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Saturday Drive: 2012 Bentley Continental GTC

Start off your weekend of motoring with a quick take on what's recently grabbed our attention in the automotive world.

April 21, 2012|By David Undercoffler, Auto Critic
  • The 2012 Bentley Continental GTC has 567 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque coming from a 6-liter, twin-turbocharged W-12 engine.
The 2012 Bentley Continental GTC has 567 horsepower and 516 pound-feet… (David Undercoffler / Los…)

The car: 2012 Bentley Continental GTC

The power: 567 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque coming from a 6-liter, twin-turbocharged W-12 engine. Power is routed to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and sport mode.

The photos: 2012 Bentley Continental GTC

The speed: Zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds en route to a 195-mph top speed

The bragging rights: Among the world's fastest, most luxurious convertibles

The price: Base price: $212,800. As tested: $231,532, not including destination and gas-guzzler tax.

The details: The Bentley Continental GTC is, more or less, the Bentley Continental GT with a disappearing roof and a price premium in the neighborhood of $20,000.

Removing the roof on any car necessitates some structural additions elsewhere, and this convertible Continental compensates by reinforcing the car's A-pillars and sills and adding bracing between the front and rear subframes. Trunk space is still decent: A pair of suitcases easily fits.

The roof itself is a triple-layered fabric unit with a heated glass rear window, and the whole contraption hides behind a leather-wrapped tonneau cover in a rather plodding 25 seconds. The GTC's climate control and the optional $7,015 Naim audio system automatically adjust their settings when the top is stowed.

Other options on our test car included 21-inch alloy wheels ($3,110), a chromed lower grille ($1,010), several forests' worth of Tamo ash wood trim ($2,685), massaging and ventilated front seats ($820) and a backup camera ($987).

Also included was a $960 neck warmer option that tickled your head-stem with varying levels of warm air from a vent near the top of the seat back, an ideal companion to nighttime cruising with the top down. If wam neck-air isn't enough to keep you comfortable but you still need the top down, consider that with the seat warmers in their hottest setting, the GTC's seats feel like they could fry an egg or seven and seem a few degrees short of literally lighting your pants on fire.

What the GTC also has is the same troublesome navigation system that's found in the GT. Because Volkswagen owns Bentley, this system is identical to the one in your hairdresser's assistant's intern's Jetta, albeit with a larger screen. Why Bentley doesn't at least use the far more sophisticated Google Earth-based system found in Audis (also owned by Volkswagen) is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Although the Continental GT was never a lightweight, this GTC adds an additional 400 pounds for a hefty total of 5,501. Yet it will still rocket smoothly forward while paying only a 0.1-second penalty in its zero-to-60-mph time versus the coupe.

Otherwise, the GTC is identical to the GT. It has the same silent but deadly W-12 cylinder engine (think of two V-6s snuggling together) with the same horsepower and torque figures. All-wheel drive is standard, with 60% of the car's torque routed to the rear wheels.

The drive: In our review of the fixed-roof Continental last year, we noted that what that car did best was high-speed runs between your hair plug specialist in Monaco and your bichon frise breeder in the Dolomites, rather than daily driving around town, which is when the tedium sets in. In coupe form, the Continental GT seems like a missed opportunity.

But somehow the mere act of removing the roof gives the Continental GTC re-found purpose as a languid cruiser and bomb-proof commuter. This is car that was born to be a convertible. Drop the top and bathe the beautifully wrought interior in natural light, and the car's shy throttle and the engine's cautious purr encourage a relaxed attitude that complements the character of a convertible.

All the aforementioned delights -- the sublime stereo system, the warm air flowing around your neck, the massaging heated or cooled seats -- add up to imbrue occupants with an elegance that convertibles have always conveyed far more easily than their fixed-roof counterparts.

Feeling more frisky? Put the transmission into sport mode and thoroughly work the massive engine by way of the (rather awkward) steering-column-mounted paddle shifters. Even high-speed jaunts allow for comfortable conversations with the top down. Although, as indicated by a curb weight of two Hyundai Elantras, this car has a limit to the friskiness it's willing to accommodate. Bentley claims this convertible body is the stiffest in the world, but there's still some cowl shake over rough roads. But the all-wheel drive provides tenacious, confident grip.

Ironically, it's with the top up that some unfortunate noise is apparent. Too much wind seems to sneak through the tops of the driver and passenger windows, so much so that I was regularly checking to make sure the windows were rolled up properly. All the more reason just to keep the roof stowed.

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