Even without a final price confirmed, or anyone from outside of Bentley getting even close to the steering wheel, it seems almost guaranteed that the new Continental GT Speed will be a pretty lovely car. Short of a ludicrously high asking price or something going woefully wrong, the Speed appears an undeniably attractive prospect. The standard coupe is great, the standard Convertible is great, and the Speed hardtop already sounds like it might end up being the best of the bunch. It isn't a stretch to suggest the drop-top Speed will be another success for this formidable generation of GT.
It's not here yet, though - but the temptation to indulge in something louche and luxurious for the springtime sunshine most certainly is. There's arguably no better way to travel when the weather is fine. Where a sports coupe might be compromised through the loss of a roof and some torsional rigidity, there are no such concerns for the big cruisers - the ability to have four soak up in the sun in style is worth any dynamic penalty. Nobody cares about a bit of wobble with unlimited headroom and (hopefully) a stirring soundtrack immediately behind them. It's an experience the new Bentley should deliver with aplomb, as well as plenty more besides if the other models in the range are anything to go by.
Still, at somewhere around £200,000, it would only be reasonable to expect the best. Therefore what we're aiming for with this week's Buy Hard is something close to the new Bentley sensation - imperious performance, ultimate luxury, room for pals - for rather less than the Speed's asking price. In fact, each will probably cost less than the amount of options added to a new Continental, with a £30k budget in play. How close can you get to the best Bentley there is for hot hatch money? Time to find out.
Okay, first things first: I know the SL isn't exactly the most accommodating of drop-top Mercedes. A previous S-Class cabriolet would have been perfect - and I love them - but remains too expensive. A W124, however wonderful, probably isn't right for this sort of comparison, now at least 25 years old and always slower than coastal erosion.
An SL63, however, ought to tick a lot of the required boxes. Expectations of luxury have probably changed a fair deal even in the past decade and a bit since this car was registered, but an AMG SL has always found a way to make its driver feel like a million bucks - I suspect this one will be no different. The panoramic roof is a nice touch in a cabrio, as is the Air Scarf tech, and everything inside seems to have worn 40,000 miles like a tenth of that figure.
Then there's the particular appeal of this SL63: the engine. I don't expect the Bentley, nor anything else in this selection, to thrill with the roof down (and in a tunnel, preferably) quite like a 6.2-litre SL63. This will be one of the last cars before the switch to turbocharging; very good though the 5.5 certainly was, it's never quite going to be worshipped like the M156 warhorse. And when dealing with convertibles, sound counts for a lot - so what could be better?
Time may not have done the R230 facelift's look any favours, though I'll bet it's worked wonders for making us love that glorious V8 even more. And think of it this way: smaller seats might mean less room for passengers, but more excuse to drive it and pick up friends one by one. Sounds a good compromise to me...
It doesn't feel all that long ago that all of the DB7s on the classifieds were looking a bit sorry for themselves. While it certainly helped save Aston from financial disaster in the nineties, its successor and other 'VH' siblings left it looking interesting only to those unable to afford a DB9. And those thick-skinned enough to ignore the Ford-related insults. It is entirely true that the car was designed and engineered on a shoestring budget by TWR, and based off the Jaguar XJS platform. Which has never been something particularly worthy of shouting about.
But now, with the help of rose-tinted glasses and the realisation that they will definitely never make 'em like this anymore, the DB7 is starting to look all the more lovely again. Especially when the example in question has so clearly been cherished by someone who, you'd hope, wanted one above all else. That's the impression you get with the car for sale, an absolutely gorgeous Vantage Volante in green with a green rag-top, green-on-cream interior and wood veneer trimmings. Through the pixelated images, it looks to be showroom quality, and worthy of your driving gloves and loafers.
It's surely seen some real TLC in recent times, because the appearance defies even a fairly low 61,000 miles. Something that gives good reason to believe the 5.9-litre V12 ought to be producing its original 420hp at 6,000rpm rather nicely. Obviously, the experience of dispatching that peak will be no match in shock-factor compared to the brutish SL63's lump, nor will it have anything like the neck-bending ability of a Bentley twin-turbo W12. But it'll get up and go alright, with the unadulterated (read: naturally aspirated) 12-cylinder tune to match. And more to the point, it'll do it with an air of graciousness only applicable to a modern classic convertible, something the younger alternatives here won't be able to match anytime soon. So sold am I that I'd take this DB7 drop-top over most of the equivalent '9s in the classifieds...
What I should have done here is chosen an old Bentley to skittle the opposing side. The previous Continental GT was not made perfect by the edition of 'C' - but the old warhorse is readily available for the budget and powered by the quintessential Grand Tourers engine: the 6.0-litre W12. Yes, you could argue the early cars are somewhat dated now, but class is forever and 550hp is ample even today.
What I wanted to do was teach Sheehan a lesson by making the case for the underlying grandeur of the XJS he's too wet behind the ears to appreciate. But the one I liked was sold (for being too good) just before closing time on Friday. So I've stuck with the brand regardless, because if ever there was a manufacturer to put the 'c' in caddish, it's Jaguar.
Of course many of its classic convertibles are icons. But are seldom of the luxury sort. I was tempted to select the XK8 - or more specifically this XKR-S - to highlight the poised curvaceousness denied to his precious DB7. But instead, perhaps not entirely prudently, I've gone for its follow-up; the bonded and riveted XK.
Aluminium meant the car was lighter, and Jaguar successfully purged the wood trim which had cluttered up its predecessor. Yes, its proportions were a little awry and too much of the grand tourer had been taken out - but by the time it was facelifted in 2009 it had earned the 5.0-litre V8, which was supercharged in XKR format. Perhaps it isn't opulent, and certainly it isn't spacious. But it goes like the clappers and sounds like thunder. Which is indulgent enough for me.
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