As the 2020 Bentley Continental GT V8 Convertible‘s raucous V8 fires up, burbles emit from the quad exhaust and inside the cabin, a wood veneer dash rotates backwards to expose a 12.3-inch touchscreen—a little theater on display on the chilly desert morning. Shifting the grand tourer into gear, we get rolling and, though Sedona is warming up patiently on this fall morning, we’ll still be warm—electing to get the top down.
As the windows roll down, somewhere a small internal motor hums and the roof begins to fold into itself. Within an astounding 19 seconds, while driving just below the 30mph limit that still allows the roof to tuck away, the top has been fully dropped.
With this, we get an even greater view of the exuberant red rock that Arizona is known for—perhaps nowhere more than here in Sedona. Once open, the morning sun feels nice, but the weather isn’t warm yet, and with a couple of taps into the menu, we turn on the heated seats. Even the armrest is heated, a subtle detail that adds to the many that make the Continental GT Convertible feel special. Eventually we turn on the massaging function on the driver’s seat, which feels as if two golf balls are kneading your back, somehow still very effective through the opulent diamond-stitched, quilted leather.
Each of the diamonds contains 712 stitches, Bentley says. And 1.75 miles of thread (a number that’s surely difficult to grasp) gets used on every Continental GT optioned as such.
There are four drive modes that can be selected via a dial on the center console. Custom, as its name implies, allows you to tailor the driving characteristics and feel to your preferences, while Comfort and Sport act as bookends to the performance portfolio. These two are bridged by the Bentley mode, which offers a nice middle-ground of the two. On an open stretch of road, we rotate the knurled metal bezel one notch from Bentley mode to Sport. Here the menace and emotion are dialed up.
As we accelerate, the upsized 22-inch wheels of our car effortlessly charge forth in a smooth, linear, locomotive-like way. In this mode, more power is sent to the rear wheels and the 4.0-liter twin turbo V8—capable of 542 horsepower and a generous 568 pound-feet of torque. Despite the speed building, and the trees zipping by more hurriedly, inside the cabin you can maintain a conversation at a normal volume. The acoustics within have been so cleverly developed to shelter the occupants from the building drama outside.
Our morning route to the Grand Canyon features a winding, hilly portion that our topless grand tourer takes on with gusto. The steering feels accurate and predictable, and the chassis (an architecture that’s shared with Porsche) helps the 5,000-pound vehicle feel exceptionally agile turning into a corner. Continuously variable dampers ensure the the ride comfort is smooth regardless of which driving mode you’re in.
As we near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the first slots of canyon appear, seemingly out of nowhere. The sun is now directly above us, shining over a deep blue, cloudless sky. The road has shifted to long, mostly straight lines, so we witch the dial to Comfort. The engine note subdues, and the car glides along.
Audiophiles will appreciate the 16-speaker, optional Bang and Olufsen system ($6,770) that’s doing Kacey Musgraves justice as we near the entrance of the National Park. At the first lookout, we park, but not without a few admiring glances from tourists. A geological formation that’s now believed to be 17 million years old, the canyon proves truly awe-inspiring. The steep ridges, when viewed from about 6,000 feet up, are quite majestic—and mesmerizing.
Upon walking back to our GT Convertible, we’re able to take in the exterior with fresh eyes. The crystal-cut LED matrix headlights draw the eye with their intricacy. The wide and long proportions, and muscular sculpture of the rear fenders are emphasized when parked among a sea of other vehicles. Upon opening the door, a bold B illuminates onto the ground, a greeting that reminds you of the pedigree of the Continental—now entering its third generation—and of the brand itself. This year marks Bentley’s centenary, and if the Continental GT V8 and its Convertible are any indication, the carmaker will be celebrating more milestones for many years.
Images courtesy of Bentley