Bentley Continental

GT Speed Convertible

Bentley Continental Convertible, front static
Bentley Continental Convertible, side action
Bentley Continental Convertible, side action 2
Bentley Continental Convertible, rear action
Bentley Continental Convertible, roof up
Bentley Continental Convertible, rear seats
Bentley Continental Convertible, dashboard

WHEN the driver of a white van stops to let you through you must be either at the wheel of a police car (with blue lights flashing) or driving something he respects.

That will rule out anything German and obviously 'executive' - he's been cut up too many times by Audis and BMWs, thank you - but exceptions will be considered for a Jaguar.

That's thoroughly British, you see, and the sort of car a white van man would love to have on road outside his home.

So imagine being confronted by a Bentley. Big and British in the best possible way, oozing class and obviously quick enough to earn the respect of someone who has to be everywhere yesterday.

Pushed, he might know that Bentley's ultimate owners these days live in Germany, not Crewe, but it's still the very essence of Britishness, isn't it?

No trace of Germany in the car itself, of course, unless an owner spots a satellite navigation system looking uncommonly like the one fitted to his daughter's Golf. Just as well it works so well, then.

The rest of the Bentley works well too, you may be relieved to learn. After all, any car that comes in at more than £200,000 with extras on board ought to be pretty near perfect.

But perfect for the job it was built to perform, not for anything else. That might include taking four people and their luggage for a weekend away, or leaving a tight parking place early in the morning without waking the neighbours.

Neither task is what you'd choose this two-ton-plus wheeled indulgence to perform; it's too cramped in the back (and boot) and loud enough from a cold start to have light sleepers wondering if they've just missed a minor earthquake.

But get this vastly powerful machine on the right road - smoothly surfaced and open cornered - and it pushes the boundaries of physics. It seems almost comically capable of shrinking distances between bends and then straightening them out with sheer physical force.

Flat out this version of Bentley's enduringly successful Continental will top 200mph, making it the fastest four seater convertible in the world. That's what more than 600 horsepower will achieve and it makes a 70mph cruise seem so slow you doubt the speedo.

Slowing down is pretty impressive too, augmented on the test car by carbon ceramic brakes that won't fade however much abuse you give them. They add an unlikely sounding £10,610 to the bottom line, by the way.

Adding nothing to the speed but £3,735 to the cost of this car were handsomely machined aluminium panels on the dashboard and adaptive cruise control, which ought to standard, not a cheeky £2,085.

The list of pricey bits goes on (£415 for a boot carpet and another £75 to bind its edges in a different colour) but all this talk of cost is to miss the point.

If you have enough money in the bank (High Street branch or the Cayman Islands) to indulge yourself in a car like the Continental you won't count the cost, so long as the car and the way the Bentley dealer treats you more than match your expectations.

If those terms are met, then the 20mpg thirst and lack of rear seat legroom simply won't worry you. Neither will the gentle body shake on poor roads, a consequence of chopping the metal roof off the car to fit a hood that retracts with a performance you could charge an entry fee to watch.

FAST FACTS

Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible

Price: £172,400

Mechanical: 626bhp, 5,998cc, 12cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 203mph

0-62mph: 4.1 seconds

Combined MPG: 18.9

Insurance Group: 50

C02 emissions: 347g/km

Bik rating: 35%

Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles

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