Bentley’s latest coupe is as well-bred as it is strong.
By Bill Heald
The legendary “Flying B” logo representing the Bentley name first appeared on an automobile in the family’s native England back in 1919, just after the first World War. The marque this handsome symbol has represented since then has not only had a fascinating history; to this day it signifies one of the most exclusive, prestigious automobiles on the road and commands respect the way it demands a premium price. Those not well-versed in the company’s heritage may associate Bentleys with pure luxury, a conclusion no doubt bolstered by the fact that for more than 60 years Bentley and Rolls-Royce were part of the same concern. Luxury is of course a major part of the Bentley experience, but this is a company that built its reputation all those years ago on racing success—and cars like the new Continental GT Speed reflect that heritage. This smooth, sculpted fastback takes the highly desirable blend of muscular performance and first-class coachwork to a whole new level, and ultimately creates its own special niche. These considerable engineering and design accomplishments come shrouded in an elegant, understated styling that is a perfect expression of the genius within. This machine avoids the kind of flash and garishness often associated with cars in this performance and price range, and in so doing avoids attracting undue attention to itself. Ultimately, this makes the Bentley a car that attracts a special kind of owner who appreciates this surprisingly unpretentious expression of high-end, high-speed transportation.
Tradition is found throughout the GT Speed, but it is also fortified with the very latest dynamic chassis development, along with sophisticated electronic advancements. Let’s start under the bonnet, where you’ll find a six-liter W-12 engine armed with twin turbochargers and advanced engine-management software. With more than 600 horsepower on tap, this amazing mill has the sheer muscle to rocket the GT Speed to 60 miles per hour in four seconds, and record a top speed of more than 200 miles per hour. Keep this in mind: At more than 5,000 pounds, this coupe weighs as much as many full-size pickup trucks and yet approaches the sprinting ability of some svelte, carbon-fiberbodied supercars. An eight-speed ZF automatic transmission is standard, as is all-wheel drive. The latter has a 60 percent rear/40 percent front torque split so that the rear bias makes the car easier to drift out of corners under full power. It should be noted, though, that if you engage in such shenanigans, your valet might have trouble mending your dinner jacket from his perch on the rear seat. Electronic Stability Control is present, of course, but a Dynamic Mode allows a bit more wheel spin at higher speeds. With all this mass and velocity, you would hope the ABS brakes are up to the task, and the standard units feature huge, cast-iron brake discs (405mm up front, 335mm rear) and are certainly strong. But the optional Carbon Silicon Carbide (420mm up front, 356mm rear) discs are the way to go, for not only are they considerably lighter than the iron discs, but they provide fade-free performance and are projected to last the life of the car. The chassis is rounded out with a lowered, self-leveling air suspension tuned for a more aggressive driving experience compared with the “regular” Continental models.
The GT Speed’s cabin, like the car’s exterior styling, is elegant, sophisticated, and composed of the finest materials. Naturally the hides, wood trim, and metals used are meticulously selected to work in concert to create a quiet and (again) nearly understated interior. Bentley jargon refers to the upholstery as “luxurious yet sporting Mulliner Driving Specification, which features diamond-quilted, perforated leather hides to all four seats, door trims, and rear quarter panels.” Think of the interior as sort of a gentleman’s smoking room capable of extraordinary performance. In every other way as well, this is a truly extraordinary coupe that is as unique as it is exclusive.
|Body style||Two-door coupe|
|Engine||Six-liter twinturbocharged W12|
|Front tires||275/35 ZR21|
|Rear tires||275/35 ZR21|
|Curb weight||5,115 pounds|
|Top speed||205 mph|
|Fuel capacity||24 gallons|
|EPA mpg||13 city/20 highway|