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Bentley Continental GTC Convertible
Completes the GT Coupé and Flying Spur

Bentley Continental family: GT Coupé, 4-door Flying Spur and GTC convertible.

Continental family: GT Coupé, 4-door Flying Spur and GTC convertible.

15th May 2006.

One, two, and here comes the third new model to complete the Bentley Continental family now.

Yes, the revival of the British luxury brand is still on its remarkably successful course with the introduction of the new Continental GTC convertible towards the end of this year.

The all-new 2+2 luxury cabriolet completes the Continental model range, following the introduction of the Continental GT coupé in 2003 and the four-door Continental Flying Spur last year.

In figures, Bentley's success is expressed though deliveries growth of no less than 31.2 % last year, reaching 8,627 units, a record for the VW-owned (since 1998) British brand. Growth was strongest in the USA, where Bentley deliveries rose to 3,752 units (51.4 %).

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - front view.

195mph (312km/h), AWD, W12-cylinder engine and air suspension.

For comparison, sales of the British luxury sports brand were at 1017 units in 2003, just before the launch of the first new Continental GT (37 Continental GT units were sold then, as it was launched only towards the end of that year).

What about the new convertible now?

With a top speed of 195mph (312km/h), all-wheel drive, a modern 12-cylinder engine, advanced air suspension and ultra-stiff body structure, the Continental GTC shows its direct lineage with the Continental GT coupe and the four-door Continental Flying Spur.

The interior delivers the same standard of craftsmanship, with natural wood veneers and leather hides of the finest quality, all under an elegant, electro-hydraulically operated soft-top roof.

The Continental GTC becomes the second convertible in the current Bentley range, as it follows the recently announced return of the Azure name for Bentley’s Arnage-derived flagship four-seater convertible.

But while the Azure offers classic glamour, sophistication and accommodation for adults in all comfort, the 2+2 Continental GTC is more designed for phenomenal performance, in the more modern-oriented style and excitement of the Continental GT, still with the classic open-top Bentley motoring.

Exterior - As design Director Dirk van Braeckel describes it, the "sporting stance of the Continental GTC is (...) quite different from the Continental GT coupé, with its compact soft top and longer rear deck."

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - driving shot, front.

Above 245km/h, the suspension automatically lowers the car.

A completely new rear suspension package allowed the rear design of the car to be kept as compact as possible while still giving enough space to stow the roof when folded.

"When you see the Continental GTC with the roof up, the weight bias is moved towards the back,” explains Raul Pires, Head of Exterior Design. “The glass area appears to be a little smaller than on the coupé version and the cabin looks so low that it has this great sportscar feel."

As on the entire Continental range, the GTC’s design has also been influenced by the need to ensure perfect aerodynamic balance at speeds close to 200mph (320km/h). The convertible spent many hours in the wind tunnel to ensure a low drag coefficient and like the coupé and four-door versions it utilises an underbody diffuser and specially sculpted rear bumper and bootlid edge to provide downforce and stability at high speed.

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - interior sketch, by Robin Page.

The interior is framed by a strip of stainless steel around the waist line.

Interior - Robin Page, Head of Interior Design, explains the importance of ensuring that the exterior and interior designs work in harmony: “With the roof stowed you immediately notice how the interior is beautifully framed by a continuous strip of stainless steel that runs around the waist line. Within this frame the interior is a combination of the finest handcrafted leather, wood and polished metals.”

As with a tailor-made suit, even the tonneau cover (leather hide) has carefully positioned stitch lines.

The front seats have a new sculpted rear which produces an additional 30mm (1.2 inches) of knee-space in the rear.

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - top-down view.

An access allows skis to be passed through from the boot area.

In the rear, the centre console finishes with a veneered panel just behind the front armrests, leaving the rear seats as an uninterrupted surface of leather hide, with an access to allow skis to be passed through from the boot area.

The inner roof of the Continental GTC is trimmed with a high quality fabric that looks like the slung headliner in the original coachbuilt Bentleys. Customers have a choice of eight headlining colours enabling them to create a luxuriously light feel or a darker, more sporting ambience.

Craftsmanship - As expected, wood veneers and leather hides remain an integral part of the Bentley furniture, as most traditional materials can convey a contemporary feel, especially that some 21st century technology allow, for instance, wood veneer to be curved in a way that would simply not have been possible in the past.

A satin metal wind-stop can be attached across the rear seats. Made of chrome and aluminium, it folds and stores in the boot when not in use.

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - back view.

The roof comes with a heated glass rear window and an interior rooflamp.

Chassis stiffening - By removing the roof – an integral part of the body structure that provides stiffness to the chassis – a convertible has a tendency to shake or vibrate when driven.

The Continental GTC’s engineers began an extensive development programme to ensure the Continental GTC’s steel body had a high torsional stiffness. They added significant steel reinforcement to the sills as well as additional cross braces that run beneath the cabin. Strengthened steel tubing was also used in the A-pillars and windscreen surround. To remove unwanted resonance, a great deal of time was also spent improving the mountings for the rear subframe.

Despite the significant reinforcement to the car’s body, the weight of the car has risen by just 110kg over the Continental GT coupé, to 2495kg (5500lb).

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - open top, side view.

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - opening or closing, side view 1.

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - opening or closing, side view 2.

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - closed top, side view .

The roof folds flat in 25 sec. and can be operated at speeds up to 30km/h.

Convertible roof with rollover protection - The second target was to ensure that the car’s folding roof was as refined as possible while still fitting into a small stowage area behind the rear seats. The seven-bow, three-layer acoustic-damping fabric roof folds flat in just 25 seconds.

The roof materials are  the best available, with all working parts covered. From inside the car or outside, when the roof is in operation, not one piece of the mechanism will be visible.

The roof comes with a heated glass rear window and also an interior rooflamp in the headlining. It can be operated after pulling away from standstill at speeds up to 30km/h (20mph).

For occupant safety, an advanced rollover protection system is installed beneath the rear headrests. If the car’s onboard computer senses that it is about to roll during an accident, two reinforced steel hoops are deployed in a split second, thereby working in conjunction with the strong windshield frame to protect passengers in the front and rear seats.

New rear suspension - To cater for the convertible design and packaging requirements, a new rear suspension has been created. The convertible shares the same suspension system as its coupé equivalent – a four-link arrangement at the front and a trapezoidal multi-link rear axle with computer-controlled air springs and fully variable, electronically controlled shock absorbers in place of conventional coils.

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - new rear suspension, side view.

New rear suspension allowed the rear to be kept as compact as possible.

On previous Continental models, however, the air damper unit was mounted to the upper lever of the rear suspension. On the convertible, the entire damper has been lowered by 210mm and is now mounted to a brand new lower trapezoidal link with an advanced aluminium-cast mounting point that provides the strength and stiffness to hold the damper in place.

With a slightly altered weight distribution, the Continental GTC has revised air spring pistons and damper hydraulics at the front and rear.

As with the other Continentals in the range, the Continental GTC will allow the driver to select from four pre-programmed suspension settings ranging from Comfort through to Sport. These settings automatically adjust the computer-controlled shock absorbers to ensure that the car reacts in the right way to the driving style.

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - body reinforcement, 1.

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - body reinforcement, bottom.

The reinforcement to the GTC body added just 110kg over the GT coupé.

At speeds above 152mph (245km/h), the suspension automatically lowers the car to ensure lower aerodynamic lift with the best high-speed stability.

Engine - The Continental GTC is powered by Bentley’s W12 twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre engine, which will propel the car to 60mph in 4.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 195mph (312km/h). It is identical to the engine used in the coupé and four-door versions of the Continental and delivers 552bhp/411kW.

The 12-cylinder block has a 48-valve head with four camshafts that operate using continually variable valve-timing. Power is transmitted via a seven-bearing crankshaft to the car’s six-speed automatic transmission. To ensure compliance stringent emissions regulations, the twin turbochargers are designed with a unique bypass valve that automatically sends exhaust gases to heat the catalytic converters when the car is started from cold. This valve then operates as the turbocharger wastegate at all other times.

Turbo - The Borg-Warner turbochargers produce a flat torque curve, ensuring that the driver has instantly available performance without turbo lag or shifting down through the gears. The torque curve is constant, with no drop-off from its maximum output of 479lb ft (650Nm) at just 1600 rev/min all the way up to 6000 rev/min.

Gearbox - The Continental GTC’s power is channelled through a six-speed automatic transmission built for Bentley by ZF. The transmission can be left in fully automatic mode or used as a clutchless manual where gear changes take place only on the command of the driver, via either the gearlever or paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.

Bentley Continental GTC convertible - rollover protection and airbags.

Front / side airbags, plus rollover protection beneath the rear headrests.

Continuous all-wheel drive - In standard conditions, the advanced continuous all-wheel drive system distributes power equally between the front and rear axles, via a highly sensitive centre Torsen differential. If the latter detects a deviation in torque demand between the two axles it automatically sends more power to the wheels indicating greater grip.

The Continental GTC also incorporates traction control and an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), both of which can be disabled at the discretion of the driver. Operating discreetly, these driver aids offer additional security and governance over the car’s dynamic potential without being intrusive.

Steering - The Continental GTC shares the revised steering system that was introduced with the four-door Continental Flying Spur. To improve driver feel, friction was reduced in the steering column, rack and suspension ball joints and its responsiveness was also enhanced, with a slightly lighter weighting for more relaxed driving at high speeds while providing a more linear increase in loading as it begins to corner.

Brakes - In common with its Continental stablemates, the GTC has the largest diameter disc brakes of any series production passenger car on sale today. The front discs are 405mm in diameter and 36mm wide, and the rear discs 335mm in diameter and 22mm wide. The aluminium callipers are branded with cast aluminium ‘Bentley’ logos at the front.

The braking system features a Bosch anti-lock system with Brake Assist and electronic pressure distribution. The Continental GTC also has an ‘intelligent’ electronic parking brake with move-off assist (except USA). The parking brake system can also be operated as an emergency brake. In this instance braking is applied to all four wheels and the car’s electronic safety systems remain fully operational allowing the driver to steer as normal.

A tyre-pressure monitoring system is standard equipment, and constantly measures the tyre pressures in all four wheels, instantly warning the driver should a significant reduction occur.

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