2019 Bentley Continental GT Convertible First Drive: Millionaires, Your Road-Going Chris-Craft Is Here
Stunningly fast, awfully comfortable, and plenty attractive, the new drop-top Bentley has everything the wealthy would want out of a grand tourer.
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The 2019 Bentley Continental GT Convertible, By the Numbers
- Base Price (Price as Tested): $236,100 ($299,515)
- Powertrain: 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12, 626 horsepower, 664 pound-feet of torque; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic; all-wheel-drive
- 0-60 MPH: 3.7 seconds (manufacturer claim)
- Top Speed: 207 miles per hour
- EPA Fuel Economy: TBA, but the previous version was rated at 12 mpg city, 20 mpg highway
- Laughable European NEDC Fuel Economy Estimate: 16.1 mpg city, 29.7 mpg highway
- Americans Can Buy It: in the second half of this year, same as the coupe
You can drive 200 miles in the new 2019 Bentley Continental GT Convertible without realizing the top is down.
I know this because I can testify to it personally, having just spent the better part of an entire day tooling around southern Spain in said convertible with the new Z-folding top collapsed and tucked away in the compartment behind the token second row of seats and only once consciously thinking about the lack of a cover between scalp and sky. That one time, for the record, was when I realized towards the end of the day that my fair skin—left closer than ever to Saltine White after several months of Northeastern fall and winter—held the telltale dry tingle of incipient sunburn. Otherwise, the thought never crossed my mind: not while listening to music through the 1,500-watt, 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo; not while conversing with my driving partner, The Drive contributor and photographer extraordinaire Eric Adams; and not even when tearing through the Spanish countryside at 120 miles per hour.
The 2019 Bentley Continental GT Convertible: Not Surprisingly, Plenty Fast
It's also possible, according to Bentley, to drive 207 miles per hour in this 626-horsepower gran turismo, either with the top down or up. (To swap between the two modes, though, you'll have to slow to 30 mph or less, but you'll only need to do so for 19 seconds before shooting for the double-century again.) Sadly, that claim wasn't one I was able to verify firsthand, due to what I'd describe as 95 percent lack of opportunity and 5 percent lack of balls. But the Bentley feels every bit capable of tooling along at those sort of speeds, sitting rock-solid and steady on the wide open road no matter how deep you dive into the throttle. It's one of those cars that, like the Cadillac CTS-V, feels happiest when tooling along at speeds above almost every highway speed limit imposed on planet Earth.
Credit certainly goes to all the extraordinary development work done by the international gaggle of engineers who developed the car, which is based on a version of the same VW Group MSB architecture as the second-gen Porsche Panamera. In spite of the Conti's shorter proportions, all the luxury that comes with being a Bentley exacts a penalty at the scales: the convertible has a curb weight of 5,322 pounds, a stunning 924 pounds more than a Panamera Turbo. But as Porsche (and Lamborghini, and Bugatti, and Audi) have proven time and again, it's not hard to overcome weight with enough power and grip. The seemingly-boundless supply of thrust emanating from the twin-turbo 12-cylinder, combined with the snap-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox and all-wheel-drive system feeding the fury to ginormous patches of rubber on all four corners, allows this car—which, again, weighs in at about three tons with two adult males and a trunk full of carry-on luggage, as it was when I drove it—to blast forward from a stop, an 80-mph highway roll, or anything inbetween with a rising fury that will leave you occasionally doubting Isaac Newton's intelligence.
Still, even the might of the VAG can't completely overcome physics. Point the Conti's broad prow into a series of tight, undulating bends—the sort of roads that would elevate a Ferrari 488 Pista driver or Porsche 911 GT3 pilot to a transcendent state—and you can't help but slow the car down to the sort of speeds an angry Miata driver could match over the same route. It doesn't feel floating or uncomfortable; it simply feels happier taking a slow-in-fast-out approach, using the massive brakes—at 16.5 inches front and 15.0 inches rear, they're the largest iron units ever strapped to a production car—to delicately slow the mass, then ladling power out to the rear-biased AWD system with brake-based torque vectoring to shove it through the turn.
But out on wider, faster roads, the Conti GT shines. The 48-volt electric active roll control tech and the three-mode air suspension combine to produce unflappable handling, even while plowing through turns with advised speeds of 40 miles per hour at close to twice that. The car shines on the sorts of state highways that tied Western nations together before the likes of interstates and autobahnen and autostrada transformed long trips from grand tours to high-speed slogs, roads with curves that go around obstacles instead of being broad rivers of asphalt that carve straight through whatever's in their path.
The 2019 Bentley Continental GT Convertible: You Might Just Want to Move In
As with any car rolling out of Crewe, the new Continental GT convertible's interior comes decked out with the sort of high-end features and materials us 99 Percenters can only dream of seeing at home, let alone in our cars. Though to be fair, even the wealthy might feel their houses are unworthy after glancing over the sort of fabrics and finishes available. Sure, there's the usual myriad colors of exquisite leather—only from bulls, of course, as cow's skin can have stretch marks—and varieties of gorgeous wood, sustainably sourced and stretching across 108 square feet of the cabin. But there are also features like diamond knurling on some of the metal trim that adds texture to touchpoints like the door handles, or watchmaking-inspired Côtes de Genève finish available for the center console. It's enough to make you feel like a boss, even if you're only sitting in the boss's car.
One element you won't find in any other Bentley other than the new Conti GT coupe: the three-mode Bentley Rotating Display, which can alternate between the standard-issue 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display (whose size and menu layout, incidentally, will probably feel awfully familiar to any second-generation Panamera drivers); a trio of analog gauges displaying outside temperature, direction of travel, and seconds passed in stopwatch fashion; or a blank slate of dual veneers matching the rest of the dashboard. At $6,270, it's not cheap, but considering that works out to just 2.7 percent of the car's base price, it's proportionately more affordable than the moonroof on a BMW X2, and far more likely to impress every time you tap the button to cycle through the modes.
Should the sumptuous cabin tempt you to pursue that wild dream of sell your house and becoming a social media influencer who lives their #bestlife #vanlife out of a droptop Bentley, be warned, however: You won't have a lot of room for company. The front seats, while among the comfiest in modern-day autodom—you can choose from cooling ventilation, multiple massage programs, and not just heated cushions, but a flow of toasty air onto the back of your neck— don't offer limo-like legroom; it's fine for the driver, but taller passengers will find their feet pressed firmly against the carpeted firewall. And forget about the rear seats, which offer literally zero legroom with the front chairs arranged for taller adults. Far better to consider them additional storage space; the aforementioned carry-on luggage of two adult dudes was enough to fill the trunk to the brim, so any couple who needs more than three days' worth of clothes had best plan on throwing some stuff in the plus-two seats behind them.
The 2019 Bentley Continental GT Convertible: The Plebes Might Not Know It's New, But Who Cares What They Think?
Pop a glance at the new Continental GT convertible, and unless you're the sort of car nerd who hoovers up automotive news and reviews on a daily basis [He means himself. —Ed.], you might be hard-pressed to ID it as the new model. While the coupe's sleek fastback profile provides a bit of visual elongation versus its predecessor to subtly tip off the eyes, the drop-top hews closer to the looks of the GTC before it. (Perhaps aware of Mercedes-AMG's attempts to co-opt the term, Bentley no longer uses the GTC designation for the soft-top Continental.) The beltline and hips have been gently enhanced, beefed-up for more of a gunwale effect, and a few other minor adjustments have been made to the overall shape—but otherwise, the only details close to obvious tells are the new-for-2019 oval taillamps and the revised LED Matrix headlamps, which impress with both their crystalline-like design and their ability to actively reshape their high beams to avoid blasting oncoming drivers with the light of a million exploding suns.
This, not surprisingly, is intentional; Bentley isn't about to mess with success, and the Continental GT has been an unmitigated one for the luxury brand. It's helped push the brand to new relevance since its 2003 introduction, selling in numbers that have helped push the brand above 10,000 global units the last six years running. With the convertible expected to make up two-thirds of U.S. sales for the Continental GT, it seems likely that this shape, not the coupe's, will be the one most associated with the make and model going forward. It's not hard for the aesthete in this writer to feel a pang of sadness at that fact; while there's certainly some old-school romance in the vaguely-1930s-speedboat shape of the car with the top down and the three-box profile with the roof raised, it's far more staid than the coupe, which from some angles brings to mind the sleekest of Art Deco streamliners and speedsters.
Still, all things considered, that's not something to hold against this delightful open-top car that costs as much as a nice house. Not that there's anything wrong with the Bentayga, but it's a bit painful to imagine an SUV be the first thing that comes to mind when people mention the Flying B. If the face of Bentley is going to be this road-going Chris-Craft of a roadster instead of the slippery tear-drop coupe...well, I can live with that.