What's New for 2009
The 2009 Bentley Continental GTC receives a handful of new options, including adaptive cruise control, an iPod adapter and a Naim audio system. Additionally, a park distance control system is now standard, and the steering has been retuned for improved feel.
In the rarefied realm of ultra-luxurious convertibles, our normal consumer buying advice isn't really relevant. Take the 2009 Bentley Continental GTC, for example, a German-engineered, British-badged four-passenger ragtop that starts just shy of $200,000. If you ask us, that $200,000 would be much better spent on, say, a Boxster S, a BMW 335d, a Corvette Z06 and maybe an MX-5 Miata just for kicks. But at this lofty price point, it's not about bang for the buck -- it's about indulging yourself in stately Bentley opulence that few cars can match. If that sounds appealing, then the Continental GTC is an excellent choice.
Indeed, the Bentley's dramatic exterior shape makes ordinary cars look like extras hired to accentuate its regal bearing. The quad circular headlamps, flowing tail and imposing 19-inch wheels combine to make a vehicular statement like few others. The Continental GTC continues to impress inside, where rich cowhide, gleaming wood and classic analog instrumentation combine to create an extraordinarily opulent environment, even by the standards of ultra-luxury convertibles. It can all be customized to your own specification -- colors, veneer choice -- to increase your car's level of exclusivity.
Under the hood, the all-wheel-drive GTC, like other Continentals, has a twin-turbocharged W12 power plant. It's a distinctive-sounding engine that generates gargantuan low-end torque. Handling isn't exactly sports-carlike, but it's pretty impressive for a car that weighs nearly 5,500 pounds. Retuned steering for 2009 makes the GTC noticeably more communicative during hard driving -- not that Bentley drivers are likely to engage in such uncivilized behavior. However, for a relatively small amount given the GTC's soaring base price, you can step up to the GTC Speed, which gives you more performance without sacrificing comfort or civility.
Our stubbornly logical brains keep coming back to the value equation. A Jaguar XKR convertible, for example, will keep pace with the Bentley in a straight line and leave it behind when the road gets curvy, all for about half the price. But there are plenty of XKRs tooling around out there -- too many for comfort if you're looking to set yourself apart. Other than the Aston Martin DB9 Volante, whose seats are far less useful than those in the Bentley, there really isn't anything out there for $200,000 that can match the Bentley's exclusivity. With this in mind, we can understand why the Continental GTC might be a sensible purchase for those with sufficient means.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Bentley Continental GTC is a premium luxury convertible available in one loaded trim level. Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, a power-folding soft top, an electronically adjustable air suspension, bi-xenon headlamps, parking sensors, keyless ignition/entry, a power opening/closing trunk, a full leather interior with a choice of primary and secondary hides in 17 colors, burr walnut trim, multizone automatic climate control with rear-seat controls, 14-way power heated front seats, memory functions, Bluetooth, a navigation system and a 12-speaker stereo with satellite radio and a glovebox-mounted six-CD changer.
Options include carbon-ceramic brakes, adaptive cruise control, a three-spoke sport steering wheel, heated steering wheel (available in either wheel choice), massaging front seats, various upgraded interior veneers, a rearview camera, an iPod input jack and a 13-speaker, 1,100-watt Naim sound system with two subwoofers. The Mulliner Driving Specification adds 20-inch wheels, diamond-quilted leather trim, Mulliner-specific interior trim options and a knurled chrome and leather shift knob. Additional options range from lamb's-wool carpeting to specialized exterior paint colors.
Powertrains and Performance
Beneath the all-wheel-drive 2009 Bentley Continental GTC's contoured hood is a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged engine with 12 cylinders arranged in the Volkswagen Group's unique W formation. The W12 cranks out 552 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, the latter of which is available at just 1,600 rpm. Matched to a six-speed automatic with steering-column-mounted paddle shifters, the W12 whisks the gargantuan drop-top Bentley from zero to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds. Fuel economy -- likely not a significant concern for prospective buyers -- is EPA estimated at 10 mpg city/17 mpg highway and 12 mpg combined.
The Continental GTC comes standard with stability control, antilock brakes and front side airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Bentley Continental GTC's cabin is a standout, even among top-dollar convertibles. The metal accents, rich wood trim and soft leather lend a charming British feel to the proceedings, an impression heightened by the push-pull vent controls, Breitling timepiece, and metal switches and levers. Regrettably, the infotainment and navigation system is old-world as well -- Bentley hasn't changed it since the Continental GTC's 2004 introduction, and it shows in the undersized display screen and nonintuitive interface. At least the optional iPod interface is much improved from earlier iterations.
Front passengers will undoubtedly be pleased with their leather-swaddled thrones, but the backseat is a different story -- there's room for two shorter passengers, but only if those in front are in a generous mood. The 9.2-cubic-foot capacity of the trunk isn't impressive given the GTC Speed's outsized proportions, but it's enough to accommodate a standard golf bag with the woods removed.
Heavier than many SUVs, Bentley's drop top nonetheless defies belief with its fleet-footed acceleration. Handling is decent as well, though there's only so much Bentley's engineers could do with roughly 5,500 pounds of pure automotive excess. As you'd expect, the 2009 Bentley Continental GTC is a champ at smoothing out rough surfaces thanks to its adjustable air suspension. In all likelihood, those who buy a GTC for its grandeur and opulence will be pleased by its driving dynamics.