Driving the 2013 Bentley Continental GTC V8

BATD ON May 22, 2013 AT 10:26 am

by Liz Turner

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to drive a £165k Bentley convertible on a sunny day through beautiful countryside, the answer is, quite frankly, fabulous.

The historic marque has had a range of famous bottoms on its seats, from J-Lo, Cindy Crawford, Paris Hilton, Jason Statham and a multitude of rappers to Her Majesty the Queen. In the books, James Bond drives a coachbuilt Bentley, not an Aston.

As I slid into the GTC V8 at Bentley’s factory in Crewe, the Burnt Oak hide seat welcomed my body like a lover’s arms. For a while I had to simply snuggle back and stare at all the beautiful things around me.

Bentley Continental GTC V8

At the factory, where even the gift shop carrier bags have real leather handles, I’d watched skilled craftspeople working with the leather, metal and wood. So I appreciated the care taken to match wood veneers, and shape them around the modern display screen and controls in the dashboard. Buyers choose from samples in drawers as if they were in a traditional men’s outfitter’s, and for this car, stripey Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus had been chosen. For a more modern look, I could also have chosen machined and polished aluminium.

There’s no pseudo-metal in this car, it’s all genuine bling, from the little organ stops that control big round air vents, to the trim around the dinky little clock. The soft leather on the wheel has been handstitched, and feels welcoming and soft beneath my hands.
Other extras on this car include massage seats with seat ventilation at £625; Naim for Bentley Premium audio at £5363, plus a neck warmer at £735.

Bentley Continental GTC V8

If you want fancy cross-stitching for your seats, it takes one very skilled lady a week to complete.

The first control my greedy fingers touch is the gleaming button to lift roof. It’s huge, but disappears up and off in seconds. The sun hits my face and I feel like a celebrity off to my third home, or maybe my fourth. Reverse gear selects as discreetly as a well-trained butler, and we ooze out of the parking space and out on to the road. This car is capable of 187mph, but just because you’re drinking vintage champagne, you don’t have to get drunk. I cruise, soaking in the experience. Everything feels perfect, it may be big (close to 16ft long) but the GTC wraps itself around me. The steering is creamy smooth, and hairs stand up on the back of my neck as we swoop round fast corners. The 4.0-litre V8 engine has a lovely mellow growl, but depress the pedal hard and the sound is like an aircraft taking off. And any cars behind swiftly become dots in the distance.

What can I say, but WHOOO-HOO! If this car were mine, I’d get more points on my licence than I’ve even collected from Nectar in a year.

The Sunburst Gold metallic paint and gleaming wheels the size of satellite dishes are not discreet. We get plenty of looks – mainly of disappointment as people realize I’m no one famous.

That paint cost £3,230 and it’s one of around 40 standard colours, or the flagship Mulsanne has 120. You can order whatever you fancy, so long as it won’t fade or poison the environment. Bentley keeps examples of personal choices, for example: a deep sapphire blue created to match a favourite evening dress, the exact metallic pink of someone’s nail varnish, and a flat turquoise matched from a food mixer. Of course, some people spray or customise their cars after purchase, it’s whispered that Paris Hilton’s powder pink Bentley ‘was not our doing’.

As we finally glide back into the car park, the key is prized out of my hand. I think I’d like a red one, please, to match my bank balance.

Bentley Continental GTC V8 £136,250
With options as driven £64,930
Top speed 187mph
0-60mph 4.7 seconds
Fuel consumption 25.9mpg (combined)

 

Liz Turner was on staff at What Car? magazine for five years and has driven everything from a Smart car to the Rolls-Royce Phantom. www.liz-turner.com

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