For the latest classic car news, features, buyer’s guides and classifieds, sign up to the C&SC newsletter here
The Bentley Continental GT Convertible means very different things to different generations.
For some it’s a commanding, stately cruise liner, for others it’s one of the fastest cars in the world, and for others still it means Premier League car parks – for better or worse.
But what rings true across the various carriers of the badge is the ability to serenely defy its size with such an ease of speed.
Even this latest incarnation of the 70-year-old name is a long-lived model, launching as long ago as 2002, and inevitably it has been refreshed in its nearly 20 years.
This third-generation GT Convertible has certainly dated the original from the turn of the millennium, and has fully shaken off those connotations: like the best footballers, the Conti has only got better with age.
It’s more muscular in shape, more defined with sharper lines.
The sheer size is inescapable, at not much short of 5m long, but beneath that wide nose is a twin-turbo 6-litre W12 that calmly slips out 625bhp.
And an astonishing 664lb ft of torque, making for rapid yet effortless progress. Push higher up the rev range and the low rumble is traded for a growl, underlining the potential to carry its heft from rest to 60mph inside four seconds and on past 200mph.
So seamless is it that low speeds are almost a challenge because it never feels as if it is going fast at all, which makes the head-up display a handy – and probably licence-saving–device.
Bentley says the Convertible is as quiet as the coupé, and you don’t doubt it.
But for the noise from the thin Pirellis that wrap the vast 22in rims it would be eerily silent, even at the national speed limit.
The handling hasn’t been affected, either. Indeed, Autocar reckons that, £15,000 saving aside, there’s no reason to buy the coupé over the drop-top.
After all, roof-down motoring in a car with so little intrusion from the elements could well be a price worth paying.
Boot space is compromised to accommodate the roof, but more than enough remains for those Continental tours for which the car is so evidently perfect.
The cabin is perhaps a little gauche, but boy is it luxurious. And infinitely customisable, to the extent that few will leave Crewe exactly the same – despite Bentley announcing recently that it had just made the 80,000th example since ’02.
In each, the two-tone leather defines softness on faultless seats – and goes some way to explaining the house-price cost.
The centre console rotates to offer what Bentley calls ‘a digital detox’, where the big touchscreen is swapped for auxiliary dials set in walnut to give a look that’s more speedboat than GT. In anything else it would be a gimmick.
The Continental’s classic status was never really in doubt, such is the absolute quality. From build to performance, it remains a benchmark.
Images: Stan Papior/Bentley
- Engine twin-turbo 5950cc W12; 626bhp @ 6000rpm; 664lb ft @ 1350-4500rpm
- Transmission ZF eight-speed dual-clutch auto, AWD
- 0-62mph 3.7 secs
- Top speed 207mph
- Mpg 20.2
- Price £175,900
How the other half lived: Bentley MkVI vs Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire 346