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Last week, Bentley sent three examples of the exquisite new Continental GTC to Miller Motorcars' Bentley Greenwich. The trio of droptops is currently touring the country, stopping at Bentley showrooms to afford customers new and old the opportunity to get behind the wheel. In the case of the GTC, though, the car is so beautiful, one could, in good conscience, place an order based on a photo alone.

Thankfully, last week, I didn't have to look at photos or stare at a static prototype on display. I had an appointment, you see. I was going to take one of the cars out for a brief spin myself. When I drove into the Miller parking lot, the usual assortment of eye candy was augmented by GTCs finished in Sapphire, Moonbeam, and Silver Tempest. After a quick sign-in, I was escorted to to the car done up with the Moonbeam paint and a gorgeous Nautic blue leather interior. This was Thursday afternoon, and to say that it was perfect convertible weather would be to understate the matter. The temperature was in the mid-60s and the sun was blazing in a cloudless sky. The roof was already down on the GTC. It was time.

I dropped into the comfortable driver's seat and and pressed the start button on the center console. The twin-turbo W12 turned over and burbled to life, settling into a quiet idle. The rep who would be riding with me, Diane, waited as I got the seat and mirrors arranged to my liking.

"We ready?" I asked.

"Whenever you are," she replied. I pulled the shifter down into drive and edged out to the curb to wait for a break in traffic.


An opening presented itself and I accelerated out of the parking lot and onto West Putnam Avenue, heading south. It was lunchtime, so there were a lot of cars on the road. I'd have to take it easy, something the GTC is perfectly happy to do. It is as docile as a Cadillac at cruising speeds, with steering light enough to handle one-handed. Each time you press down on the throttle, however, you're reminded that this is no ordinary boulevard cruiser. Almost totally quiet at low engine speeds, the exhaust note deepens immediately under power, singing a delightful guttural song that's appreciated all the more with the roof stowed neatly under its leather-trimmed hard cover.

Prepare to be noticed if you're behind the wheel of a GTC. It's that kind of machine -- instantly classic, with the kind of curb appeal lesser cars aspire to, but never achieve. Surrounding drivers and pedestrians are instantly aware of it. It has presence. It draws looks. Stares. Some people point. Many smile. I understand that part. I was smiling the whole time.

I eventually hung a right onto Pemberwick Road and headed towards the interior section of the town. The car felt rock-solid through the slight curves and elevation changes the road presented, and I realized that at no time did I feel like I was driving a 5,500 pound car, a testament to its endless, effortless power and excellent driving dynamics. As I continued on my way, the sun played off the interior brightwork and the gorgeous wood trim. The feeling of quality radiating off of the cabin materials was almost palpable. It's simply a wonderful place to be.

This road had fewer cars on it, so I was able to get on the gas a little more. Response is instantaneous, and you're hurtled forward accompanied by the W12's glorious exhaust bellow. As game as the GTC is to let the dogs out, it's equally adept at bringing the mayhem to a halt, thanks to brakes seemingly capable of slowing a locomotive.

I started navigating my way back down towards the dealership, ultimately arriving at a stop sign at the bottom of West Putnam Avenue right at the NY/CT state line. The road ahead was straight and devoid of traffic, so I floored it. The stately GTC didn't disappoint, and the manufacturer's claimed 4.8-second 0-60 time feels right on based on what I experienced. I decided right then and there that 552 horsepower is a really nice thing to have underhood.

A minute or two later, we were back at Miller Motorcars, where I noted that the time it takes to open or close the roof is around 20 to 25 seconds. And while the car looks spectacular with the roof down, it's equally fetching with it closed -- no small achievement, mind you. Kudos to the designers for making the soft-top's roofline look better than what you see on some other marques' hardtop coupes.

I was behind the wheel of the GTC for just 20 minutes or so, and each one of them was a revelation. As I walked away, I felt pangs of sorrow that I had to leave it behind. The GTC does that to you. It's so good in so many ways, it's impossible not to covet once you've spent any time with it.

EPILOGUE
After I was done taking some pictures outside, I headed back into the showroom to thank a few people and say goodbye. I was ready to leave when I was asked, "Hey, we've got a Flying Spur Mulliner you can take out for a quick spin if you want. You interested?" A phrase involving bears and woods crossed my mind, and I quickly replied in the affirmative. If you want a detailed take on what driving the Spur is like, I recommend you read John's post on that topic, seeing as he had one for a whole weekend. I'll say this, though: the sedan felt just like the convertible: quiet, nimble, and fast. It's wonderful.

Hopefully, we'll be able to arrange a more extended test of the Continental GTC down the road sometime, after which we can give you a truly comprehensive review. Until then, however, we'll summarize things this way:

It's outstanding. You want one.

Very special thanks as always to Miller Motorcars' Bentley Greenwich for the invitation to drive the car and for their hospitality while I was there. It really was a pleasure.

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All photos ©2006 Alex Nunez / Weblogs, Inc.