Saturday, September 13, 2008

2008 Bentley Continental GTC Vehicle Overview


Few things can compare in elegance to a stately Bentley convertible. Maybe Princess Diana in a couture gown emerging from a stately Bentley convertible. Yet in the early days of Britain's second most prestigious marque, Bentleys were also considered to be among the world's best high-performance machines. In fact, James Bond author Ian Fleming could think of no better car for his rugged secret agent to drive than a 1933 Bentley supercharged convertible.

The 2008 Bentley Continental GTC combines these two historical brand facets perfectly. It's certainly got the elegance thing down. Imposingly graceful styling brings together a modern shape with classical Bentley design cues like the dominant grille and squared-off rear fenders. The sumptuous interior is similarly old-meets-new-world in design, with 17 available leather colors and multiple veneers. Buttons and switches are made of real metal, vent controls feature push-pull chrome knobs and the central clock is made by world-famous timepiece-maker Breitling. The soft-top roof (or "hood" in Brit-speak) is available in seven colors and beautifully hushes the cabin even at the highest speeds.

The performance part of the equation is in no short supply, either. A 6.0-liter twin-turbo 12-cylinder pulses from underneath the chiseled hood, arranged in the unique W formation parent company Volkswagen turns to for its most powerful, prestigious products. The Continental's W12 delivers 552 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. Tipping the scales at 5,500, the GTC needs every horse available, yet still manages to sprint up to 60 mph in a neck-snapping 4.8 seconds. The Continental's bulk and less-than-communicative steering don't make for exceptional handling, but its well-sorted adjustable suspension lends a keen ability to thunder down a lightly winding country road or Monte Carlo boulevard with immense confidence, certainly in keeping with the historic Bentleys that so enticed Mr. Fleming.

Few vehicles live in the vaunted price stratosphere occupied by the 2008 Bentley Continental GTC. Fellow Brit Aston Martin DB9 Volante is of particular note, offering stunning styling and a more sporting driving experience, while lacking some of the Bentley's stately elegance. The Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG is also worth noting, as is the future Maserati GranTurismo convertible. Yet vehicles like these are more about passion than spreadsheet comparisons. Because if rolling like Lady Di or the original 007 is your cup of first-class Darjeeling tea, then the Bentley Continental GTC is the one and only choice.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2008 Bentley Continental GTC is a four-seat convertible available in one feature-laden trim level. Standard features include 19-inch wheels, an adjustable suspension with four settings, a power convertible roof, bi-xenon headlights with high-pressure washers, dual-zone automatic climate control, 14-way power heated front seats, full leather interior in 17 off-the-shelf colors, a removable windblocker, keyless ignition/entry, power latching doors, a navigation system, Bluetooth and a 12-speaker stereo with satellite radio and a glovebox-mounted six-CD changer.

Optional features include 20-inch wheels, a rearview camera, massaging front seats, a three-spoke sport steering wheel and power-opening trunk. There are also a variety of special-order options known as Mulliner Features that range from upgraded veneers and deep-pile carpet to specialized exterior paint colors.

Powertrains and Performance

Underneath the Bentley Continental GT's hood is a 6.0-liter twin-turbo 12-cylinder engine arranged in Volkswagen's unique W formation. Paired to a six-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive, this engine produces 552 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. Bentley estimates a 0-60-mph time of 4.8 seconds -- not bad for a vehicle that weighs 5,500 pounds.


Standard safety features on the Bentley Continental GTC include stability control, traction control, antilock disc brakes, side airbags and a pop-up rollover hoop system.

Interior Design and Special Features

Open the door to the 2008 Bentley Continental GTC and you'll find a cabin drenched in real metal accents, classy veneer and supple leather. The interior has an old-world feel, with push-pull vent controls, a Breitling timepiece and lots of switches and levers made of real metal. This being a Bentley, there is tremendous attention to detail. You'll find that even the car's exterior mirrors are circled with chrome bezel, and seatbacks are graced with sleek, brushed aluminum release levers. Plus with its 17 available interior choices and the customizable nature of ordering a Bentley, a Continental buyer can make their cabin a truly special place.

Despite being a soft-top convertible, cabin noise remains hushed with the roof raised. When it's lowered, the cabin remains placid even at speeds of up to 50 mph with the windows down. Raised, things can remain quiet up to 80 mph. To hush things even further, the standard chrome-and-aluminum windblocker can be installed across the rear seats. Speaking of the aft quarters, there's an OK amount of room for two passengers, but don't count on any four-person cross-country treks. The trunk is equally small (8.3 cubic feet), although it is at least larger than the DB9 Volante's luggage area.

Driving Impressions

The Continental GTC handles with a confidence that allows it to feel buttoned-down during even the boldest of driving maneuvers. By choosing the stiffest of the car's four suspension settings, body roll can be all but eliminated, even around tortuous turns. Despite the car's 5,500-pound curb weight, acceleration is never less than bracing, though the Continental GTC's heft prevents it from offering the outright sporting feel of a DB9 Volante. Instead, the 2008 Bentley Continental GTC woos drivers with the kind of serene, well-planted ride Bentley buyers expect.

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