Review Bentley Continental GT ConvertibleFebruary 26, 2019
By the release of its third generation Bentley Continental GT has become a familiar part of the landscape of Russian major cities and the Moscow region highway. We see almost one coupe, while the convertible accounts for more than 40 percent of the model’s global sales. Maybe we have not tasted something?
It would be convenient to hide behind the sleek language of a typical glossy magazine and call the new Continental GT Convertible one of the best luxury convertibles in the world. But nothing will come of it: there are not enough models in this niche for the fingers of one hand, and no other than the best ones, in principle there is none.
Letting go of the veteran Maserati GranCabrio to the well-deserved rest, we find only two formal competitors of Bentley: the more expensive Rolls-Royce Dawn and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class convertible. Should you wish for more rivals if you are opposed by these two?
Both the design and the engineering part of the flawlessly British car are again the responsibility of two Germans: design director Stefan Zilaff and Dr. Werner Tietz, who oversee the engineering direction on the board of directors. However, about how they are Germans, one can argue. Tietz can immediately be taken as 100.00% – his photo should be placed in explanatory dictionaries with an illustration to the word “engineer”. In Bentley, he moved after seven years in Porsche, which was preceded by 18 years in Audi.
Zilaff is a different matter. He also managed to work in Audi and even defined design vectors at the level of the entire Volkswagen group, reporting directly to De Silva. It would seem that his transition to Bentley is a routine history for the concern: Volkswagen adopted a horizontal rotation of personnel. For example, Luke Donkervolke, before being lured to Genesis, managed to work as a chief designer at Lamborghini, then at Seat, then at Bentley.
However, since childhood Zilaff has been a fan of British culture, he graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and now fulfilled his dream: he is the design director of a glorious English luxury brand. So he can stay in Crew. On the official evening, Stefan wears a cravat instead of a tie, a jacket with a touch of pure Italian negligence with a perfectly chosen handkerchief in his pocket, monks on his feet and Panerai on his wrist. On the second day, he already has a dandy vest, green chinos, topsiders, and a tachometer chronograph. And let Zilaff speak in English with an accent, he is no longer as German as the Nordic Werner Tietz.
Do we have a test of a 635-strong gig or gossip here ?! The feeling of deja vu is exacerbated by the repetition of the joke “I wonder who thought it was” about the stitches: there are 310 675 stitches in each machine, 712 for each embroidered diamond.
Cabriolets and roadsters are deprived from birth of the same bright personality that the coupe has. The roofline creates a silhouette and character – and makes the Mercedes SLS the master of proportions, and the F-type gives the Jaguar the unique balance of brutality and elegance that only Jason Statham in a tail coat can match. As soon as they are deprived of roof, individuality and charisma are divided into two.
Alas, the silhouettes of most convertibles are the same (in the case of low-cost front-wheel-drive openers, the silhouette is generally too loud). Here and Continental GT, devoid of the roof, ceases to be a fastback, the embodiment of the modern classic Bentley.
Yet the GT Convertible is far from its predecessor. His front overhang was noticeably shorter, and the rear longer. At the same time, the “prestige distance” significantly increased from the base of the A-pillar to the axis of the front wheel. It seems that now a real V12 could easily fit under the hood, and not its finely chopped W-shaped imitation. The silhouette of a convertible with a raised top is accentuated three-volume, like a classic coupe.
Each headlamp Continental GT as if by a crystal decanter. We even saw a performance with reflectors tinted in blue. Among the seven tent top options there is one with a tweed texture. Attention designers to external details can only eclipse the interior.
A rotating triangular panel with a screen, a switch and nothing (i.e., a lacquered wooden plug) is called a digital detox. Perhaps this is the main feature of the car. And to realize it was not as easy as it seemed at the beginning. Bentley is represented in 66 countries – less than half of the Mercedes markets. And yet national laws in some places forced both designers and engineers to tense up.
Forty moving parts are involved in the rotation of the triangular panel, the gaps do not exceed half a millimeter, and the sound of the turn is almost the same as silence. However, in some markets there is a requirement for cars equipped with a rear-view camera: the image should appear no later than one second after the reverse gear is engaged. So the panel should have time to turn from any position and turn on. And yes, she really has time to do it.
If Stefan Zilaff introduces German precision and attention to detail to Bentley, while preserving and nurturing the British style, Dr. Werner Tietz is hardly interested in national school issues: the laws of kinematics, inertia and thermodynamics all over the planet act the same
So that you understand what categories the chief engineer thinks: he seriously discussed the influence of the position of the convertible top on handling – when the awning is folded, the rear axle accounts for a slightly larger percentage of weight, and he likes the car more in this case. I am ready to argue that there was no task to make a front-engined Porsche from the Continental GT. Nevertheless, I prepared to discover some brand new Bentley.
Now I can say for sure: it is not necessary to feel nostalgia for the character of the former “Continental”. The highway convertible pierces bored quickly, and from the coast of southern Spain, we turn into the mountains. Coupe climbs the mountain paths with a previously unknown ease. The body of the new GT Convertible is only 5% tougher than the predecessor, but immediately 20% lighter – aluminum! But absolute numbers are implacable: the GT Convertible weighs 2.4 tons, that is, half a ton heavier than the Lexus LC 500.
We are not in a hurry, but the convertible is ready to maintain any given pace. Four driving modes: Comfort, Bentley, Sport and Individual. Most intriguing mode Bentley, he also turns on the default when you start the engine. It is as if the second Individual, which the engineers from Crewe set up by choice.
The nature of the movement during the change of regimes changes dramatically (here, the British expressions begin to penetrate into my manner of speaking). In the “comfort” all the vibrations from the road trifles like cuts with scissors. Or as if on a mixing console, the sound producer removed one of the channels. Hydraulic active anti-roll bars in this mode are completely relaxed. Surprisingly, the Comfort mode is also suitable for mountain roads – the active three-chamber air suspension remains sufficiently assembled.
Rising higher, I discovered that our route runs around Ronda. Why is “around”! It would be strange to make a tourist voyage around Moscow, visit Zheleznodorozhny and Elektrougli and at the same time ignore Arkhangelsk. Just as drive past one of the most beautiful towns of Spain, and even the whole of Europe. Without thinking, I turn off – in my view, this should be the grand touring.
On a narrow street with a paving stone, the Continental GT is surprisingly easily squeezed into a parking lot between old Ibiza and Fiestas. Only delivery wagons with wiped bumpers are larger than it.
“Folk” cars have taught me to maneuver in a confined space on a box with two clutches – flour. The car just stands first, and then abruptly takes off. If the bill goes on centimeters, and each bumper is worth a quarter of the budget of Andalusia, it would make you nervous. But the 8-step “robot” of the ZF was instilled in other manners, and it hardly differs from the classic automaton that use Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce. It starts off really smoothly, though the switch still sometimes twitches downwards – 900 “newtons” of the moment will unbalance any box.
Of course, the walk around Rhonda had to be compensated by a shock tempo on a streamer. Sport mode was remembered by shaking, but not so much more effective. Perhaps the optimal mode “Bentley” – a brilliant solution. This is the best balance you can get from a Continental GT. If I were the owner of this gran tourism, I would forget where the switch is. More sport is no longer desirable, and rubber “speed bumps” convertible hardly notices.
However, in the sport mode, a new 12-cylinder engine strongly reminds of its presence. He boosses at low revs, sings at acceleration and clears his throat when gas is released. In these moments, you are almost reconciled with the fact that the W-shaped scheme will never win in the “Voice” V8 and V12.
Even if you drive fast, the open Continental GT does not ask for discounts for either weight or body rigidity, which cabriolets are always lower than the coupe – there is plenty of it here. Composite brakes are not even offered – the nature of a luxury convertible is much better suited for cast iron wheels. And they are huge: on the front axle 420 millimeters and 10-piston calipers!
The new image of Bentley develops quickly and irreversibly: the GT Convertible is so consistent in any environment (highways, narrow towns, mountain roads) that I would no doubt prefer the awning top fixed forever to the metal roof. In any case, here, in the sunny south at the end of winter. No matter how cool the Gran Turismo coupe was, my sympathies are on the side of the gig. The awning disappears in just 19 seconds – quickly and silently, and it can be folded at a speed of 50 kilometers per hour.
Only one question remains: why Bentley, not Rolls-Royce or Mercedes-AMG? Surprisingly, these decent cars will not be pushed by elbows – they are completely different from each other. Riding a Continental GT is nothing like the Rolls-Royce Dawn course, in which you levitate on a huge iron that smooths the terrain without a shadow of a doubt. This iron, it should be noted, is very heavy and does not share the enthusiasm from the abrupt change of direction. In addition, the price difference between the Dawn and the GT Convertible is the well-packed Porsche Cayenne.
As for the Mercedes-AMG, the all-wheel drive S 63 is the driver and the fastest big convertible in the world. The ferocious voice of the 612-horsepower V8, exhaust shots and 3.5 seconds to 100 kmh – all this determines a different level of emotion for which not everyone has a request. Incredible S 65 – the world’s only luxury coupe with sounding V12. It is at least cheaper than the Continental GTС, and you can’t order all-wheel drive for any extra charge for thousands of “newtons” of the moment.
Without a doubt, the Bentley is today the most versatile Grand Tourer in the world. Even the S-Class Cabriolet, which serves as a point of reference in this niche, cannot be both balanced S 560, frantic S 63, and singing S 65 at the same time. A Continental GT at the same time greatly changes the character depending on the rotation of the handle modes with a jewelry notch. It can be almost Rolls Royce, and almost AMG.
The word “almost” in this context does not confuse at all. Continental GT for fifteen years of existence of the model has become a significant constant, but now has taken another important step. Finally, the model gives weight to the emblem, not the emblem of the model.