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SUNNY SIDE UP

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Oct 27, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

SUNNY SIDE UP By John Grafman

It's happening day-by-day, and little-by-little, we are conquering technology. It won't be too much longer before mankind can answer most of the questions that have perplexed humans since the dawn of time. Cloning? No problem. Space travel? We're getting there. Unbelievable horsepower under hood? Child's play. So when tech is no long a challenge, art takes on greater significance. Both art and science vie for attention in the 2007 Continental GTC, but has Bentley really mastered both in equal proportion? To many, the Continental line represents what Bentley is today. Yes, the other models, from the Arnage to the new Brooklands, truly capture the rarified custom nature of the brand, with production of those automobiles in very small numbers. But the exceptionally strong demand for the GT coupe, Flying Spur sedan, and the GTC are creating a sound financial backbone for the label. Going against the latest trend, Bentley (as does Rolls-Royce) finds that the use of a soft top as opposed to a folding hard top allows for less overall bulk, a lower center of gravity, and a minimal amount of space dedicated to the top when recessed into the trunk.

Typically, a convertible will have a penalty brought about by adding pounds of structure, which makes up for the lack of a fixed roof. In this case, any weight gain due to structural reinforcing is hard to feel in any respect, including performance. While a slight difference exists, one would be hard pressed to notice. The healthy motor can overcome the steepest of grades, so the few extra pounds (276 in total) are really insignificant for all practical purposes - especially when the base auto at 5,456 pounds is on the portly side anyway. It is hard to improve upon perfection, and the GTC has no need for altering the goodness provided by the GT mechanicals. The active ingredients include continuous, all-wheel drive with torsen center differential, a six-speed automatic with steering column mounted paddle shifting and Tiptronic shifting on the center console, an independent, automatic air suspension that constantly monitors and adjusts ride height and damping according to road conditions, plus a manual driver adjustment facility via infotainment system, and that's just for starters. The real heart of the matter lies in a six-liter, twin-turbo, 12-cylinder motor that puts out perhaps the smoothest 552 horses you will ever find. The Continental GT has never been considered a slowpoke, nor an all show, no go cruiser unable to run with the best. In the GTC, O-60 mph is achieved in a blissful 4.8 seconds, and it tops out at 195 miles per hour if the driver has the nerve. Now, with the top down one can enjoy the other aspects aside from high-speed runs. However, even when the pace picks up the wind noise and buffeting is rather well controlled. As the Bentley has admirable seat heaters and venting system for climate control it easy to get the most out of this year-round. The obvious trade off in favor of the drop top is that one of the most desired coupes now has unlimited headroom. A number of parts on this car have their roots firmly planted in the quest for a perfect performing machine, yet those same parts are key design elements. The 19-inch thin-spoke alloy sport wheels and high-performance tires, massive brake rotors and calipers, and even the braided brake line cables are signs of a true sporting machine.

There are few feelings as perfect as a convertible Bentley on a nice day. Perhaps if everybody had one, the planet would be a better place. Aah, in a perfect world! Of course, the mystique will be lost in escalating numbers. Even in sailing the streets of Newport Beach, the numerous GTCs seem to be more than a little plentiful. It feels a little odd when beside this car is another similar GTC parading down the boulevard. In most 'burbs, a couple hundred grand can buy a certain level of exclusivity, but not everywhere. This could be the reason (albeit a crazy one) as to why many owners have abandoned their factory rims or grills for some aftermarket products. As a result of the al fresco treatment a few changes come with the GTC package. Perhaps none of the less pleasing changes are unexpected, or even deal breakers for that matter. Trunk space is sadly reduced to accommodate stowage of the top. One of the more delicious aspects, the audio system's dynamic sound fields coming through ten speakers becomes less distinct with the top down. The coupe's hardtop provides a much better pavilion for listening, and Volkswagen's late Phaeton created a perfect concert hall for the similar audio system. When it comes to design and function, only two features exist that were confusing, if not odd in their own right. The power antennae residing on the rear flank is a throwback to decades past. There are definitely more graceful means to integrate antennaes these days. Secondly, the pass-through from the rear seat to the trunk is also out of place. Too small to fit the neck of a guitar case of a well-to-do rock star, this appears to be useless. Certainly, it will allow room for either a fishing pole or skis. But really now, who takes a Bentley fishing or a convertible to the snow? Curiously, the rear panel once removed to allow the pass-through doesn't have a dedicated place to reside. One expects the center portion to hinge, but this doesn't do so, as it's a panel that pops in or out. Virtually all the rest of the Bentley GTC has been well-conceived for demanding clients. Little touches, while expensive, are possible. One is the contrasting stitching on the leather seats, facia and door panels that matches the opposing leather colors in the interior. That variation in style will set the owner back $990. However, the lumbar massage to both front seats is a relative bargain, and highly recommended at just $540. Or, if the taste for additional designer trim is desired, one can opt for an fairly affordable $290 Mulliner alloy fuel filler cap. Or at the other end of the extreme, a $4,090.00 Moroccan Blue Fireglow paint from the Arnage model color palette. Whatever your taste, Bentley has a flavor - or so it seems.

The convertible top operates flawlessly at the touch of a button. The seven-bow, triple insulated fabric soft top provides plenty of room with the top up. The interior liner also provides an elegant touch with suede like material. As much as the GTC provides the features of the GT with the benefit of added exposure, a little bit of style seems to have been lost along with the roof. Dirk van Braeckel, Director of Design for Bentley Motors, the recent recipient of the 2007 laureate of Antwerp's Christoffel Plantin award, was the man responsible for the GT. One of the outstanding traits of the GT coupe is the graceful flow over the top. The front windscreen and rear glass are laid back at such low angles that it creates a distinctive and pleasing form that marries well with the rest of the body. This is lost in translation to a convertible. Like many other convertibles in the marketplace, the GTC takes the good looks of the GT and alters it to accommodate the convertible. Had Dirk and the design team developed the GTC along side at the onset of the GT project, maybe the design solution would have been different for both. We will never know. What we do know is that design can take products in new directions, either altering and enveloping existing pieces, or entirely creating new packages. But as it has been since the dawn of time, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT An eye catching design, but driving the GTC provides eye-opening and jaw-dropping performances effortlessly. All of this at just about 200K! For more information about Bentley products, go to bentleymotors.com.

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2007 Bentley Continential GTC Price: Base $189,990, as tested $206,095 Engine type: Twin Turbo 6-litre W12, DOHC, 4 valves/cylinder EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 11/18 Horsepower: 552 @ 6,100 rpm Torque: 650 lb.-ft @ 1,600 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive Transmission type: Six-speed ZF (6HP-26) fully automatic with "Tiptronic" feature Suspension: Front: Progressive air springs, Continuous Damping Control 4 settings, adjustable, Ride Height Control, Lowers automatically at sustained high speeds. High manually selectable at lower speeds Rear: Progressive air springs, Continuous Damping Control 4 settings, adjustable, Ride Height Control, Lowers automatically at sustained high speeds. High manually selectable at lower speeds Wheels and tires: Front: Standard: 19 x 9J alloy, 275 x 40 x 19 Rear: 19 x 9J alloy, 275 x 40 x 19 Brakes: Front: Vented discs 405 mm diameter Rear: Vented discs 335 mm diameter Electronic Stability Program (ESP) Overall length: 4,804mm Overall width: 1,916mm Overall height: 1,398mm Curb weight (kg.): 2,475 0-60 mph: 4.8 Top Speed, mph: 195

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