The design team at Bentley Mulliner chose subtle “Dove Gray” as the exterior paint finish for one of the last Continental GTC W12s in the press fleet.
What are we dealing with here?
With a lot of car for a lot of money. You would hardly expect anything different from Bentley, right? The crucial difference in the Continental GTC W12 we drove with 659 hp (combined fuel consumption: 14.1 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 320 g/km)² is the suffix Mulliner. The in-house refiner, whose roots go back to 1559 and who was commissioned to build carriages for the Royal Mail from 1760 onwards, is not only characterized by special bodywork. Think of the Bentley Bacalar or the Batur, which is currently being delivered. The specialists in Crewe, who have been part of Bentley since 1959, can also restore old cars with great attention to detail or completely recreate them. Examples include the incredibly expensive small series of pre-war Speed Six and Blower models, which are currently being produced in the so-called Continuation Series.
The interior of our Continental GTC Mulliner is more unusual than the paintwork. “Hotspur” meets “Beluga” here, the decors consist of “Galaxy Stone”.
But there is also a much more mundane option, although not necessarily cheaper. Because Mulliner also refines interior spaces. Like that of our photo vehicle. Keeping track of all the equipment options is not that easy. We therefore limit ourselves to the most obvious: leather in every crack, the main color “Hotspur” contrasted by “Beluga” and visually refined by diamond quilting with additional decorative seams. This color combination can obviously also be ordered for the convertible top compartment and of course for the steering wheel, which is unmistakably Audi. What looks like wood in the decor is actually stone. You read that right. Bentley calls this variant “Galaxy Stone” and indeed, both the tactile experience and the financial investment are galactic.
The VW Group installed a large number of W12 engine variants in various vehicles over 23 years. But only the Bentley W12 biturbo survived. It will be made by hand in Crewe until production ends in April 2024.
The last W12 will leave the factory in 2024
We couldn’t really imagine how much effort it takes to produce a current Bentley. So we quickly got on the plane to Manchester, drove another hour and we were standing in front of or in the hallowed halls of Crewe. The car describer is amazed at how many hours of work it takes to complete a single vehicle. It’s difficult to give an exact number here, because every car is manufactured according to individual customer requirements. Although the bodies and V6 and V8 engines for Continental, Flying Spur and Bentayga come from Germany, the rest of the manufacturing process takes place exclusively in the traditional county of Cheshire.
In its last regular expansion stage (special models excluded), the 6.0-liter W12 biturbo delivers 659 hp at 6,000 rpm and 900 Nm between 1,500 and 5,000 rpm.
This also applies to the legendary Piëch W12, which was last extensively renovated in 2015 and is assembled exclusively in Crewe by and exclusively for Bentley. The last vehicle with a twelve-cylinder engine is scheduled to leave production in April 2024 – after which space will be needed for the British’s first electric model. It has not yet been revealed whether it will be a coupe, sedan or SUV. Meanwhile, we witnessed one of the last marriages between a 6.0-liter engine and a black Flying Spur. According to the production order, someone in South Korea will soon be able to enjoy the sedan.
Not all wood is the same. Choosing and creating the perfect decor requires not only years of experience, but also a lot of patience. Depending on the customer’s choice, days can pass until the final finish is achieved.
Is it all still manual work?
Yes. After all, a befitting drive also requires an appropriately exclusive interior. We first saw for ourselves how far customers could go with their individual wishes in the decor department. In principle, almost anything is possible: the options range from classic lacquered walnut to open-pored acacia and decrepit sequoia trees, which have to fall over on their own because they are generally not allowed to be felled, to the stone veneer mentioned at the beginning. This comes from India, is only a tenth of a millimeter thick and is therefore even translucent, which allows for further customization. The 200,000-year-old rock is then transferred to aluminum support plates. If that’s not practical enough for you, you can, for example, have the rear door panels in the Flying Spur fitted with solid wooden inlays with a 3D look.
The leather for Continental and Co. does not come from southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy (as Rolls-Royce prefers), but from Scandinavia. Bentley tells us that the leather quality is even better there (fewer insects).
In addition to wood, stone and aluminum, there is also a lot of leather. The cow hides come from Scandinavia, are meticulously checked for damage and then processed primarily by hand. The British also attach great importance to all sorts of decorative seams, which, how could it be otherwise, are also incorporated by hand. Of course, elaborate embroidery and patterns can also be created. Chic is what the wealthy clientele likes.
There are hardly any limits when it comes to leather design. The customer can really let off steam, especially when it comes to color. Other extras include various decorative seams, patterns or embroidery.
How does the Bentley Continental GTC Mulliner W12 drive?
Like an open-hearted poem on wheels. It’s one thing to see how a Bentley like this is built. However, it is another thing to experience such a vehicle in its purest form. It’s best to do this on roads you know. Back in Germany we had the opportunity to do this again. Because, as already mentioned, the last of around 105,000 W12s built will leave the Bentley factory in April 2024. No new W12 orders have been accepted since the end of December 2023. Painted in innocent “Dove Grey”, the four-seat convertible’s power of 659 hp and an incredible 900 Nm at 1,500 rpm can hardly be seen. The 2.5-ton truck moves very smoothly when you gently stroke the accelerator pedal – in the best case scenario, it can sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds. The top speed is reached at a bold 335 km/h. And of course we also drive open in the winter. It must be so much fun!
Despite all the power reserves: The Bentley Continental Convertible is primarily intended for traveling, not racing. With solid movement, you can really enjoy all the advantages of the open Gran Turismo.
When driven ambitiously on country roads, a good 18 liters per 100 kilometers flow through the injectors. Not only do they provide propulsion, but they also generate a very splendid W12 sound when they burn. Meanwhile, we glide south from Munich (the twelve-cylinder engine is currently running on only six cylinders in fuel-saving mode up to 3,000 rpm), leave the driving mode in “Bentley” and head for the north bank of Lake Tegernsee for a lunch stop. The Continental Cabriolet feels at home there, although it can happen that there are significantly more expensive vehicles here. Further towards the Achenpass and Sylvensteinspeicher we switch to sport mode, the air-suspended GTC now lies more firmly on the asphalt, the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission shifts gears at lightning speed and the W12 is constantly hanging on the gas. Good job Bentley Girls and Boys in Crewe!
We say goodbye quietly. The last Bentley Continental GTC with a W12 engine will leave the Crewe factory in 2024.
We freely admit that we underestimated Bentley in some ways. They have always been fast and exclusive for us. But it was only the visit to the factory halls in Crewe that sharpened our awareness of the attention to detail and quality awareness with which cars are built on the island. Even more so when they are passed through the hands of the Mulliner team during production. Bentley therefore occupies an exceptional position within the VW Group, even compared to Porsche. This is also impressively demonstrated by the Continental Cabriolet by Mulliner we drove with one of the last W12 engines built. (Text and image: Thomas Vogelhuber | Additional images: manufacturer)
Technical data – Bentley Continental GTC Mulliner W12*
- Model: Bentley Continental GTC Mulliner W12
- Engine: Twelve-cylinder biturbo, 5,950 cc
- Perfomance: 659 hp (485 kW) at 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 900 Nm between 1,500 and 5,000 rpm
- Drive: All-wheel drive, 8-speed DCT
- Combined consumption: 14.1 l/100 km²
- CO2 emissions combined: 320 g/km²
- Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 3.7s
- Maximum speed: 335 km/h
- Dimensions (L/W/H): 4.85m/1.96m/1.40m
- Weight: approx. 2,500 kg
- Basic price Bentley Continental GTC Mulliner W12: from 305,210 euros