Bentley GTC: Cruise missile

By Alastair Sloane

Bentley identified heritage cues they wanted to stand out in the new car. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Bentley identified heritage cues they wanted to stand out in the new car. Photo / Ted Baghurst

The Bentley design team borrowed from the same styling standard it used for the second-generation Continental GT coupe when it set out to shape the soft-top Continental GTC: when there's nothing more to take away, the look of the car is complete. Or, less is more.

Its stylists had 90-odd years of convertible heritage to call upon when they began shaping the first-generation GTC around 10 years ago.

Bentley had been making open tourers since the 1920s, some built to race at Le Mans, others to compliment the lifestyles of the rich and famous in Monte Carlo and Cannes.

The first-generation GTC went public in 2005. Experienced observers said it was a tribute to everything Bentley: powerful, fast, exciting but all the while oozing a British sense of occasion and charm.

They are saying the same thing about the second-generation GTC that broke cover last year and has just landed in New Zealand, priced from $445,000.

It occupies a rare place in the world of Bentley. The design is so set in stone that senior designer Robin Page admits the stylists set out to treat the look of the new two-door soft-top with kid gloves.

It is based on the all-wheel-drive 2010 second-generation GT coupe, a design that Bentley didn't change much from the 2003 first generation model.

Don't fiddle with it, said existing owners. A tweak here and there, they said, a bit more room in the back seat, more storage space, the latest technology ... that'll do nicely.

Bentley did as it was told. GT and GTC owners were an influential sounding board. How influential? Between 1919 and 2003 Bentley sold 16,000 cars worldwide, or an average of 190 cars a year.

But since 2003 Bentley has sold more than 25,000 GTs and GTCs. Put another way, it sold more of one model in nine years than it sold of its entire range in 84 years.

The GTC is simply a soft-top version of the GT, heavier because of the soft-top mechanics but with perhaps a richer heritage. It has the same subtle lines from Bentley heritage models like the 1952 R-Type Continental."

Back then, Bentley craftsmen made panels by hand, handbeating creases and curves that defined elegance. Such handiwork was later lost. But modern technology and its ultra-fine tolerances has enabled Bentley to recreate the old-time fine lines.

Stylists identified three heritage cues they wanted to stand out in the new car: lines over the front wheel arch, near the hinged front door, and over the car's rear haunches.

"We wanted strong graphic lines to tighten the body, give the car more of a ripped, taut look, one that was lacking in the first GT," says Page.

One feature Page particularly likes is the 3mm blanket of foam under the car's leather interior - seats, dash, door panels, the lot.

It makes the soft-touch leather even softer. "It's under all surfaces," he says. "We didn't do it on the original GT. It's expensive and time-consuming - but it was worth it."

Like the GT, the GTC has the heart of hustler, its twin-turbo 6-litre W12 engine delivering 423kW and 700Nm and driving all four wheels through a six-speed transmission.

The twin-turbo bites hard under the throttle, sending the 2.5-tonne car hurtling forward at a speed that belies its bulk.

The all-wheel-drive system splits torque 60:40 towards the rear to minimise understeer. The previous GTC had a 50:50 bias.

Bentley has made a concession to fuel use and the environment. The GTC can run on standard unleaded petrol and sustainable bioethanol, or a mix of the two.

A new, cleaner V8 engine from Audi is due later this year.

The V8 will start in price at $375,000

- NZ Herald

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