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Bentley Continental GT Speed - Lasting Impression

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives Topics:  Bentley Continental GT

Bentley Continental GT Speed - Lasting Impression

Geoff Maxted
October 7, 2013

Bentley Continental GT Speed Bentley Continental GT Speed Bentley Continental GT Speed Bentley Continental GT Speed
As I’ve said before, the good thing about car test days (in this case thanks to The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) is that I get to drive a variety of the latest offerings from manufacturers. The downside is that I have to give them back after about a half-hour. This is probably enough time to make an initial assessment but not enough time to grow to love, hate or be indifferent to the vehicle in question.

The car in the images is the Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible. In the brief period allowed it made a very big impression indeed, right from the moment the 6.0 litre W12 engine was started. (Performance details are listed below). The rumble of this car at tick-over with the sound insulated hood down is very satisfying in that it portends of glorious adventures to come.

Inside, the Continental is a festival of quality. If you took this car away for a romantic weekend there’d be no need to book a room. The interior will always be nicer than any hotel. Without labouring the point too much, this is automotive hand-crafting at its very best. From the sumptuous hide seats to the heritage inspired Dark Tint Aluminium touches (on this model and in keeping with the external styling features) the driver and the passengers are cosseted in comfort. Things get a little tight in the back if I’m honest, but once installed most normally proportioned people shouldn’t feel too cramped. This is motoring luxury after all.

Drive is through an eight speed gearbox that can be controlled via the large, well placed paddles within finger-tip reach of the perfectly proportioned leather steering wheel. It isn’t especially necessary though, because on kick-down the gearbox has the uncanny ability of block-shifting to just the right gear suggested by the urgency of the applied right foot.

All 616bhp have to be controlled somehow and, this being a GT Speed, the Bentley engineers have plainly added extra sharpness to the chassis dynamics. The front/rear torque split is, we’re told, 40/60, while there’s a ride height drop of 10mm, stiffer springs front and rear, new suspension bushes, anti-roll bars and revisions to Bentley’s four-way adjustable damping system. DriveWrite will take their word for that - all I know is, out on the highway, drive and power is effortless; although on twisting roads the driver is always aware that this is a big car.

Outside, the dark tint grill and air intakes set this GT apart from its brethren as do the unique 21” Speed alloys, which are also available with the dark tint. After a lengthy stroll around the back it is interesting to note the absence of any form of mighty spoiler; all the downforce this car needs -even in excess of 200mph (apparently) - is provided by the gentle lip on the back of the boot lid. Now that’s design.

The foregoing is just a taste of all the engineering expertise that has gone into the GT Speed. From the exquisite paint to the quilted opulence of the highly adjustable seats and the suggestion of brutal power from the twin-turbocharged W12 under the bonnet, nothing has been left to chance: and we haven’t even left the car park yet…

Turning onto the main road a long straight allows for some spirited acceleration. The scenery moves past at warp factor speed and, all to soon, a junction is indicated. The massive brakes are progressive and pull down the pace without drama. With the hood down the full soundtrack is available but sadly this is not the Amalfi Coast; this a dreary, dank day somewhere in England and I had to pull over to put the roof on. This action places some demand upon the left index finger as the roof slides silently out of its cave and installs itself. Once fitted all is quiet. To my mind this hood is one of the most remarkable things about the GT Speed. The insulation and fit makes the inside almost as hushed as a saloon - it’s that good.

Apparently, the added weight of the hood mechanism and the reinforcing necessary to cancel out body shimmer makes this car a tad slower than the full metal jacket version, but frankly these are just small bits of numbers and in reality nobody is going to notice.

On the open road this car is a joy to drive with its mixture of effortless power and sumptuous comfort. Never mind the width, feel the quality. It’s a head-turner alright. Even in the rain of an Autumn day the colour glows. The temptation was to keep on going until I came to an ocean but, sadly, it was time to return to base. Despite its size the GT was easy to park thanks to an excellent reverse camera system. In the supermarket car park though, it would probably be best to park in those faraway spaces around the edges. I very much appreciated the opportunity to be let loose in this car.

There is no point in discussing the price. You can afford it or you can’t. The problem is that, thanks to our distorted view of celebrity obsessed culture, prestige vehicles tend to become associated with a certain type of lifestyle. This is unfair when you think about what goes into producing a car like this. The Bentley Continental GT Speed is built in Britain by British craftspeople and we should be proud of that. There’s nothing wrong with having a dream and aspiring to better things. It certainly made a lasting impression on me.

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