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Crewe firm aims for greater driver appeal at a lower price point for its convertible GT

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Convertibles are proving a perennial source of income for the world’s best-known purveyors of top-level luxury cars. To understand why, all you need do is drive one. There is little to match the pure ‘wow’ factor of a desirable drop-top exotic that can so effortlessly make almost any open-air journey feel special.

As Bentley has long understood, the most intoxicating luxury convertibles are rarely the most exciting, but rather those that deliver effortless grand touring qualities into a lavish, sheltered, inviting cabin. Cars that give you a motoring experience engaging enough to savour but also preserve your appetite for open-top miles with their good cruising manners.

It’s often said that the rich don’t get that way by chance: they recognise at least relative value where they find it. The GTC V8 S is the kind of Bentley that makes you question the sense in spending more. That’s why it appeals to me.

In pursuit of that just-so compromise, Bentley has just augmented its line-up of Bentley Continental GTC derivatives with a familiar new member. Crewe first introduced V8 S Continental GT and GTC models a little under a decade ago, as part of the last-generation Continental GT (1011-2018) line. Taking the lighter and more responsive V8 model as their basis, and adding extra notes of handling and performance dynamism and driver focus, these models were among Autocar’s highest-rated modern Bentleys. They combined performance, luxury, driver focus and, yes, even relative value for money to more convincing effect than any other Continental.

Today’s question is: do they still?

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Range at a glance

14 Bentley continental gtc convertible rt 2023 multimedia 2

Bentley’s derivative range revisions for the 2023 model year brought a little extra structure to several of its models, the Continental GTC convertible included.

The new Azure trim level prioritises “comfort and wellness” through special seat designs and interior material themes.

It’s telling that both Mulliner Editions of the car are priced above even the Speed model, though. They offer special exterior chrome treatments, polished wheels and extra-lavish cabin materials.

Bentley Continental GTC V8542bhp
Bentley Continental GTC V8 S*542bhp
Bentley Continental GTC W12 Speed650bhp
Bentley Continental GTC V8 Mulliner Edition542bhp
Bentley Continental GTC W12 Mulliner Edition650bhp

*Version tested


8-spd dual-clutch automatic  



02 Bentley Continental GTC convertible RT 2023 front cornering

As of the 2023 model year, you can order your Bentley Continental GT coupé or GTC convertible in a broader range of derivative styles. The W12-engined GTC and Continental GT Speed performance versions launched in 2021 survive, but they have been joined by comfort-biased Azure and ultimate-coachbuilt, luxury-flavoured Bentley Continental Mulliner variants.

The V8 S is towards the lower end of the model spectrum and perhaps that note of modesty is why it’s easy to warm to. It’s powered by the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 as the entry-level GT, producing the same 542bhp and 568lb ft, and sending torque downstream to the road via the same eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and clutch-based active four-wheel drive system. The V8 S model simply gets a new active sports exhaust system intended to give greater voice to the Audi-sourced motor. As we’ll come to, it does that emphatically well.

Continentals continue to share the VW Group’s MSB platform. Its longways V8 engine sits almost entirely behind the front axle line, resulting in a weight distribution of 52% front and 48% rear.

The suspension design is fundamentally the same as a regular GT V8’s is, with height-adjustable, adaptively damped three-chamber air suspension sitting above a double-wishbone axle up front and a multi-link one at the rear. The V8 S comes with a new range of alloy wheels of 21in or 22in in diameter, and iron brakes as standard, or larger carbon-ceramics as an option (as fitted to our test car).

All that really separates the model’s suspension specification from that of a regular V8 are those new wheels and Bentley Dynamic Ride 48V active anti-roll bars. (Neither the four-wheel steering system of the pricier GT Speed derivative nor its active locking rear differential has been adopted.)

Bentley has opted for more contemporary exterior styling than other GTs offer, with gloss black body trim almost everywhere that you might have found more traditional chrome, as well as a gloss black radiator grille. Dark smoked headlights and tail-lights are standard and painted black rims are among the wheel options.

The GTC V8 S, like other GTCs, gets a double-lined cloth hood that opens and closes electrically in just 19 seconds. Bentley claims the car weighs 170kg more than an equivalent GT coupé, which suggests there are chassis reinforcements as well as the mass of its hood motors to account for. But on our scales, it weighed in at 2295kg: only 16kg heavier than the W12-engined GT Speed we tested in 2021.


09 Bentley Continental GTC convertible RT 2023 dashboard

This is a big car with long, heavy passenger doors that stretch well beyond a 4.0m span when fully opened. (The current Range Rover’s equivalent ‘door span’ is 3.9m.) Even beyond them, everything you interact with feels weighty and solid, engendering that Bentley-typical hefty, uncompromising sumptuousness in every detail.

In the V8 S, fluted front sport seats are upholstered in two-tone leather and Dinamica ‘suede’, with ‘S’ emblems stitched into the headrests. The height at which they seat you is typical of Bentley’s approach in as much as it’s just about low enough, but so easily accessible and comfortable.

The trim console between the back seats comes apart not for through-loading but to reveal an Allen-key screwdriver, to manually wind the roof closed if needed.

Neck warmers, ventilation and massage functions, plus powered adjustable headrests, side bolsters and cushion length elements, were all fitted to our test car as part of the optional Front Seat Comfort Specification (£3275). While it’s perhaps a slight liberty to charge extra for such things in a car like this, you can’t imagine Crewe builds many cars that don’t have them.

There is much digital technology in front of you, counting the 12.3in touchscreen infotainment system, a digital instrument screen and the optional head-up display and night vision system. But Bentley’s mastery continues to be how cleverly it’s all wrapped and presented, so as not to intrude when you want a simpler and more traditional mood of travel. You’ll be surprised how often you feel like rotating away that infotainment screen and admiring the car’s extra centrally mounted instruments instead; or else, just more of its lovely open-pore walnut.

The GTC’s expensive material feel disappointed none of our testers. Its cool tactile metallised column stalks and centre console switchgear attracted particular praise, really inviting interaction and lifting the cabin ambience comfortably above what you might find from German or Italian premium brands.

For practicality, the GTC is a four-seater. It’s perhaps not suitable for four fully grown adults like the old Arnage-based Azure once was, but growing children can certainly enjoy an open-top ride in the back, so long as they’re not exposed to the elements for too long. (Shelter and protection are better up front.)

Multimedia system

13 Bentley continental gtc convertible rt 2023 multimedia 1

The GTC V8 S’s 12.3in infotainment system is a mark of the completeness of Bentley’s modern luxury product execution – and, of course, what it gains from being part of the Volkswagen Group. There is a gulf in sophistication between this and the antiquated Mercedes tech you get in an Aston Martin.

Bentley’s system is touchscreen-operated only, and perhaps a little behind some in its voice recognition capabilities. Thankfully, it’s very easy to operate, with a column of scrollable menu icons nearest the driver for quick-fire top-level navigation. A cursor on one of the steering wheel spokes wouldn’t go amiss. But such is the system’s usability that you hardly notice it’s missing, and having plenty of physical menu shortcut buttons just below, and separate blower controls, helps too.

Bentley’s Bang & Olufsen premium audio system sounded good in the car, if a little over-processed, and perhaps not quite like the full 1600W.



19 Bentley Continental GTC convertible RT 2023 V8 S engine

It’s long been difficult to explain to a Bentley customer why you might deliberately choose a car with a smaller engine if money’s no object and you want the best of the best.

In 2023, attitudes are changing, of course. But the V8 S remains a car that could convince a great many people very quickly that a Continental GT or GTC really is more enjoyable to drive with eight cylinders rather than 12. It’s more responsive; more effusive and characterful; more economical (at least, a little); and hardly any slower by any relevant measure.

V8 S wheels range from 21in to 22in in diameter. Brake calipers are painted red for another visual identification mark. Our test car had optional carbon-ceramic brakes (£13,435).

Our 2018 road test of Bentley’s W12-engined, third-gen Continental GT documented a car that weighed precisely the same as this open-top V8 GTC, with a less equal weight distribution. It needed precisely the same 3.6sec to hit 60mph from rest as this test’s subject and was only 0.3sec quicker from 30-70mph.

Ultimately, when that 6.0-litre W12 works up its elastic head of steam, it’s a force to be reckoned with. But – thanks not least to Bentley’s new sports exhaust – the V8 S’s engine has more accessible torque than the W12 and crisper responses, as well as a keener appetite for revs and an abundance of burbling charm.

Find one of this car’s noisier driving modes and you may even wonder if you’ve bought the £220,000 luxury Bentley you were expecting or a TVR Cerbera in disguise. The woofling, mellifluous growl that the car makes can be almost entirely unsilenced in Sport mode, popping gently on the overrun. It’s superbly, unexpectedly forthcoming.

Alternatively, it can be demure and restrained instead when you dial up the Comfort driving mode, making the car hardly announce its presence or trouble its occupants at all. Few performance engines have such vocal duality.

On outright performance, you would be very unlikely ever to want more from a luxury convertible than this: a 2.3-tonne, 4.85m-long car that is capable of 100mph in less than nine seconds and always has big performance in reserve. If anything, it feels more ready to respond to roll-on throttle demands than a W12-engined car might.

The GTC’s eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox shifts quickly in manual mode and intuitively enough in ‘D’. But you do need to habitually use Bentley’s ‘S’ transmission mode in order to keep intermediate ratios engaged (the gearbox tends to disconnect the transmission and coast in ‘D’ on a trailing throttle), and to enjoy that engine’s audible drama.

Bentley’s preference for smoothness rather than speed of engagement can also make the gearbox feel just a little bit slow-witted when manoeuvring or just engaging reverse, although it’s hardly a frustration.

The dry-surface braking performance of our test car as tested was compromised a little by the fitment of Pirelli All-Season tyres (a no-cost option), but even with them on it still hauled up from 70mph, with good stability and dive resistance, within 50m.


20 Bentley Continental GTC convertible RT 2023 front cornering

Bentley’s clever active anti-roll control system and its adaptively damped, height-adjustable air suspension add just enough balance and body control for this car to make it enticing to canter along in – and not a shred too much.

This is a car whose added handling dynamism mustn’t harm all-round refinement and ease of use one jot. But, clearly, Bentley’s chassis engineers are becoming increasingly well practised and familiar with the capabilities of both the platform and the chassis technologies they are working with.

Double-skinned hood has a foam layer for extra insulation and it folds neatly, quietly and quickly. It has a 19-second cycle time and works at speeds of up to 30mph so you don’t need to be stopped at traffic lights before you use it.

Having pushed the GTC’s ‘engine start’ button, you turn its collar to select a drive mode. If you don’t, it defaults to ‘Bentley’ mode, which delivers the luxury-level ride compliance and isolation you would expect of the car, balanced against medium-light steering weight, decently taut body control and enough handling agility to give you an appetite for an interesting road.

So set, the GTC easily keeps control of its mass over bigger lumps and bumps, and while it doesn’t have the purity of chassis balance that a lighter, rear-driven grand tourer might, it handles in accurate and obedient fashion, negotiating even tighter bends without rolling or pushing on.

Sport mode introduces just the merest hint of fidget and bristle into the car’s body control on some surfaces, very likely as a result of lowered ride height as much as firmer settings. But on the smoothest country roads, it does deliver a shade more feedback and immediacy into the handling mix.

It’s interesting how little jostling you feel like accepting in a car as luxurious as this, though. That’s why most testers sought out Bentley’s ‘Custom’ drive mode, through which you can combine maximum extravagance from the exhaust, and the weightiest steering, with a mid-level suspension calibration.

This GTC does handle like a driver’s car, with enough handling poise and fluency to savour, and it appeals that little bit more readily and vividly than a Bentley Contintal GTC W12 might. It still always feels its size and weight, and never shakes off its luxury brief, but in the latter respect, quite tellingly, nor would you want it to.

Comfort and isolation

21 Bentley continental gtc convertible rt 2023 rear cornering

Bentley’s excellent sports seats are the foundation of everything the GTC does here to make it a car you could happily spend days touring in. A couple of our testers would have appreciated the option to adjust the seat cushion an inch or so lower, to benefit from marginally better wind protection with the roof down.

Even for taller drivers, though, there is only really enough wind to rustle your hair at motorway speeds. With the GTC’s side windows up and its wind deflector in place especially (it’s an easy two-minute fix and stows neatly in a bag in the boot), the cabin is well sheltered, even at around 70mph.

And with the roof up, while you can certainly hear more of the outside world than you would through aluminium and glass, noise levels remain commendably low. Our meter recorded just 66dBA of cabin noise at 70mph in the GTC V8 S. That’s a little more than from the Rolls-Royce Dawn we tested in 2016 but only 1dBA more than in the Continental GT Speed coupé we tested in 2022.

The GTC’s chassis’ sheer weight gives it apparent integrity and, while you can find rougher surfaces that elicit the faintest shimmy from the steering column, almost no scuttle shake or chassis flex is evident. The car’s secondary ride is generally quiet and supple, although the 22in wheels of our test car did occasionally clunk a little over broken asphalt.

Track notes

Bentley continental gtc convertible rt 2023 track notes

Our test car’s fitment of Pirelli All-Season tyres made itself plain in the limit handling, but not in any regrettable way. Such a heavy and powerful car could, you might assume, quickly overheat and overwhelm such rubber in the dry.

But in the event, it didn’t. The GTC V8 S’s slightly reduced grip level proved a positive influence, giving the chassis a little more latitude to express itself around the tighter bends, and teasing quite a playful steady-state cornering balance out.

Using Sport mode and dialling down the stability controls turns the active anti-roll bars to their most aggressive, and they, in turn, manipulate the cornering balance effectively, shifting lateral stiffness from front to rear as the car corners, and letting the chassis rotate keenly.

Bigger angles of power oversteer still aren’t the car’s speciality but it’s easy to get it pointing through a bend, and to keep it tight to a line.



01 Bentley Continental GTC convertible RT 2023 lead cornering

The GTC V8 S’s price relative to other variants gives it a little of the air of a well-kept secret; and for those who know about the extra it offers to interested drivers, and how little it trades in return, that may be all the value positioning the car needs.

Others perhaps less accustomed to Bentley pricing might wonder what the car does to justify a 20% premium over an equivalent Aston Martin DB11 or Mercedes-AMG SL. If they do, first-hand experience of the car’s lavish material ambience is likely to show them pretty plainly where the money’s going. Few brands deal so convincingly in luxuriousness, and no matter how much you value the GTC V8 S’s sharpened dynamic priorities, you wouldn’t be buying a Bentley if you weren’t responding to that to a large extent.

Spec advice? Bentley’s own ‘furnace’ configurator inspiration is a good starting point – Orange Flame paint with Newmarket Tan leather. Add two-tone 21in wheels, Touring and Front Seat Comfort specifications, and Naim audio.

The car will return close to 30mpg at a fairly economical motorway pace, making 550-mile cruising possible between fills of the 90-litre tank. Buy a W12 version instead and you will be likely to get only 26mpg, and about 500 miles, based on our wider test results.

Test mpg



22 Bentley Continental GTC convertible RT 2023 front static

The Bentley Continental GTC V8 S is the kind of car that’s slowly being forgotten about by some players in the luxury car market – because it’s not electric, not an SUV, or simply not something different or disruptive.

More fool them. This car is a wonderful reminder of so many things that a lottery-win dream car ought to do well – and nothing more important than simply making you feel good. If convertible motoring is about making ordinary journeys vividly enjoyable, this luxury convertible may be considered better than any other series-production Bentley. Like other convertibles, it opens up the senses and brings the outside world in. And yet the world it seats you in is so enticing and the view out so special that it’s hard to believe, at times, that anyone would want any other kind of luxury grand tourer.

Bentley’s sporting chassis tuning and its liberal dollop of V8 noise create all the driver appeal that the car really needs – and if its hefty, luxury-first agenda seems excessive, it’s as well to remember that true luxury is that way by definition. Question is: what kind of excess do you like best? If it’s Bentley’s kind, we wouldn’t blame you for a second.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Bentley Continental GTC First drives