Engine: 6-litre, 12 cylinders
Performance: 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds, 195 mph top; 16mpg
Worth considering: Aston Martin DB9 Volante; Porsche 911 Convertible; Morgan Aero 8
'Does that car belong to a footballer?" Not often that I get my opening line from a 10-year-old, but my neighbour's son summed up the appeal and image of the Bentley motor car.
Like it or not, the "baby Bentley" is favoured by premiership footballers, not least because they can afford it. There are 20 premiership teams and, given an average squad of about 30, that makes around 600 chaps with the wherewithal to buy the latest automotive thing. Or things, as they often run a little fleet, including one or two motors for WAGs. That accounts for a good proportion of the UK's £100,000-plus car market.
Their tastes vary. A bit. Porsches are also liked, Range Rovers, too, plus the usual Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Mercs and BMWs. Even the odd outrageous Cadillac or Lincoln SUV. However, the overwhelming characteristic of today's petrol-headed, golden-booted footie star is that they love new toys. So the purveyors of posh motors like to be able to offer a little novelty, to attract the keen eye of the super-rich sporting neophile.
Hence the Bentley Continental GTC. Essentially the same as the standard Continental GT Coupé, it was a logical development and a welcome one, and freshens the range's appeal. It boasts the stiffest chassis of any comparable new convertible, they say, a testament to the firm's engineers and the key to the car's relatively agile, controlled behaviour – that is, for its bulk (going on for two and half tons). Also a good, risqué, line to drop at the nightclub, I should think.
Bentley's business strategy is to take its two core models – the Continental and the grander Arnage, and build as many variations on these themes as it can. Thus, for each model there is now, or will soon be, a saloon, coupé and convertible, plus some individualised and extra-fast, "Speed", variants. All, no doubt, destined for a VIP car park at a stadium near you. (Apparently SUVs and estates are ruled out.)
As it happens, I think the footballer connection doesn't do Bentley any harm, just as it doesn't hurt, say, Range Rover or Ferrari. True, there are some snobs around, and it might offend them that someone who happens to make a very good living out of sport drives the same car, but if I happened to own the same vehicle as Didier Drogba or Wayne Rooney or Rio Ferdinand, I'd count myself in fine company. After all, these men know all about success, about performance, and, yes, about expensive cars. That's why 10-year-old boys admire them, and the cars that they drive. Me, too.
Andrew Dixon, 35, Hospital consultant from Leicester
Current car: Audi A4 Avant
This car enjoys a road presence unsurpassed by anything, with its distinctive grille and twin xenon lights that spread light like a red carpet. It is ostentatious as only a Bentley can be, promoted further by the fact that it's a drop top. However, press the start button and the six-litre W12 roars to life with the ferocity of a summer storm. The sound makes any petrolhead give the look of squinted eyes, pursed lips and a slow nod, as if angels are massaging them. The car is Jekyll and Hyde, capable of almost 200mph and delivering torque beyond belief. It only manages 16mpg, but if you need to ask how much it is (£140,000), you probably can't afford one.
Jon Auty, 32, Forensic psychologist from Leicester
Usual car: Vauxhall Meriva
Immediately, the Bentley felt comfortable and after five minutes my nerves subsided and the enjoyment began. The car proved a comfortable place to wait behind tailbacks or overtake caravans; sport mode was not necessary, but fun! If anything, I experienced too much attention, ranging from aggressive challenges (with boy racers attempting to cajole me into racing) and envious comments when parked. My two-year-old-son thought "Daddy's new car" was the best thing. The one disappointment was the steering wheel which felt plastic and hollow. I think I should now drive its competitors for a more accurate frame of reference – any offers?
Riz Pervez, 33, Regional trainer from Leicester
Usual car: Audi A6,
The Bentley has class, elegance, style, and comfort, incredible speed, handling and performance. It was easy to drive, and the controls were simple to use. Despite its size and shape the visibility was excellent and for a two-door convertible the rear space was, too – it comfortably seated two average-sized adults. The hood mechanism was poetry in motion. The drive was effortless, the gear changes swift and not even noticeable. The GTC is extremely thirsty, but if one could afford the car then the fuel costs would not matter. The only aspect I did not like was the wooden steering wheel; with the roof down in the hot weather I found my hands slipping a little.
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