Bentley's new Continental GTC has a beautiful body and a lethal powertrain
Beauty and a beast: Bentley's 3rd-generation Continental GT The Bentley Continental GTC's 6-litre 12-cylinder engine delivers 900Nm of torque between 1,350rpm and 4,500rpm, with help from a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers. PHOTO: BENTLEY MOTOR CARS

Bentley's third-generation Continental GT was introduced last year, followed now by the convertible version - a car re-engineered from the ground up.

Resemblance to the previous car is strong and deliberately so. Yet, it appears classier and sportier than its predecessor.

Its chassis is also new, as are various elements of the drivetrain. Like the Coupe, the Conti GTC is currently available only with the heavily revised version of Bentley's W12 engine, which now also carries Volkswagen Group's "TSI" moniker.

Bentley is Volkswagen-owned after all.

A soft-top that folds and disappears into the bodywork in 19 seconds - even at speeds below 50kmh - is the GTC's raison d'etre. Bentley has wisely stuck with a fabric roof instead of a heavier and cumbersome folding hard-top, which would likely have spoilt the car's roof-up profile and encroached on both boot and rear passenger space.

For the roof, there are seven colours to choose from and eight shades of interior roof-lining.

The car has 17 exterior body colours, with the "extreme silver" paired with a blue roof looking particularly handsome.

As with all previous Bentleys, there is also a variety of wood veneer and carpet options. For an appropriate sum, Bentley will customise the car further.

The GTC's dashboard incorporates much of the latest high-tech features. Bentley has, however, successfully merged digital instrumentation and a high-definition touchscreen with traditional analogue instrumentation.

At the touch of a button, the 12.3-inch touchscreen will rotate horizontally to display three beautiful dials showing outside air temperature, a compass and stop-watch.

There is also a fixed analogue clock on the centre console. Overall, a gorgeous combination of glossy wood, shiny chrome, soft leather and modern electronic gadgetry.

To move the land yacht, its 6-litre 12-cylinder engine delivers 900Nm of torque between 1,350rpm and 4,500rpm, with help from a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers.

Maximum power of 635hp arrives at 6,000rpm. This engine has cylinder deactivation, shutting down six cylinders under light load conditions to conserve fuel.

All that power is channelled through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, which replaces the previous model's torque converter gearbox. According to Bentley, the dual-clutch is not just quicker through the gears, but also has the advantage of picking up drive with less transition time.

A rear-biased all-wheel-drive system electronically transfers drive to the front wheels whenever rear traction is approaching its limit. This takes the car's dynamics one notch above its predecessor's fixed 40:60 front-rear split.

Despite weighing 2,414kg, the Conti GTC picks up pace with ease from any speed. But even more impressive is the way it stays resolutely on the chosen cornering line.

Through winding mountain roads, the only limiting factor was the car's width of almost 2m. On some stretches, the tarmac was really narrow, so extreme discretion had to be exercised in anticipation of oncoming vehicles - trucks in particular.

Never was there any shortage of grip. With driving mode in "Sport" and transmission in "Manual", hustling the Bentley through sharp and fast corners was smooth and immensely enjoyable.

For those who can afford it, this convertible scores top marks with its rare blend of thrilling performance and exquisite luxury.