The next-generation Bentley Continental GT Convertible has been spied testing for the first time, ahead of its expected launch in 2018.

The car, with the exception of the folding fabric roof, is almost identical in look to the new Continental GT coupé, also due in 2018, with front-end styling that appears to draw from the EXP 10 Speed 6 concept first seen at last year’s Geneva motor show.

Aside from these changes, the heavily disguised car appears to follow Bentley’s hallmark styling, carrying over many cues from the current model. The majority of changes take place under the surface.

The new Continental body shape echoes the design of the Bentley EXP 10 Speed 6 concept car, with a lower front and rear than the current car, as well as shorter overhangs and a shorter wheelbase. The new Bentley Continental GT coupé has previously been spotted testing in the UK wearing its own bodywork. Previous mules were seen in the skin of a modified Porsche Panamera. Eagle-eyed Autocar reader Grant Gamble photographed the car while in a traffic jam on the M1 motorway.
The next Continental will be based on a new platform called MSB co-developed by Bentley and Porsche. It will also be used in lengthened form for the next-generation Panamera, which explains why the test mule in earlier spy pictures used a shortened current Panamera bodyshell with an altered ride height and cooling to meet Bentley’s specifications.

The Continental range will be significantly lighter than the outgoing model, boss Wolfgang Dürheimer has said.
Like the firm’s new Bentayga SUV, the Continental’s bodyshell will be a hybrid-materials structure, with assorted high-strength steels reinforcing a body made mainly from aluminium. The current car is steel-bodied.

This change will contribute to a mass reduction effort that should drop the car’s weight substantially below the 2375kg of today’s GT. However, it will not fall below two tonnes, Dürheimer said.

Powertrains will include the all-new 600bhp W12 that’s making its debut in the Bentayga and an updated 4.0-litre petrol V8. There will also be a petrol V6 plug-in hybrid, which will use a set-up that develops 410bhp in today’s Porsche Cayenne plug-in hybrid.

It’s unlikely that Bentley will offer the new diesel V8 in the Continental. This engine is soon to appear in the Bentayga with around 400bhp, rather than the 380bhp that it develops in the Cayenne.

Speaking at the Bentayga launch, Dürheimer said his “personal goal is a sustainable, stand-alone business with an annual production volume of 20,000 units”. He envisages seven model lines, although the Bentayga-derived sports SUV and the production version of the EXP 10 Speed 6 coupé that would make up the sixth and seventh ranges have yet to be signed off.

Talking about the advantages of Bentley being part of the new Sports and Luxury Group at Volkswagen, Dürheimer said the VW Group test drives that take place in Namibia will now be split among the new groups and involve fewer cars. More can be achieved this way, he said.

Another gain will be sharing research and development skills, as well as a supplier base suitable for high-performance and luxury models from Porsche, Bentley and Bugatti. Dürheimer added that Lamborghini’s absence from this group “makes no sense”.