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Review

FIRST DRIVE: Bentley Continental GTC car review

29/09/11

IT’S ONLY when you go barreling into a turn faster than you really should in Bentley’s Continental GTC that you realise what an accomplished piece of kit it is. After leaning hard on the brakes to scrub off speed the steering remains accurate, communicative and uncorrupted by the sudden change in direction and the presence of any mid-corner bumps.

For many this won’t be the stereotypical image of a Bentley experience, though. Wafting along at a refined pace is the usual cliché, but since the arrival of the ‘new’ Bentley range under the Volkswagen Groups’ stewardship unashamed performance and driver involvement have been key elements of the brand’s philosophy.

And this second-generation Continental GTC is yet another good example of Bentley’s confidence in its approach to making super-luxury cars. A new look inside and out to compliment the firm’s flagship Mulsanne saloon is matched by a thorough revision of suspension, transmission and engine performance.

Like the Continental GT coupe, the GTC drop-top boasts crisp exterior lines and fuss-free sheetmetal – much of it crafted using the latest manufacturing technology. Unlike the coupe it also boasts a large fabric folding roof that can be operated on the move and stows neatly behind the car’s second row of seats.

The four-seat GTC is not a small car, but now it has a wider track fore and aft to bolster its makers’ claims of an improved driving experience. Revised suspension components, retuned steering and a 40:60 power bias to the rear (previously 50:50) and a faster responding auto gearbox all result in a more agile car despite its size.

At the GTC’s core is Bentley’s familiar 6.0-litre 12-cylinder turbo petrol engine, with power going to all four wheels through a six-speed auto gearbox. Power has been upped slightly to 567bhp, while the engine’s prodigious 516lb/ft of torque is what really impresses when out on the open road, and is a major reason behind the car’s astonishing 4.5 second zero to 60mph time.

Sprinting duties aside, you also notice the snappy nature of the GTC’s gearbox, which is more responsive than of old and a beneficiary of technology found in the previous generation Supersports variant. The changes to the car’s suspension, steering and track also add genuine value to the experience, with the car delivering a more engaging experience when you’re in the mood to press on and better able to cope with road surface imperfections around town.

Mind you, with the GTC’s plush fabric roof up you’ll struggle to hear much when sat in the car’s supportive leather chairs. The overall experience is so good thanks to acoustic glass for the windows and better sound proofing that all you can hear is the distant burble from the exhaust. That’s a good thing if you want take it easy. Drop the roof and the situation changes; the exhaust’s tone becomes more urgent and it’s easy to hear the cackle and rumble when you lift of the throttle. You’re still pretty well insulated from the elements, though. With the windows up and the wind deflector in place – do this and you will loose the rear seat space, however – and fast motorway driving is never a chore, plus you can still hold a civilised conversation.

As with any Bentley the driving experience is only part of the story. The ability to personalise a car through different wood and fabric options is a key element of the ownership experience. The GTC’s simple but elegant cabin design offers plenty of potential, and to the naked eye there’s no complaints regarding the fit and finish of the various components.

The GTC’s cabin is also a modern one, with its clearly laid out controls and the dominant touch-screen sat-nav and entertainment display easy to use. This interface hides a powerful audio unit, phone and MP3 player connectivity and a fully-featured sat-nav function. You’ve also got all the safety-related mod cons plus driver adjustable suspension and a refreshingly grown up stability system that allows the you a little ‘headroom’ when you want to have some fun.

All in all this second generation GTC is a useful step forward in terms of refinement, styling and performance. The car’s evolutionary looks successfully complement the flagship Mulsanne saloon, while the available performance is staggering yet easily accessible.

With Bentley bucking the trend with its sales figures, it’s clear that the company is doing something right. It’s also pioneering technologies and processes that will eventfully find their way into other Volkswagen Group cars, which is all the proof you need that it and its new GTC have a long and productive future.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Bentley Continental GTC, from £149,350 on the road.

Engine: 6.0-litre petrol unit developing 567bhp.

Transmission: 6-speed automatic transmission as standard, driving all four wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 195mph, 0-60mph 4.5 seconds.

Economy: 17.1mpg.

CO2 Rating: 384g/km.

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power5 (high performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy2 (worse than average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats4

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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