AUTOS

Bentley unveils Grand Convertible concept ahead of L.A. Auto Show

Bentley unveiled its Grand Convertible ahead of its appearance at the L.A. Auto Show

The 1% will have a new way to stay tan if Bentley has its way. The British luxury brand unveiled the Grand Convertible on Tuesday night ahead of its appearance at the L.A. Auto Show.

This concept is essentially Bentley’s recent Mulsanne Speed sedan with its roof artfully sawed off. Bentley, owned by Volkswagen, is using the concept to gauge customer reaction; that reaction will determine whether the car becomes a traditional production vehicle or a one-off specialty car built in tiny volumes.

“It once again demonstrates Bentley’s ability to create the pinnacle in high-performance grand tourers without compromising style and luxury,” Bentley Chairman and Chief Executive Wolfgang Durheimer told a small crowd of customers and media Monday night at the unveiling.

Using the underpinnings of the Mulsanne Speed sedan, it has the same twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V-8 that makes 530 horsepower and 811 pound-feet of torque, directed to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Despite weighing just under three tons, the sedan glides from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Expect the production version of this Grand Convertible to get close to that figure.

Inside the cabin, the four-seater uses the hides of 14 cows, while the outside of the concept is painted in a one-off color created from a sequin on a customer’s gown, Bentley said.

“It’s the ultimate expression of British luxury motoring,”  Durheimer told the crowd. “With the Bentley Grand Convertible, we bring together the very exclusive Mulsanne experience with the full sensory excitement of open air touring.”

The car was originally on Bentley’s to-do list several years ago. Durheimer and Bentley executives showed a similar design concept to media and loyal customers at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

When he left his post at Bentley later that year to run Audi’s R&D department, the idea of such a lavish convertible was put on hold. Duerheimer returned in April 2014 and planning and development of the high-dollar convertible has now resumed.

Just how many dollars remains unknown. The Mulsanne Speed sedan is expected to start at about $335,000 when it hits U.S. dealerships in the first half of 2015. Just how much of a premium this convertible would tack on depends on how exclusive Bentley decides to keep it. But expect to wire over at least $400,000 from the offshore account.

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