Wind in the hair motoring never got so good. Bentley has a long and proud history in motor racing. The Bentley Boys, Le Mans, Brooklands, the Bentley Blower, Indianapolis. They also have a wonderful history for wind in the hair, flies in the teeth, open-top motoring.
And if there’s one thing that really gets us excited it’s a powerful convertible.
Like the Bentley Continental GTC Speed for example. The last time we featured the GT Speed in this magazine was after we’d had a breathtaking day at Silverstone racing circuit. Bentley had hired the full Formula One track for the day so that a handful of us lucky hacks could find out what a GT Speed can really do.
Power in both the coupé and convertible comes from a 12 cylinder 5950cc engine which produces a whopping 650 bhp. It hurls you to the horizon in a 0-60 sprint time of 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 208mph. 100mph comes up in under seven seconds. Four wheel drive and four wheel steering come as standard. There are clever gadgets scattered around the transmission which allow you to power out of corners. Another ensures that the car stays stable by eliminating any roll. In other words, you can throw this Bentley around and it stays glued to the road and maintains a flat stance.
Bearing in mind this car weighs approaching 2.5 tonnes, the straight-line performance and cornering abilities are staggering. If you can afford a Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible, you’re probably not too fussed about miles to the gallon but, for the record, go easily and you’ll manage around 20mpg.
This is the most powerful convertible that Bentley has ever built, but it is incredibly simple to drive it quickly and safely. It sounds fantastic too. In fact, if you go to the four driving modes and select the Enhanced Sports tab, the car will adjust the suspension, engine and transmission settings, and it opens the taps in the exhaust to allow more of the delicious sound to escape.
There’s also a launch control. Floor the throttle and brake pedals at the same time…release the brake…and you’ll zoom away. Okay, it might seem a bit undignified in a convertible which is designed for long-distance cruising, but it ain’t half good fun. Granted, for most of the time you’ll leave the setting in Comfort mode which means you’ll waft along in…well…comfort.
Oh and if it drops a shower, just slow to 30mph and you’ll be able to operate the convertible roof…no need to stop. Flick a switch on the centre console and the roof raises (or lowers) in 19 seconds. With the roof down, needless to say that the experience is wonderful. As Bentley say in their promotional guff…”You might be driving but you’ll feel like you’re flying.” Yep…we agree with that.
The interior, as you would expect, is still the pinnacle of British craftsmanship. Wonderful styling, outstanding build quality and the ultimate in terms of materials used…but that’s what you get in every Bentley. There’s also a nod to the fact that this is a drop-top car. The seats are ventilated to keep you cool on a warm day. If the weather turns a bit chilly, you can make use of the heated steering wheel, heated armrests and neck warmers which blow warm air from vents in the base of the headrests. It’s also worth mentioning that this is a 4-seater Bentley. A lot of convertibles are two-seaters only but, as long as you’ve not got a couple of prop forwards wanting to sit in the back, the rear seats are fine, especially for kids.
And don’t for a minute think when you have the roof up that this Bentley will be a tad noisy. Wrong. In fact, Bentley say the interior of this Continental GTC Speed is quiet than the tin-top coupé of the previous Continental generation.
From the outside the GTC Speed looks very similar to other Bentley Continental models. Apart from the badging, unique alloy wheels, dark glass for the head and rear lights, subtle changes to the body styling and a dark tinted radiator grille you’d struggle to spot the difference. So why bother going for the GTC Speed when other Continentals look just as gorgeous?
Simple. The Speed version takes this Bentley Continental from being a brilliant car to an utterly fantastic car. It is still the most fabulous long distance tourer available anywhere, but it now offers the chance to have some extra fun when the conditions allow. The GTC Speed encourages you to push on a little when you arrive at some twisty stuff rather than just being content to sit back and enjoy the ride as a high speed cruiser. Bentley call it ‘adrenaline, accelerated.’
Cost? Tricky because Bentley don’t actually mention anything so crude as prices. However, if you fancy a GTC Speed, you’ll be looking in the region of £230,000. This is arguably the best convertible in the world.
It’s hard to think of a better way to head down to the Côte d’Azur for a spot of boulevard cruising along the French Riviera.