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First Look: 2012 Bentley Continental GTC

Power to the (very wealthy) people.

by on Aug.24, 2011

Bentley bills the 2012 Continental GTC as a "super car you can use every day."

There are plenty of big changes underway at Bentley, as recently reported, with the maker preparing a new SUV, developing a plug-in hybrid and beginning work on a diesel – but that doesn’t mean the British luxury marque has forgotten its more mainstream offerings.  Quite the opposite, as it reveals the second generation of its Continental GTC convertible.

It’s part of a dramatic update of the entire Bentley line-up, in fact, that began with the introduction of the all-new Mulsanne flagship, and last year’s redesign of the smaller but critical Continental GT sports coupe.

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We got our first look at the new cabriolet during a private showing at last weekend’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, “no better place in the world,” for the unveiling, suggested Wolfgang Durheimer, the new Bentley CEO and the man leading the big changes planned for the brand.

Bentley offers a choice of 7 woods and 17 leathers on the new GTC.

The GTC, as you might expect, starts out with the same basic platform as the GT coupe, borrowing the more sculpted body of that models latest update – notably including the sharp crease that spins around the front wheel and launches back towards the muscular wheel arches.  The front end changes are subtle but distinct, with two small outer lamps now framing large, inner headlights.  New 21-inch wheels are now available.

Bentley still hand-tools much of the car but turned to some advanced technologies to deliver the striking shape, including something known as superforming, where aluminum is heated to nearly 1000 degrees to allow more details during the stamping process.  The “boot,” or trunk, uses a new composite material so the typical sharkfin antenna vanishes from sight.

The maker sticks with a soft-top roof for the 2012 Bentley GTC, avoiding the “hungry cow look,” as tech chief Brian Gush puts it, with a 3-layer roof that spans seven bows.  The top provides nearly as quiet a ride, when up, as a hard-top convertible.

The interior has also undergone some significant upgrades.  For one thing, thinner front seats helped carve out an extra 1.5 inches for rear seat passengers.

The four-seater was perceived as “a supercar you can use every day,” said Durheimer.

New soft-stitch leather flows across soft-touch foam, while the front seats adopt a new shape designed to be more comfortable – and visibly striking.  There’s even a customized sunglass case that shares the same wooden veneer as the lavishly finished woods that swath the cabin.  Buyers will have a choice of seven wood finishes and 17 leathers.

There’s a larger 8-inch LCD screen in the center stack and Bentley adapts significantly updated infotainment software that’s quicker and more flexible.  Meanwhile, the high-powered NAIM audio system adopts a new speaker technology borrowed from the military that makes it easier to let anyone sitting in the GTC feel as if they have the best seat in the house.  The new speakers are also much lighter.

As for power to those people wealthy enough to afford the GTC?  The previous cars 6.0-liter W-12 is carried over, but is bumped to 567 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque.  That will get you from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds, and up to 100 in 10.9 seconds.  The new Bentley Continental GTC has a rated top speed of 195 mph.

To scrub off speed, the two-door gets larger brakes, steel 405 mm rotors standard, with optional 420 mm carbon brakes.

The 2006 launch of the original GTC “played a major role in the growth of Bentley,” noted Durheimer, the maker hitting a peak of 10,000 cars just prior to the global economic downturn – which hit luxury makers especially hard.

Bentley sales are on the rise again, the maker hitting its best numbers since 2008 for the first half of this year.  And the launch of the new GTC should build on that momentum, the CEO believes.

How much? The current model starts at $206,000, and though Bentley hasn’t quoted a figure yet it is expected to increase that number for the 2012 Continental GTC.

Next up is the Continental Flying Spur, which we should get a first look at next year.

(Bentley prepares its first SUV – as well as a plug-in hybrid system and diesel. Click Herefor that story.)

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