Bentley Continental GT Convertible (2019 - ) review
The Bentley Continental GT Convertible is a luxurious open-topped tourer that'll blast across continents while drying your hair at the same time. It's a rival for cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet and the Aston Martin DB11 Volante.
Interested in buying a Bentley Continental?
How good does it look?
This Bentley Continental GT Convertible is a big improvement on the previous version, looks-wise. The bodywork is sharper, meaner, more attuned to the incredible power underneath the bonnet. But the large fabric soft-top, which is available in seven different finishes including tweed, creates an entirely different silhouette for the car. Personalisation options are plentiful, with 17 different paint colours before you venture into the virtually unlimited bespoke side of things. As standard, the car rides on 21-inch alloy wheels with twin oval tailpipes at the back.
What's the interior like?
Bentley beats every other manufacturer, including Rolls-Royce, hands down here, with a great blend of colours and materials, all polished and stitched to within an inch of their lives. And, like in the Coupe, you get the snazzy revolving, three-sided fascia panel in the middle of the dashboard, like a very expensive Toblerone. Push the button to select from a blank surface matching the rest of the dash trim, three analogue dials or the infotainment screen that shows radio, sat-nav and phone information.
Additional touches for the Convertible include the introduction of an “airscarf”, an air vent positioned by the headrest in each seat, which sends a funnel of warm air round your neck at the push of a button. Add to that the heated arm rest on the centre console, and you’ll be snug as a bug.
The only disappointment is that, instead of adapting the design of the top of the windscreen to send air round the occupants as much as possible with the roof down, Bentley has gone for one of those plastic air deflectors which you erect behind the front seats when there are no rear passengers. You get one of those in any old mass-market convertible.
How practical is it?
There’s room for four adults on short journeys, although the rear two will get leg cramps if the front passengers are six-footers. The rear is easily accessed through a decent gap when the seats are tilted and pushed forwards. With just two adults in, however, you could be in Geneva before dinner and not feel the worse for wear.
The boot is plenty big enough for the requisite weekend-away luggage (235 litres for those who that means anything to). Even when the fabric roof folds away, there is still plenty of room for shopping and luggage; not the baby stroller, however, but you’d have gone for the Bentayga if that were a necessity.
What's it like to drive?
With many convertibles based on solid-roofed cars, there’s a danger that lopping the top off can result in a loss of structural rigidity, causing the bodywork of the car to feel decidedly wobbly. The good news is that there’s very little shakiness to be felt in the Conti, so it feels just as lithe and as taut as the Coupe.
You don’t have to know anything about complicated suspension to notice this, but for those that care, the technical explanation to the Conti’s newfound ability is the same 48-volt electrical system found in the Bentayga SUV. Despite the car’s super-plush ride, the body remains impressively flat in fast corners, when the laws of physics are trying their damnedest to induce body roll, and that makes the car feel sportier, more on the button. And, while the car is normally rear-wheel drive, in slippery conditions the Continental can send up to 38% of its torque to the front wheels, meaning stronger grip and traction.
You can tailor your car’s character – including the softness or firmness of the clever suspension - by twirling a central button to select different driving modes; Comfort, Bentley (standard) or Sport mode. Or, you can deploy Custom and mix it up a bit, perhaps with the Comfort suspension setting and weighty Sport steering setting.
With the roof up, the cabin is almost as quiet as the Coupe’s. Roof down, you get a lot more wind noise and disturbance, but it’s not tiring. The roof retracts fully at speeds of up to 30mph, and it takes 19 seconds.
How powerful is it?
Even in Convertible form, the Conti is a car that simply removes you from the fripperies of the outside world. You push the starter button, and you barely hear a peep from the W12 engine, and with a gentle press of the accelerator pedal, you hear a faint, unobtrusive waffle as you’re sent on your way with incredible smoothness. Press the pedal harder, and that waffle becomes a warble as the nose of the car lifts and you’re hurtled toward the horizon at what feels like warp speed.
The engine works in imperceptible harmony with the dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which is a first for Bentley and has been co-developed with Porsche. It swaps gears with every ounce of smoothness you’d expect from a Bentley, and the changes are sufficiently quick that you never have to wait for the engine to gird its loins for an overtake. The power is simply there, on tap, every time.
How much will it cost me?
The convertible version of the Bentley will cost you another £25,000 or so on top of what you’ll pay for the Coupe. The car is significantly more expensive than previous generations, taking inflation into account. The base price is more than that of the Aston Martin DB11 Volante, which is probably its closest rival, but then again while the Aston feels like a large sports car, the Bentley feels like a proper grown-up grand tourer. A significant number of Bentley owners take their cars on a monthly finance deal, which can seem like the better option given the strong residuals for the Continental GT compared with much of the luxury market, presumably because the car comes out of the VW Group and most of the parts are a known build quantity, with no problems in the supply chain. For example, after four years of ownership, a GT will be more valuable than a Rolls-Royce Wraith. No one buys a Continental at base price, however, and you can expect to add about £30,000 worth of options before you even get going.
How reliable is it?
The Warranty Direct Reliability Index will make worrying reading for your average Bentley buyer. The brand sits at the bottom end of the manufacturer standings, and the Continental GT sits firmly in the list of the study’s ten worst-performing cars. That’s mainly due to the comparatively vast amount of money malfunctions cost to repair, and Bentley would argue that the poor performance is because these examples of the car are, by nature of their inclusion in the study, likely to be serviced and repaired outside of the Bentley dealer network, meaning the parts and labour used may not be of the necessary standard to keep trouble at bay. Judging this third-generation Continental on the reputation of its predecessors is tricky because this is an all-new car. The engine, transmission and chassis parts, while tweaked in Crewe, are shared widely across the VW Group, so they’re tried and tested. There is a three-year/100,000-mile warranty as standard. On the other hand, the new tech in this car means it has 100 million lines of software code, which is 15 times more than a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. That sounds like an awful lot of potential for things to glitch.
How safe is it?
The four-wheel-drive system gives occupants an extra feeling of safety over rear-drive competitors such as the Aston DB11. There are front, side and curtain airbags, but it’s a rather disappointing that you have to pay extra for the City Specification pack to get many safety features you get as standard on far cheaper cars, such as autonomous city braking systems or a pedestrian collision-warning system. Given the low-volume production of Bentley models, there is no safety rating by crash test organisation Euro NCAP.
How much equipment do I get?
Listing the details of a standard Bentley is largely useless, as almost all customers will spend a considerable amount on the very extensive options list. But for what it's worth, the car comes with digital radio, infotainment system and a beefy ten-speaker sound system.
The options list includes larger wheels, upgraded stereos from Naim or Bang & Olufsen and a range of wood veneers for the interior. Adaptive cruise control is only an option, which is a shame when it's standard on cars worth far less, and you'll have to pay extra for features like a head-up display and wireless phone charger.
The latest Bentley Continental GT Convertible is a beautiful, powerful, luxurious grand tourer, with the added benefit of the air through your hair when you lower the roof. While design is subjective, we’d say the convertible looks even more majestic than the coupe. Either way, you will be buying an unparalleled piece of British craftsmanship, from a marque with a distinguished heritage of touring and motorsport credentials. It all adds to the wonderful, heightened sense of occasion this car provides on the road.