Sunday, February 19, 2012

2012 BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GTC: COASTAL CRUISER!

The western coast of Croatia provides the snaking roads for Road Test Editor Howard Walker to wring-out Bentley’s stunning new GTC.
The Windex-blue waters of the Adriatic shimmer like a million polished diamonds. Pastel-colored fishing boats rock and roll in the picture-perfect harbor, animated by a warm breeze that blows from the Sahara. It’s winter in the ancient coastal town of Rovinj on Croatia’s Istrian peninsula, a relaxed three-hour drive south of Venice and the border with Italy.

Right now the tourists have long gone, the beachfront bars are shuttered, handing this magical place back to the locals. Day-to-day life once again resumes at its easy, laid-back pace. This western coast of Croatia with its deserted roads, breathtaking Tuscan-like scenery and sun-on-your-face warmth, is just about the perfect place to try out Bentley’s joyous new 2012 Continental GTC convertible.
With a gentle lift of a shiny chrome lever, the Bentley’s heavily padded canvas top whirrs rearwards in a mere 25 seconds. Wind-blocker raised. The new Neck Warmer - it blows toasty air from below the front seat headrest - set on “High.”  And the Brit band Acoustic Alchemy jazzing things up on the Bentley’s mind-blowing 11-speaker, 1100-watt Naim audio system. We’re ready!
Somehow this northern part of Croatia, above, managed to escape the brutal war of independence in which Yugoslavian and Serb bad boys did their best to level the place. All that ended in 1995 and since then Croatia has rebuilt, revived, and opened its arms to visitors looking for a quieter, more genteel place in the sun.
   
Top down, we point the Bentley’s re-sculpted nose south towards Pula on the southern tip of the peninsula, below. This ancient port is famous for its remarkably well-preserved 1st century amphitheater, one of the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the world. Here gladiators used to duke it out in front of 25,000 bloodthirsty locals.
In the metal, this new Bentley is nothing less than a piece of automotive sculpture. Whereas the previous model was undoubtedly sexy and elegant, this new version has lines that are noticeably crisper, bolder, more razor-edged. The jury’s still out on the shaping of the new squared-off rump and flat-surfaced composite trunk lid. But there’s no doubt that the overall look of this new GTC is beyond breathtaking. From Palm Beach to Palm Springs, heads are going to spin.
   
Keeping the sparkling Adriatic on the right side, we power along the serpentine coastal road to Opatija at the foot of Mount Ucka. We stop for lunch at the famed seafood eatery, Restaurant Bevanda right on the water’s edge to devour its trademark Kvarner Bay Scampi and wild asparagus risotto.
From here we spear inland, along the blisteringly fast Route 44. It’s a chance to stretch the Bentley’s long legs and get a taste of the more powerful 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 nuclear powerplant and faster-shifting - think 200 milliseconds - Quickshift six-speed automatic transmission.
For a car that tips the scales at a whisker over 5,500 pounds, this new GTC is a true rocket ship. While the big 12-cylinder powerhouse cranks out a mighty 567 horsepower, it’s the engine’s vast output of torque - 517 pound-feet - delivered in full from just 1,700 rpm, that makes the car feel so effortlessly fast, above. Floor the throttle from rest and the car’s all-wheel drive system channels the power to all four wheels, catapulting this leviathan to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. Keep your foot planted and this tsunami of torque won’t quit giving until the speedo needle is touching the 195-mph marker!
And through the fast, sweeping curves, the big, four-seat Bentley somehow shrinks in size. There’s a remarkable agility here that belies the car’s bulk. The re-tuned steering is laser-precise; the body roll near non-existent, and the grip from the rubber-ware is positively leach-like. No car this size has the right to be this much fun to drive fast!
You command this rolling Battlestar Galactica from a cockpit, sbove, that sets the standard in bespoke luxury and elegance. New “Cobra-style” front seats - yes, they do have that distinctive flared-neck look - grip you with hand-stitched bolsters, while 10 pneumatic cells give you the best back massage outside of Canyon Ranch. Stunning clock is by Breitling, right, of course!

This is a truly remarkable car. And, for the fortunate few able to pay the $212,800 asking price, simply and unquestionably, the best convertible in the world.

For more information about the latest in luxury performance, please visit, http://www.bentleymotors.com/


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