A “neoclassic” automobile of beauty and luxury

In the not too distant past, the only difference between a Rolls Royce and a Bentley was the grill. Rolls maintained the classic upright rectangular shape with the “flying lady” on top. For those who did not want or need the more ostentious Rolls look, Bentley gave a buyer a gentler, more rounded style to its grill.

But all bets were off when these two makers were split and sold to two different buyers. Rolls went to BMW, and in 1998 Bentley went to Volkswagen/Audi.

Since then Bentley has been issuing a number of completely new models.

First of these was the Continental GT Coupe which arrived in the U.S. in 2004. More recently the Continental GTC convertible has come on the scene, and now, has officially arrived in Hawaii with the appointment of a new dealer – Bentley Honolulu.

Both the Continental sedan and convertible are stunning automobiles mixing traditional signals with an ultra modern look starting with the more laid-back grill flanked by two headlights on either side. On the sides, subtle fender lines appear over the front wheel openings, with much larger and more pronounced fender outlines rising above the rear wheels. The rear end has a somewhat pushed out trunk lid surrounded by two traditional taillights.

Whether the top is up or down does not detract from the overall beauty of this neoclassic. And speaking of tops, yes, it’s cloth, as opposed to a retractable hardtop, but the up or down action takes only 25 seconds from the push of a button.

Do not believe that the smooth and refined styling subtracts from the performance side of the equation. Lurking under the hood is a large (as in 6-liter) twin turbocharged 12-cylinder powerplant with an eye-popping 552 horsepower. Feeding the power to the chassis is a six speed automatic transmission that can be controlled by paddles located on the steering wheel. Keeping everything grounded is a full-time, all-wheel driveline working with an air suspension system.

Even though the Continental would not fall in the lightweight division, the GTC sprints from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and has a top speed with the top up of 195 mph. For those of you who want some wind in your hair, the top lowered speed drops to only 190!

Inside, and as one would hope and expect, an ocean of leather, wood and chrome is found. Almost all of the soft surfaces are covered in premium grade leather (17 colors to chose from).

The dash and console are enhanced by burnt walnut paneling. About every known luxury device is standard, from dual automatic climate controls to a Bluetooth phone connection, to a keyless entry system.

Maximum carrying capacity is four with individual seats for all. The rear seating area is narrower than the front, and leg-room is tight.

Safety issues are handled with but two pop-up roll bars behind the rear seats in case there might be a roll over. But a tire monitoring system, electronic stability system, and traction control seek to prevent any unfriendly incidents.

The large powerplant lets out a throaty but authoritative sound when started. Traveling at less than warp speed, the engine hums right along. Want power, you say? It is instant without any turbo lag whatsoever.

With the air suspension, the ride can be adjusted for full racetrack to smooth out these pothole-lined roads. For the adventurous, the car can be raised or lowered on command. The front seats are supportive with some side bolstering.

But the real glory is when the top is down late in the afternoon allowing for the ability to soak up Hawaii’s surroundings and the car’s beauty at the same time.

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