied so ably by the quad pipes at the back of the Conti, if anything it's the V8 model which grants its occupants the more thrilling sensation of speed, more so than the demure W12.

Yet the Continental GTC's undoubted star showing amidst this glistering firmament is its impeccable refinement. If you're going to go grand tourer, go convertible, because it just adds to the magical experience of one of these things going about its cultured business. The Bentley's roof looks great in place and makes the cabin as quiet as one of those mysterious entities known as libraries, and this counts as much at city speeds as it does when the car is rolling along at 70mph, but it's every bit as comfortable and rewarding being onboard the Conti with the top folded away. Heaters in the massaging seats include neck-warmers, while the wheel can also increase its temperature too, but the way the cabin is designed means that blustering within is kept to the barest minimum, even with all the windows down. The ride comfort, though, is second to none in the business and only matched by the R***s-R***e Dawn's (asterisks author's own) effort; that's a vehicle which is 33 per cent more expensive again than even an optioned-up GTC V8, we might remind you. Talking of which, the Bentley's ride deserves additional credit for its sublime grace, given our test car had the 11,580 Mulliner Driving Specification fitted which brings in 22-inch wheels on 35- and 30-section tyres (front and rear respectively). Honestly, the way the Continental can just glide imperiously along has to be experienced to be believed.

So there's really nothing to fault. Seriously; we can't think of anything. And that's also why we can't recommend any other grand tourer over and above the Bentley. Ferrari Portofino? As Roy Walker used to say, that answer is 'good but it's not right'. Lexus LC 500 Convertible? It is a mark of immense pride for the Japanese company that the LC can deservedly mix it in this particular company, but nice though the interior of the Lexus is (don't talk about the infotainment controller, though), it can't hope to match the opulence of the Continental GTC's passenger compartment. The LC-C is a lot cheaper, mind, and the outside looks fabulous. What about the Aston Martin DB11 Volante? Hmm, gorgeous to behold but the cabin is not a patch on the Bentley's and we'd say the chassis/drivetrain of the Aston isn't as impressive, either. Porsche 911 Cabriolet? Now you're just being silly, aren't you?

Verdict

Perfection is a dangerous word to use in relation to anything, because - technically speaking - perfection ought to be impossible for humanity to attain. Bentley's engineers, though, have had a bloody good go with the majestic Continental GTC V8. A stunning machine which only improves with a (marginally) smaller engine, we cannot think of a single thing which we can reasonably criticise this elegant four-seater for. Sure, as tested, the GTC was 208,000-plus; but never has two-hundred grand seemed such a modest asking price for, well... anything, really.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 30 Sep 2020









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2020 Bentley Continental GTC V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Continental GTC V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Continental GTC V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Continental GTC V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Continental GTC V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.

2020 Bentley Continental GTC V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Continental GTC V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Continental GTC V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Continental GTC V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.2020 Bentley Continental GTC V8 UK test. Image by Bentley.








 

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