Bentley got into their centenary celebrations by launching the topless version of their fast and refined Grand Tourer. GQ motoring ed Dieter Losskarn experienced the orange flame GTC around the Andalusian mountains in the vicinity of Marbella.
In Ian Flemings first spy novel ‘Casino Royale’, published in 1953, James Bond was a proper Bentley boy. Racing his 1931 Bentley Blower through the English countryside. Fleming described him as a bit of a car nut, having bought his Bentley in 1933, and kept in storage during WWII.
But when the movie franchise started, another iconic British car manufacturer sneaked in. And Aston Martin became the quintessential 007 car, synonymous with the most famous secret agent in the world. His silver DB5 first driven in ‘Goldfinger’ in 1964 is an automobile legend. And while Blower Bentleys can fetch well over a million dollars these days, the more famous DB5s are commanding quite a bit more. The one used in ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Thunderball’ sold for $4 million at an auction a few years ago.
The newest rendition of the Bentley Continental GTC should be able to lure Bond back into Bentley. Why? Because it is also one of the finest and most powerful cars of its day. The obscenely powerful GTC is a monster Bentley as well, with a mighty W12 heart. Not British enough, some might say and: ‘It’s a Volkswagen engine’. Yes it is, but pop the hood of a new Aston Martin and you’ll find what? The transplanted powerhouse of another German: AMG.
Back to spy thriller author Ian Fleming: ‘Bond drove his Bentley hard and well and with an almost sensual pleasure’. Thundering across those twisty Andalusian mountain roads, I totally agree with Mr. Fleming.
Despite its weight of 2.4 tons and length of 4.85 metres this land yacht can be fast and furious, yet refined – and surprisingly well behaved, while cornering sharply. Thanks to torque vectoring and electronic differentials. But the GTC wasn’t developed as a sportscar, rather than a grand open tourer. It’s best enjoyed while cruising through the countryside in bespoke style and opulent luxury.
In the Volkswagen family sharing is sparing significant amounts of development cash. And despite a strong and healthy family rivalry there are sub-groupings. Bentley works closely with Porsche and Bugatti. While Audi cuddles up with Lamborghini. The new GTC shares its genes with the Panamera, not with the VW Phaeton anymore, as his predecessor did. Both the four-door Panamera and the two-door GTC using the same MSB platform and numerous ‘behind the scenes’ parts, invisible when you succumb to the opulent luxury of the Bentley interior. Borrowing some of the best bits from Porsche and making them their own. With the help of the double-clutch auto box, adapted from the PDK system and the suspension from the Panamera the new GTC turned into a real dynamic driver’s car. A bit like what Aston Martin accomplished with those AMG components.
The GTC’s brakes are the biggest iron ones of any production car. The engine is 30% lighter than the previous generation and it moved backwards behind the front axle by 150mm, thus creating a more balanced fun ride. According to the engineers the entire car is 5% lighter at 2414 kgs and 20% stiffer.
But much more obvious are the design changes to the outside. It looks so much better than its predecessor. With a wider grille, a more attractive face and a more streamlined body. The front overhangs are shorter now, the rear is longer with muscular haunches.
Let’s have a look inside, after the fabric top opens in 19 seconds (at speeds of up to 50 km/h) and in complete silence. It folds down very low, thanks to a new Z-folding system, adding to the beautiful silhouette. And for those hard-core Brexit fans, it is among other colours available in tweed as well. The interior appearance and surfaces are clearly inspired by vintage aeroplane fuselages and the Côtes De Gèneve watch-making heritage.
A world’s first in cars is the three-way rotating dashboard, initiated by a push of the ‘screen’ button. The triangular motorized panel has three different faces: blank wood veneer, 12.3 inch infotainment screen or three analogue dials displaying outside temperature, a compass and a chronometer. It reminds me a lot of the early James Bond movies, where the number plates rotated at the push of a button to irritate baddies chasing the secret agent.
Each Bentley interior is hand-crafted from nine bull hides and stitched together by 2.8 kilometres of thread. That’s what the 300-odd engineers working at the Bentley factory in Crewe describe as Bentley-fying. What for instance starts of as a Panamera seat frame turns, after being bentleyfied into one of the most comfortable leather thrones on the planet.
With the roof down the new GTC is by far the most quiet convertible in the market. Even at speeds of up to 100 km/h you can still have a decent conversation with your passenger. And thanks to a neck-warmer, heated armrests, seats and steering wheel the only reason to keep your roof up is rain.
And who are the GTC competitors? You just have to catch an engeneer’s convoy. Leading with a Paparazzi-spotting Bentayga a couple of Bentleys did some heat-testing in SA recently. They had a Mercedes-Maybach and a Rolls Royce Dawn with them, for luxury reference and a Jaguar for the soundtrack.
I almost forgot to mention the most striking feature of the car. It is available in orange flame, which resembles the sunset sky at the tip of Africa. Simply stunning and definitely the colour to choose, when ordering a 2019 Bentley Continental GTC in South Africa.
Bentley Continental GTC
Engine 6.0-l. W12 twin turbo, paired with an 8-speed double-clutch auto & all wheel drive
Power 467kW and 900Nm
Top Speed 333 km/h
0-100km/h 3.7 seconds
Price from R3 750 000