2016 Bentley Continental GT Review

2016 Bentley Continental GT Convertible Speed Road Test Review

 

A unique combination of ultimate luxury and supercar performance

Bentley manufactures exquisite automobiles, yet even such a rarified ultra-luxury marque needs its bread and butter product line. I'm referring to Shepherd Loaf sourdough bread and D'Artagnan white truffle butter (or Echiré if you have a simpler yet still very refined palate), of course, the Continental series, including the GT coupe, GTC and Flying Spur a respectful notch or three above more commonplace sport luxury conveyances.

The first two can be had in more available variations than other Bentleys, incidentally, the British brand offering five GT trims and four of the GTC, the Speed reviewed here at the very top of the convertible's pecking order. A number of changes occur from the GTC's most affordable V8 to the model tested, including outward and internal visuals plus modifications under the hood, the base model's robust 500 horsepower eight-cylinder replaced with a particularly potent 12 that makes an already quick four-place convertible incomprehensibly fast.

To be clear I've driven quicker cars, but I can't immediately think of one that combines the shockingly immediate response of the GTC Speed at takeoff plus its blistering pace and poise amid curves and overtaking maneuvers with such an oh-so sublime "Keep Calm and Carry On" British attitude. It would be downright anticlimactic if it weren't so utterly dumbfounding, the twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12's 626 horsepower and 607 lb-ft of torque managing standstill to 100km/h in a scant 4.3 seconds before a maximum speed of 328 km/h (204 mph), all manually controllable via new bigger, heftier steering column-mounted paddle shifters that extract everything the smooth operating yet instantly reactive eight-speed Quickshift automatic and rear-biased permanent all-wheel drive have to give; to be specific the AWD system defaults to a 40/60-split but will vary from 15/85 to 65/35 as conditions require. All this makes the GTC Speed the "world's fastest comfortable convertible", or so says Bentley.

 

Comfortable is right, not to mention completely eye-consuming. My gorgeous Glacier White on stunning Hotspur and Beluga loaner is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful cars I've driven in a very long time, something that didn't go unnoticed to passersby who inconspicuously lost their cool and stared openly, mouths agape, sometimes even pointing. Want to feel like a sports hero or rock star? This is your car, while a few of its 16 additional exterior hues will make it stand out even more.

Back to earth, what I love about the entire Bentley lineup is their total livability despite exotic classification. The GTC Speed is a car you can comfortably commute in daily, and then while on the way home snag some takeout at a curbside deli, pick up your laundry, grab a cool frappe via drive-thru, all before easily negotiating your downtown penthouse parking garage, unlike most mid-engine supercars that are mere weekend play toys due to awkward ergonomics and challenging drivability.

Yes, the GTC Speed provides a level of comfort the low-slung variety can't match, starting with one of autodom's most supportive driver's seats finished in some of the highest quality leathers made. Diamond-quilting and bold red and black colouring add a classic touch, while surrounding hides, piano black lacquered hardwoods, and bright metals immediately remind that Bentleys are not processed with the auto industry's usual cost-cutting methods, but instead labouriously handcrafted to the point that every square inch is a work of art. Of course, pretty well every feature one could imagine is integrated within the cabin, some 2016 updates including a number of new buttons, knobs and toggles, new LED illumination, additional USB ports, and revised infotainment, its electronic interfaces as good as anything available and better than most, but compared to the majority of premium cars they play more of a secondary role in the GTC.

 

Don't get me wrong as its auto climate control will keep all occupants ideally comfortable, the integrated navigation will get you where you're going accurately, and its superb audio system seems almost as powerful as its under the hood performance, but the GTC Speed's finer details are enough to make a person weak at the knees, and that's just when moving along slowly enough to take notice.

Unless you've driven a Bentley it's impossible to perceive how two and a half tonnes (5,500 lbs) can feel so light and nimble, the GTC Speed defying natural laws in its quest to provide near unflappable cornering control. Press it as hard as you dare and it quickly becomes evident there's plenty more to spare, the big Bentley an unfathomably deep reservoir of performance. Again, even at speeds that should ideally be experienced on the track, a calm composure adds confidence, wind buffeting kept to a minimum and, with quick deploying fabric roof upright, sound levels more on par with a well insulated hardtop.

No doubt aerodynamics play a role, the 2016 GTC Speed receiving a modified grille along with a new front bumper and lower fascia incorporating larger, sportier black mesh intakes, plus front and rear fenders with more pronounced flair, the former incorporating new B-shaped chromed engine vents, a redesigned composite rear deck lid finalizing in a sharper trailing edge, a reworked rear bumper that wraps a bright metal moulding completely around its backside, and a rear diffuser that's unique to the Speed, its integrated twin-oval pipes a perfect match to the oval-infused LED lighting elements above. My tester's 21-inch multi-spoke alloys are specific to the Speed too, and absolutely stunning.

 

If you're reading this with an intention to purchase, the GTC Speed's $340k base price won't be an issue. My tester was optioned out further with a heatable steering wheel, ventilated and massaging front seats, neckwarmers integrated within the front seatbacks, contrast stitching, Wi-Fi, and more for a total that passed right on by $350k. Compare it to other exotics and the GTC Speed actually represents very good value, while the respect it earns borders on reverence.

Beautiful, distinctive, rare and unbelievably capable, the Continental GT Convertible Speed combines the best of luxury grand tourers with near supercar levels of performance for an experience unlike anything else.


 

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press


Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press


Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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