This is the new Bentley Continental GT Convertible. Revealed today, a year after the production of the Continental GT Coupé, it is the marque’s pinnacle luxurious open-top grand tourer. The Continental GT family, which includes the Coupé and this Convertible, is a hugely important model for Bentley for the original car shook the traditional luxury world when it was first introduced 15 years ago. This sporty car wasn’t your typical heritage Bentley. The Continental was a thoroughly modern and provocative grand tourer with voluptuous, bold surfaces. It was a huge success for the marque, attracting a new kind of buyer and introducing the brand to a younger and a more international audience.
The 2019 Continental GT Convertible continues the design theme introduced with the Coupé sibling, refining some of the more dramatic and bold elements of the original 2003 model. The new car feels more an expression of modern luxury and visually in-line with other members of the Bentley family. Chief executive, Adrian Hallmark, says it possesses an “elegant understatement that forces you to look; engineering excellence you’ll take for granted.”
Central to the Convertible, of course, is the cloth roof. I personally favor soft-tops for they add to the allure of open-top driving – feel a touch more risqué than the safer hard-top option. With the Continental, the roof can be swiftly deployed and stowed neatly away in just 19 seconds, whilst the car travels at speeds of up to 30mph. For extra personalization, seven different fabrics colors can be specified for the retractable roof, including for the very first time, a very British-themed tweed finish.
Other great highlights that are exclusive to the GT Convertible are the new neck warmers. Integrating seamlessly into the seats, they provide greater heat and are quieter than the technology offered on the previous model by optimizing efficiency and airflow around the electronically adjustable headrests. The new design features a chrome center vane that stretches the full width of the duct to echo Bentley’s famous “bullseye” vents. The steering wheel is heated too, as are the armrests for a fully luxe driving environment with the roof lowered. The new roof insulation materials and operating mechanism, combined with sealing system improvements and acoustic treatments, make this Convertible GT quieter than even the previous generation Coupé.
The car has been engineered to be lighter than the previous model thus offering a smooth, fast ride in the new 6-liter W12 twin-turbo engine. Mated to a dual-clutch 8-speed transmission, it uses the latest engine management technology to produce 626bhp and 900Nm of torque, whilst zero to 60 mph is available in just 3.7 seconds (only a second above the hard-top) and a top speed of some 207 mph can be reached in the Convertible.
“I had to ask myself if we should make something completely different or do an evolution of the existing design codes,” director of Bentley design, Stephan Sielaff, told me at the Continental GT Coupé reveal. “I felt it would be a shame to behave too harshly with a brand like this. It is not about us designers doing something wild, making a one-off statement to provoke a firework. It is about our customers and the product must stay fresh for at least the next seven years.”
The evolution in design sees the profile of the new car longer and lower as the front wheels have been positioned further forward, thus allowing the bonnet to be extended and the nose to be lowered. The key signature lines of the original Continental remain in place but are more refined here. The rear sees a slightly more radical departure, with the taillights now shaped into ellipses, reflecting the silhouette of the exhaust tail pipes below them. The car sits pleasantly on 21-inch wheels, which come as standard and in two styles. There is also a 22-inch lightweight, forged wheel to be specified, alongside a hand-finished option.
One of the Continental’s highlights is the cut-crystal lamp design at the front and rear that uses the latest LED Matrix technology. Evolved from the brilliant EXP 10 Speed 6 concept car, the lights make a confident visual statement in the presence of the quieter sculpture. There are 17 exterior color options, including Beluga, Onyx and Portofino, or customers can personalize their car with any shade of choice, coordinated with the roof color.
Sielaff explains his overall design brief as “a piece of reduction, not over-decorating the car but to make a clean, clear and unique statement”. This latest generation Continental has a pure relationship with design – a restrained sensibility. This has meant working with Bentley’s classic ingredients – the heritage lines, the famous power line travelling from the headlights to the muscular rear haunch. “We reduced it to two very distinctive sharp lines, working to create sexy surfaces in a very concave-convex drama, so that the drama is more in the surface than the lines,” explains the design director.
Inside showcases the skills of the crafts people at Crewe. Finding more progressive, ecological alternatives to traditional luxury fabrics is something the Bentley design team are keen to explore. Now customers can choose from a range of more traditional soft leathers and rare sustainably-sourced veneers. Customers can opt for the classic Bentley knurling treatment on the metal surface or a more elaborate diamond knurling treatment. A new “diamond in diamond” leather quilt design is now offered too that looks like a floating quilted surface in a sea of soft leather. Personalization options include fifteen colors across hides and carpets as well as three different interior colors that can be configured. A classic polished wooden steering wheel completes the Bentley look.
The fully-digital display is also a new concept for Bentley. If the Continental’s purpose was to bring in a younger Bentley buyer in 2003, this generation needs to continue the dialogue, not only through evocative design, but also by tapping into cutting-edge technology. There is now an advanced, fully-digital, driver-focused instrument panel. It also boasts an industry-first “rotating display” featuring an impressive 12.3-inch touchscreen housed in a three-sided unit, which revolves to reveal the touchscreen as well as three elegant analogue dials – for what Bentley sees as an option for a digital detox. Sielaff feels it connects with the modern message of luxury. At the end of a busy day you can create a peaceful and serene environment by turning all the screens off, literally switching off all visual noise inside the Continental. “We have moved beyond needing to see technology all the time. This is ultimate luxury.”
There are arguably few car types as evocative as a convertible – and Bentley’s grand tourer seems like the perfect embodiment of open-top driving. The new Continental GT Convertible will be on sale towards the second and third quarters of next year depending on markets, with prices to be yet announced. Bentley has been building luxury grand tourers since it was founded in 1919. “As we approach our centenary year, the Continental GT Convertible joins a highly-acclaimed range,” says Hallmark, adding, “arguably the strongest and most technologically-advanced portfolio of products the world has ever seen in one luxury brand.”