In the British version of the English language, corporations and companies are plural. An American would say that Bentley has introduced a new Continental GTC. A Brit would say Bentley have introduced the 2012 GTC.
In this circumstance, the British form is particularly apt because Bentley builds its cars in a familial facility in the small city of Crewe, England, where robots are few and co-operating individuals are many, working their lives crafting elements of the company’s automobiles.
This is not to say that Bentleys are built by hand. They once were, but no modern automobile can be done that way any more. The requirements for safety, durability, quality, connectivity and environmental compatibility are far too stringent.
But Bentley, which sells its cars to the well-heeled and wealthy pretenders, also must justify the high prices it charges for its products. The way to do that, of course, is to infuse them with both physical quality and a certain amount of ephemeral panache.
Thus it is that the 2012 Continental GTC, the convertible version of the company’s famed sports car, boasts price tags north of $225,000, depending on the buyer’s desire for bespoke features. Bespoke is another of those British terms. An American would say they were custom.
The Bentley GTC, as with other of the company’s cars, can be customized to the point where it becomes unique. Members of the Bentley family speak proudly of flawless paint jobs and interior colors that match such things as a customer’s kitchen appliance or a child’s doll clothing.
All of that is frosting of course, including the matched, finely polished wood veneer interior trim, the finely tanned and blemish-free leather hides that go into the upholstery, the crafted metal knobs and switches (“anything that looks like metal, is metal,” they say), and the polished wood and hand-stitched leather steering wheels.
But in this category of car, it has never been enough. It also must be what the Brits would call a superior motorcar. The 2012 Bentley GTC qualifies with immense power, all-wheel drive, massive brakes, and steering and a suspension system to maneuver the GTC’s bulk, which approaches three tons with a driver and one passenger aboard.
The power plant is a 6-liter, 12-cylinder with the cylinders arranged in a W pattern, unlike the more familiar V configuration of many American V8 engines. The W12 was one of many gifts from Volkswagen of Germany, which now owns Bentley and has infused the company with money, tools and anything else it may need to compete.
In one of those curious twists of history, Germany’s BMW now owns Rolls-Royce, which once was Bentley’s fraternal twin. Though the two operate in the high luxury market, they appeal to different customers. Rolls aims at the chauffeured set while Bentley is oriented toward drivers.
The Bentley people bristle at the suggestion that the GTC is powered by a Volkswagen engine. They note that they retained only the basic architecture of the W12; everything else about it, they say, is pure Bentley.
With twin turbochargers, it delivers 576 horsepower to all four wheels though a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. It also develops 516 foot-pounds of torque, or twisting force, which enables it to accelerate to 60 miles an hour in 4.5 seconds, according to the company’s specifications. Top speed is 195 miles an hour.
Of course, that’s not going to result fuel economy to brag about. The EPA city/highway mileage rating is just 11/19 miles to the gallon and heavy-footed drivers are likely to get a lot less. However, in a nod to environmental concerns, the W12 is a flex-fuel engine that can run on up to 85% ethanol with no loss of performance, Bentley says.
The torque split has been changed to send 60% of the power to the rear wheels for better handling. Previous GTCs had a 50-50 torque split. For all but the most expert and discerning drivers, it is a distinction without much of a difference. Earlier models were no slouches in this department.
Because Bentley GTC buyers revere tradition as much as modernity, the new model is evolutionary. It has a slightly wider stance than its predecessor, with sharper lines to give it a more muscular look. Front fenders are aluminum with no weld lines, and a new trunk lid is made of a composite material so the audio and satellite antennas can be housed inside. Twenty-inch alloy wheels are standard, with 21-inchers optional.
The GTC’s top is a three-layer insulated fabric affair, fitted so tightly that there is little difference in interior ambiance between the convertible and the GT coupe. Quiet cruising is enhanced by acoustic glass. Even with the top down, it is possible to converse in normal tones at 75 miles an hour. The power top lifts in 25 seconds and lowers in about 20.
Much of the GTC’s appeal lies in its custom-designed, exquisitely-detailed interiors, which is why it was a bit of a shock to find that the sun visors did not slide on their support rods, making them ineffectual in blocking sun from the side.
- Model: 2012 Bentley Continental GTC two-door convertible.
- Engine: 6-liter W12, twin turbochargers, 576 horsepower.
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
- Overall length: 15 feet 9 inches.
- EPA passenger/trunk volume: 95/7 cubic feet.
- Weight: 5,501 pounds.
- EPA city/highway fuel consumption: 11/19 miles to the gallon.
- Base price, including destination charge: $212,800.
- Price as tested: $235,332.