That's still true to this day, where the company, now situated under the umbrella of the Volkswagen Group, still offers all the same luxury and refinement as before, but it also includes even better drivability than before. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Continental range, where a full line of turbocharged 12-cylinder and Speed models are on offer, to say nothing of older Supersports models that were offered and the company's newest venture into the world of racing, the GT3.
But below the Speed cars and the other W12 cruisers, Bentley now offers eight-cylinder power in its Continental range. And despite this more focused approach to offering something a bit more frugal and efficient, it still has quite the focus on driver involvement. We recently spent a week under the summer sun in this droptop V8 GTC to experience just that.
- In terms of fitting in with the lineup, the V8 model is a stealth addition to the Continental line. The whole package can still be customized to suit your wildest dreams, with nearly endless choices for colors and wheels available. Those with keen eyes will notice the red-painted badges and subtle tweaks to the car's design (eight-shaped exhaust outlets, darkened lower bumper and slight tim differences around the lower front fascia). But still, this thing slides under the radar as being nothing short of Bentley chic, and it's proof that the automaker is in no way punishing its owners for opting for the entry-level model.
- That V8's a real honey to use. Bentley employs a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter unit here, good for 500 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque. Even in this hefty, 5,445-pound GTC, that's enough grunt to get the Big B up to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds, the eight-speed automatic transmission executing quick, effortless shifts.
- Putting the transmission in sport mode opens the V8's exhaust baffles, which is a nice treat – except when you're stopped at a light with the top down. The low-frequency resonance sounds for all the world like some twit in surrounding traffic has their subwoofers cranked.
- By the same token, when erected, the seven-layer top smothers the latter like a blanket, along with everything else – it also looks and feels properly rich. We're so glad Bentley didn't try to engineer a costly and heavy folding metal lid.
- Despite the weight, driving the GTC isn't like steering a ship. All parts of the driving experience are well-tuned for effortless cruising, with nicely weighted steering and adjustable suspension dampers that offer plenty of feedback for the driver without crushing that Bentley-spec smooth ride, even on large, 21-inch rollers. Top notch stuff.
- Much like the exterior, the Conti's cabin is still rich as ever with the V8 spec. Curiously, some of us still find the front chairs to be less comfortable and supportive than we'd like, though that's certainly not a ding on the quality of materials used. Every last touchable surface is still wrapped in only the finest leather made from only the finest cows, and the cockpit looks both elegant and modern all at once.
- Presumably every Bentley owner drinks his or her handcrafted beverage from a stainless steel tumbler. They had better – the adjustable "fingers" on the cupholders are so firmly sprung that they will actually cut through foam cups when they are being extracted. Ask us how we know.
- Until you turn the car on. It's hard to find evidence of the Volkswagen Group ownership in the Continental, so long as you aren't using any of the infotainment technology. While trying to pair an iPhone to the system with a journalist friend riding shotgun, it was funny to hear her pipe up and say that she recently had to go through the same convoluted process in a Volkswagen CC test car.
- Beyond that, the graphics and overall on-screen interface feel decidedly cheap for such a high-dollar car. The stuff Audi offers in its MMI system these days is out of this world compared to the Bentley system.
- That said, we're not sure there's a more versatile ultra-lux GT on the market than Bentley's Continental range. They've become something of a default choice in the six-figure cruiser segment, but you understand why after you've driven a few – they may be heavy, but they're unflappable – powerful, composed, luxurious and capable of being personalized to a high degree. Even the convertible is a true year-round automobile no matter where you live.
Chris Paukert contributed to this Quick Spin