First drive review: 2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible offers a break from the digital world

“Digital detox.” That’s what Bentley design director Stefan Sielaff promises in the 2020 Continental GT Convertible, and the opportunity sounds appealing. We are so inescapably immersed in the digital, the synthetic, and the artificial that a retreat to reality and authenticity sounds irresistible.

The primary feature of the car’s detoxifying capabilities is the central, three-sided Bentley Rotating Display. When the car is off, it presents a plain woodgrain veneer in center of the GT Convertible’s dashboard.

Switch the car on, and the driver is obligated to take in some digital information from this area, as the plain wood section rotates away automatically to reveal a 12.3-inch LCD infotainment display. That’s the default display and it provides information about song choices or the navigation route through traffic, among many other options.

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

But as an alternative to that intrusive visual pipeline for digital data, the third side of the rotary offers a wood veneer background like that of the first panel, but with three classically elegant analog gauges set into it.

They consist of an exterior thermometer, a compass, and a stopwatch. None of them are critical to the car’s operation, but they are gorgeous and they, along with the analog clock below them, contribute wonderfully to the car’s analog ambiance. Bentley recognizes the need for drivers to have an escape from the unblinking digital screens that seem ever-present in our modern lives.

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

Of course, we invite those screens into our lives. Digital devotees will be relieved to know that Apple CarPlay is there to support their iOS devices, so the Conti is far from Luddite. It just gives drivers the option to disconnect.

For a car whose signature feature is a folding fabric roof in the tradition of horse-drawn coaches, some extra help preserving the real sensory experience over virtual images is especially appropriate.

The GT Convertible invites the driver to run a hand over its fabulous real wood interior trim, to inhale the fragrance of the spectacular tanned hides, and to feel the changing outside temperature with the top down as the car dips down canyons and climbs peaks during our test drive through Spain’s Andalusian mountains.

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

The top is the difference

Bentley underscores this embrace of tactile inputs with an optional textured tan tweed fabric convertible top. It’s so appropriately British and it seems like an obvious choice to contrast with dark paint colors.

Bentley has even named the available deep red cabin leather hue “Cricket Ball” to evoke grass-stained real-world sport in a world brimming with e-sports. Who wants a car with a color named “Counter-Strike”? We’ll leave that for the Subaru WRX bros.

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The convertible top is the component that sets this car apart from the Continental GT Coupe, which arrived last year. The roof is now a Z-fold mechanism, so named because it assumes the shape of the letter Z mid-fold, as it keeps the section over the driver right-side up while it folds rather than flipping it over.

In other cars, this arrangement has the benefit of using that outer portion of the roof to serve as its own cover when folded, eliminating the need for a snap-on tonneau cover. But the Continental has its own rigid lid that covers the folded roof.

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

Bentley uses the Z-fold design for its greater structural rigidity and resistance to deflection. That’s because this car will go 207 mph and the aerodynamic forces at that speed are enough to significantly distort the previous roof, according to product line director Peter Guest.

This new convertible top not only stays sealed at such speeds, but it is also quieter. During normal driving, the 2020 Continental GT Convertible has the same interior noise level as the old Continental GT Coupe, which is a mere 3 decibels louder than the current Coupe model.

This roof stows in 19 seconds while driving at speeds as high as 30 mph. Driving a preproduction prototype, I noticed a whistle on the driver’s side at highways speed that would hopefully not occur in a production car.

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

Stiffer and sportier

The chassis that is home to that folding top is 5 percent stiffer than before and 20 percent lighter, thanks to the addition of judiciously deployed high-strength steel reinforcements to a mostly aluminum body.

Regarding that body: Is there a sexier sheet metal stamping in any showroom today? The Continental’s new platform dispenses with the old car’s front-drive-looking large front overhang by pushing the front axle forward by more than five inches.

This gives the 2020 Continental GT Convertible entirely different proportions than its predecessor, and makes it more athletic. Although the car is nearly identical in length and height, it now looks lower and sportier than before.

It’s sportier to drive, too, thanks in part to the improved weight distribution that results from the front axle’s movement. It is also due to a new three-chamber air suspension system and active anti-roll bars front and rear that react quickly because they run on a 48-volt electrical system. The roll bars and air suspension combine to provide both a plush ride and crisp handling despite standard 21-inch wheels, and those qualities can be adjusted with Sport or Comfort modes.

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

Nothing will change the fact that the 2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible weighs 5,322 pounds, about 375 pounds more than the Coupe. However, it hides that bulk effectively when carving corners on mountain roads. Ultimately, yes, the car understeers, but then it applies a little inside rear brake to help it rotate. Once the road straightens out, the twin-turbo 626-horsepower 6.0-liter W-12 can get on with its business.

That 12-cylinder engine launches the car from 0-60 mph in just 3.7 seconds but does it in an understated fashion, with none of the bellicose sturm-und-drang so fashionable lately among purported luxury brands. I found it to be appropriately soothing while piloting this British beauty, coddled in its English leather beneath its traditional tweed cap.

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

2020 Bentley Continental GT Convertible

Bentley predicts that the $ 236,100 Convertible will account for two-thirds of Continental GT sales in the U.S. I only wonder why it won’t be all of them. Put the top down, turn that rotating center screen to show the beautiful gauges, and cruise a coastal road. The 2020 Continental GT Convertible is an even better way to get away from the digital world than the Conti Coupe.

Bentley provided travel and airfare for this Internet Brands Automotive contributor to bring you this firsthand report.

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