There’s an erie sensation that occurs when you start to push the envelope in the Bentley Continental GT Convertible. Just like in the coupe, you’re sure you should be tipping onto the car’s door handles. But you’re not.
It’s partly down to the three-chamber air suspension, and partly down to the electronically-controlled anti-roll bars, with the latter items actually developing more torque as they twist than the twin-turbo W12 hiding behind the ample front grille. That gives you a sense of just how much they’re doing.
Inevitably, though, the laws of physics decide to have a word. The drop-top cruiser’s heft means the tyres start to get noisy, and the nose wants to push wide. This happens noticeably sooner than it does in the tin top, the GTC being 170kg heavier at 2414kg, akin to permanently carrying around three thin humans.
Even so, the Continental is extremely impressive. You rarely get even a hint of traction being lost, and although there’s little life in the steering, it’s weighty and predictable. Sport mode brings with it an 80/20 torque split in favour of the rear, giving some sense of movement at the back, but it’s a generally very neutral, capable-feeling car. And, of course, there’s the knowledge that you merely have to breathe on the throttle to wake up the 626bhp, 664lb ft 6.0-litre engine.
It’s a curious-sounding engine, with the exhaust note being a strange blend of V6 and V8. Like an opera singer backed by a thrash metal band. The Aston Martin DB11 AMR’s 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12 emits a more satisfying din, but sans roof, I can definitely appreciate the aural curiosity of this W12.
There’s certainly no arguing with its effectiveness. After a sizeable dose of turbo lag, the Continental GTC launches forward with the frenzied pace of the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox making sure progress is interrupted only for imperceptibly brief moments. The transmission is smooth, seamless and intelligent during slower driving, too - Bentley’s decision to go with DCT rather than a torque converter auto suddenly makes a great deal of sense.
Use the launch control function (yep, it has one, and yep, I tried it), and you’ll see 62mph arrive from rest in just 3.9 seconds, only a tenth slower than the coupe. That’s the kind of figure you’d associate with a supercar not so long ago, and not a two-and-a-half tonne GT car.
Since this is a two-and-half-tonne GT car, you’re probably more concerned about what it’s like when you’re driving more sedately. And if you’re doing so, the Continental GT convertible is a wonderful, wonderful machine.
There is a little added shake, and yes, the 275mm front/315mm rear bespoke Pirelli P Zero tyres do introduce a fair amount of roar to the equation, but few cars have wafting ability nailed quite so successfully. The ride isn’t ever anything other than beautifully smooth, it’s as quiet as the old GT coupe with the roof up, and very well shielded from the wind with it down, even if you will need to use the less than elegant fold-up deflector to achieve ultimate drop-top serenity.
Less specialised companies like Mercedes and BMW will happily sell you something that rides jolly nicely, but what they can’t do is offer the same almost absurd attention to detail as Bentley does. There are the 310,675 individual stitches in the leather interior to consider, and the ‘knurling’ which makes controls look delectable and also easier to grip. There are around 10 square metres of fine wood used in every car, and although not fitted to the one I drove, the watchmaker-inspired ‘Côtes de Genève’ finish - machined on a 0.6mm-thick slice of aluminium - is a beautiful thing to behold.
These are more than just pub facts too: you really get a sense of the craftsmanship when you’re sitting in one of these. It’s something you’ll probably get to appreciate much more than the thermonuclear W12 under the bonnet.
Is the outside as lovely? Perhaps not - it’s imposing enough but not classically beautiful in the way an Aston Martin is. It’s definitely the best-looking Continental, though, with a new air of elegance and sophistication brought on by the loss of the roof.
It’s not much more expensive without a roof, actually. £175,890 may seem like quite a substantial chunk of money for all this, but a £16,790 increase for all the work that’s gone into turning the GT into a convertible is actually, when you think about it, rather good value for money.
I know as a petrolhead the GT I’m supposed to want is the coupe in the expected V8 format, but it’s hard not to be won over by the Convertible with this highly excessive W12 under the bonnet. All it asks is that you take it a little easier in the corners, which - given the benefits you’re getting elsewhere - I’ll happily do.