2012 Bentley Continental GTC W12 Review

Roofless beast, better than ever

By Shahzad Sheikh

2012 Bentley Continental GTC

Last year the Bentley Continental GT range received an extensive facelift and revisions, with claims that every body panel and piece of glazing is new. To the untrained eye it may look exactly the same, but in fact, to a professional car journo like me… er… it still looks exactly the same.

Well ok, the front is subtly different the – easiest way to spot the newer car is the smaller outer lights now with LEDs and the deeper more pronounced grille. And overall it’s somehow slightly more aggressive hunkered down compared to the bus-like previous version thanks to some sharper creases. This is particularly accentuated when it comes to the convertible GTC version with the roof down. Three styles of 21-inch wheels are now available as options which help that low-slung stance.

We tried the Coupe GT at the end of last year – read that review here. And frankly speaking, you might as well just read that one because there’s not a lot to add to it here. It’s a straightforward update closely following the changes to the Coupe, on a convertible that was introduced six years ago.

Bentley claims there’s more space in the cabin, although I can’t find it, so if it is, it’s only fractional. What is immediately obvious is that it gets the new updated interior, which is a vast improvement over the older car both in terms of quality and tactile surfaces and user-friendliness. Although the indicator stalk is still placed too low for my liking and the electronics are not entirely intuitive – if it takes me over 10 minutes to figure out how to pair my phone and hook up the Bluetooth Audio, that’s already annoying.

You can certainly go crazy with the choice of interior trims: 17 standard leather upholstery colours, six colour split combinations, seven veneers and that’s not counting the bespoke possibilities. And that canvas hood, might as well be a steel clamp on top of the body, because it feels absolutely solid thanks to multi-layered fabric, panels within and acoustic glass which all serves to totally insulate you from the outside world.

There’s also a neck warmer in the fully-electrically adjustable heated and cooled front seats (with massage) which obviously it was way too hot to try out in our summer. But why aren’t the air vents under the headrests also able to blow out cool air?

I did drive it one evening with the roof down, and with the windows up, it’s just about possible to keep the cabin tolerable in our current 40+ degrees centigrade evenings with all the cooling turned to full. Buffeting at speed is virtually non-existent and there isn’t much sound intrusion either with the good stereo losing no clarity or volume.

Performance is great from the mighty W12 with power increased slightly to 567bhp and torque up to 516lb ft, and this car just heaves forward at an alarming rate with a 0-100kph time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 314kph. It’s still all a little hampered by only having an six-speed version of the otherwise excellent ZF transmission, which considering that even a BMW 3-series has eight gear ratios now, seems inappropriate. Still it’s smooth and capable and it’s best not to bother with the massive paddleshifts still there behind the steering wheel.

The wider track, revised multi-mode suspension and improved steering, all give the driver more confidence in the car’s considerable four-wheel drive grip that faithfully sticks its even more considerable bulk to the tarmac. But despite the increased rear torque, this remains a car that tends to towards slight understeer – although from my experience of the GT coupe the younger V8 sibling does boast sharper turn-in, thanks to a lighter engine.

And although I haven’t yet driven the newer V8 version of the GTC, I have tried the Coupe and on the basis of that, would strongly suggest that the V8 GTC would be the car to go for now. It’s a keener more involving car, that even sounds better and is around AED200,000 cheaper than this car.

How much is this car? Well apparently Bentley don’t give out prices anymore, and the dealer of course is suitably vague, but the W12 GTs are always around a million dirhams.

Now I know that no two are probably ever alike and that it’s extremely unlikely that a Bentley customer would ever order a ‘base’ model, but I still think it’s unacceptable not to issue an official price. Base model pricing is a benchmark by which we can position a car in the market arena and without which there is just fiscal anarchy. With more and more manufactures and dealers in the region offering great pricing transparency than ever, Bentley’s a bit off on this one.

Overall though – it’s certainly a car that exists in that realm of the market where the words ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it’ apply. And that being the case, it is an awesome car, the GTC convertible is definitely my pick of the range – unless you really need to accommodate people in the back in which case don’t be fooled by the pigmy-sized rear pews and just go for a Flying Spur.

Spec
2012 Bentley Continental GTC W12
Price: Approx AED1m ($270,000)
Engine: 6.0-litre, W12 cylinder, 567bhp @ 6000rpm, 516lb ft @ 1700rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 4.8seconds, 314kph, 16.5L/100km
Transmission: six-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Weight: 2495kg

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