Were you to be coldly dispassionate about it, you might regard the arrival of the new Bentley Continental GTC as entirely predictable and not really worth much fuss.
After all, such a convertible version followed the Grand Touring coupé last time around, and the GT coupé had a remake just under a year ago. So of course there should now be a new GTC with the same revisions.
Bentley, however, regards it as a very big deal, even though the ingredients are obvious. And why not? The Continental range of Flying Spur saloons, GTs and GTCs, is selling healthily to those seemingly touched little by the recession.
Actually, by the standards of cars for the financially brazenly unembarrassed, £149,350 is not a vast amount of money. It is under half the cost of the only open Rolls-Royce, the Phantom Drophead.
So, what's new? The changes are naturally the same as the GT's, with crisp-edged styling for the broad, seamless front wings; the wheels are set laterally further apart from each other; the suspension is modified to suit with bigger (20in or 21in) wheels, and the cabin's crisper design echoes that of the exterior.
The major change inside is the new front-seat design, which no longer carries the seatbelt fixings. So it can be slimmer and lighter despite containing a massage function and, optionally, a hot-air neck warmer. These seats contribute to a 70kg weight saving over the previous GTC, although this is still a very heavy car at 2,495kg.
It's hard not to be bemused at the length of the options list, the scope for personalisation and the size of the numbers involved. It's the entry point to a rarefied world of gratification. But even without venturing there you can luxuriate in one of the most indulgent interiors on offer today. Nothing is made of any substance other than what it looks to be made of, be it metal, wood or leather, and the fit and finish are perfection with a human touch. People made this, not machines.
As in the GT, the twin-turbocharged, 6.0-litre, W12 engine's power rises from 560bhp to 575; torque rises from 479lb/ft to 516; the six-speed automatic gearbox can execute quicker shifts, and the four-wheel drive system now sends 60 per cent of the engine's efforts towards the rear instead of being divided equally between all four wheels. So it's not surprising that when its multi-layer hood is in position, the GTC looks, feels and sounds from the inside like a GT coupé. It goes like one, too, reaching 62mph in 4.8 seconds and 100mph in 10.9. Switching to Sport mode or shifting gears manually adds drama, but it is far better to lower the roof – electro-hydraulic power does the job in 25 seconds, and you can be driving at up to 20mph while it does so – and enjoy the waft of open air. Thus aerated, the Bentley loses just 5mph from its maximum speed, so is still good for a theoretical 190mph if your hair follicles are sound. Roof-down, too, you hear better the deep exhaust growl and the fluffs and pops that accompany the gearshifts.
And there is still surprising pleasure to be had from guiding the GTC through some scenic bends. Its body structure is claimed to be the stiffest ever created for an open-top production car, and it does seem impregnable to the forces of physics. The mechanical changes certainly make it keener to point into a corner and more responsive to the interplay of power and steering once settled, but even continuously variable dampers, air suspension and giant brakes can't entirely disguise the weight.
Besides, it is part of the brand definition that a Bentley should feel heavy and substantial. That said, the official CO2 figure of 384g/km is too high for corporate comfort, so it's as well that there will soon be a 4.0-litre V8 engine of gentler thirst. For now, though, the Bentley Continental GTC is exactly the car you would expect it to be. Which, I believe, is where we came in.
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The latest variation on the DB9 is the best yet, dramatic to drive but luxuriously civilised. Hides its age well.
Maserati GranCabrio Sport: £102,615, 450bhp, 377g/km
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Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé: £332,400, 453bhp, 377g/km
Twice the Bentley price, slower and less wieldy. Makes little financial sense, but the super-rich won't care.Reuse content