Power and luxury of brilliant Bentley

Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer, says that for all the luxury image, the new Bentley Continental GTC is a true driver's car.

It's only when you go barreling into a turn faster than you really should in Bentley's Continental GTC that you realise how accomplished it is. After leaning hard on the brakes the steering remains accurate, communicative and uncorrupted by the sudden change in direction and the presence of mid-corner bumps.

For many this won't be the stereotypical image of a Bentley experience but since the arrival of the 'new' Bentley range under the Volkswagen Group's stewardship unashamed performance and driver involvement have been key elements of the brand's philosophy.

The second-generation Continental GTC is yet another good example of Bentley's confidence in its approach to making super-luxury cars. A new look inside and out to compliment its flagship Mulsanne saloon is matched by a thorough revision of suspension, transmission and engine performance.

Like the Continental GT coupe, the GTC drop-top boasts crisp exterior lines and fuss-free sheetmetal – much of it crafted using the latest manufacturing technology. Unlike the coupe it also boasts a large fabric folding roof that can be operated on the move and stows neatly.

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The four-seat GTC is not a small car, but its wider tracks bolster its maker's claims of an improved driving experience. Revised suspension, retuned steering and a 40/60 power bias to the rear (previously 50/50) and a faster responding auto gearbox all result in a more agile car despite its size.

At the GTC's core is Bentley's familiar 6.0-litre, 12-cylinder turbo petrol engine, with power going to all four wheels through a six-speed auto gearbox. Power is up slightly to 567bhp, while the prodigious 516ft.lb of torque really impresses on the open road – a major reason for the astonishing 4.5 second 0-60mph time.

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Sprinting duties aside, you also notice the snappy nature of the gearbox, which is more responsive than of old and a beneficiary of technology found in the previous generation Supersports variant. The changes to the car's suspension, steering and track also add genuine value, with the car delivering a more engaging experience when you're in the mood to press on and better able to cope with road surface imperfections around town.

With the plush fabric roof up you'll struggle to hear much from the supportive leather chairs. The overall experience is so good thanks to acoustic glass for the windows and better sound-proofing that all you can hear is the distant burble from the exhaust. That's a good thing if you want take it easy. Drop the roof and the situation changes –the exhaust's tone becomes more urgent and it's easy to hear the crackle and rumble when you lift of the throttle. You're still pretty well insulated from the elements, though. With the windows up and the wind deflector in place – you will loose the rear seat space – and fast motorway driving is never a chore, plus you can hold a civilised conversation.

As with any Bentley the driving experience is only part of the story. The ability to personalise a car through different wood and fabric options is a key element of the experience. The simple but elegant cabin design offers plenty of potential, and to the naked eye there's no complaints regarding the fit and finish of the components.

The cabin is also modern with its clearly laid-out controls and the dominant touch-screen sat-nav and entertainment display easy to use. This interface hides a powerful audio unit, phone and MP3 player connectivity and a fully-featured sat-nav. You've also got all the safety-related mod-cons plus driver adjustable suspension and a grown-up stability system that allows a little 'headroom' when you want to have some fun.

The second-generation GTC is a step forward in terms of refinement, styling and performance. The car's evolutionary looks successfully complement the flagship Mulsanne saloon, while the performance is staggering yet easily accessible.

With Bentley bucking the trend with its sales figures, it's clear the company is doing something right. It's also pioneering technologies and processes that will eventfully find their way into other Volkswagen Group cars, which is all the proof you need that it and its new GTC have a long and productive future.

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