First Look: 2012 Bentley Continental GTC

When the Bentley Continental GT was first launched, in 2003, it was three years before a convertible GTC joined the hardtop coupe. For 2011, the Continental GT was redesigned, and so far this year, Bentley has been selling the old-style GTC convertible alongside it. Oh sure, the company has rolled out its characteristic special editions to maintain the appearance of freshness (Continental Supersports ISR convertible, anyone?), but the brand's keenest buyers know what's coming: a new GTC. And Bentley executives say, they've been impatiently asking for it.

So this time, there's no 3-year lag time getting the convertible out. Already this year, at a series of small, private, invitation-only gatherings, Bentley has been giving its best customers a sneak peek at the new Continental GTC. Now, Bentley is releasing photos and info on the car to the wider world, but the great unwashed won't get to see the new GTC in person until its debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September.

Like the hardtop, the Continental convertible's sheetmetal has subtly resculpted. The overall shape essentially carries over, but the body panels have been manipulated with more starched creases for a crisper, less rounded appearance. A wider track, front and rear, together with larger, 20-inch wheels (21-inchers are optional) give the wheels a more prominence, and a lower, squatter grille gives a greater impression of width. One particularly neat touch is the ultra-slim, LED third brake light at the base of the top.

The traditional fabric top is retained and, not surprising for Bentley, it can be had in seven different colors -- all the better to coordinate with one of the dozens of exterior paint colors or the 17 leather hues. The heavily insulated roof is finished inside with a suede-like headliner, and can be powered up or down at speeds up to 15 mph. Compared to the previous convertible, the softtop's C-pillars are slimmer, affording a bit better visibility, and the side windows are reshaped.

Inside, the GTC adopts the new dashboard and slimmer seats from the new GT. For the convertible, the seats incorporate Mercedes-Benz-style neck-level heater vents below the headrests. The slimmer front seats allowed Bentley to carve out a bit more rear legroom. Because the seats no longer have integrated seatbelts, there are now automatic seatbelt presenters. There's also an updated infotainment system, with a large touch-screen.

Mechanically, the GTC follows in the tire tracks of the new GT, with its 6.0-liter W-12 engine enhanced to deliver 567 hp (up from 552) and 516 pound feet of torque (bettering the previous 479). Both figures are still shy of the GTC Speed's 600 hp and 553 pound feet. Bentley's performance estimates for the new GTC are 4.5 seconds for 0 to 60 mph and 195 mph as the top speed. The six-speed automatic has been revised for quicker shifts and the standard all-wheel-drive system adopts a 60-percent default rear torque bias.

Eager customers can order their GTC now, and should expect to receive the car late this year. For most people, taking delivery of a new convertible in December is not ideal, but Bentley buyers can probably just have their new GTC shipped to their house in Palm Beach or Scottsdale or wherever they ride out the winter.


2012 Bentley Continental GTC

Base price: $210,000 (est.)

Engine:
6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12
567 hp @ 6000 rpm
516 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Drive: Four-wheel

Wheels, tires:
9.5 x 20-inch wheels
275/40ZR20 tires

Length x width: 189.2 x 87.7 in

Wheeblase: 108.1 in

Fuel economy (city/highway):
12/19 mpg (estimated)

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