Bentley GT Speed

10 Oct, 2012 11:45am James Disdale

The fastest model Bentley has ever produced delivers blistering pace and exquisite refinement

Verdict

4
The GT Speed certainly lives up to its name with crushing straight line acceleration, whenever you feel the need. Firmer suspension means the big Bentley handles itself surprisingly well in corners, but it's not nearly as nimble as the Aston Martin Vanquish. Set the suspension to comfort though, and it can do something the Aston can't - waft along in near silence and ultimate comfort. If you're already a fan of the Continental GT, you'll like this car even more.

The standard Bentley Continental GT isn’t exactly short of performance, but that hasn’t stopped the British brand producing an even more powerful version of its imposing coupe. In fact, the new GT Speed is the company’s fastest ever production model.

Boasting an amazing 205mph top speed and a blistering 4.0 seconds 0-60mph time, the big Brit now has serious supercar-rivalling credentials. At the heart of this high performance makeover is tuned version of the firm’s familiar twin turbocharged 6.0-litre W12. Engineers have increased the power output to 616bhp, which is 49bhp improvement over the standard car, while torque swells from a muscular 700Nm to a crushing 800Nm.

As you’d expect, the Continental GT Speed delivers blistering acceleration, with the revised powerplant pulling relentlessly from idle all the way to the 6,000rpm redline. Better still, this brutal straightline pace is accompanied by a deep, bellowing soundtrack from the huge twin exit tailpipes - the Speed GT’s freer-flowing exhaust system was first used on Bentley’s Continental Supersports Ice Speed Record car.

This improved performance isn’t just down to the engine, because the Speed GT also features the firm’s new eight-speed gearbox, which first appeared in the cheaper Continental GT V8. Developed by transmission specialists ZF, the close ratio unit serves-up slick, relaxing shifts in auto mode, and quick-fire changes via the steering column-mounted paddles.

In an effort to tame the newcomer’s ferocious pace and deliver sharper handling, Bentley has also tweaked the Speed GT’s chassis. There are firmer air springs, stiffer suspension bushes and uprated anti-roll bars, plus the self-levelling system maintains a 10mm lower ride height. 

On the road, the Speed feels even more agile than the standard car, and with the suspension in its Sport setting it responds more quickly to your inputs, displaying strong grip and decent body control. It’s still a big and heavy machine, but even on tight and twisty roads it inspires huge confidence, helped in no small part by the standard four-wheel drive system, which provides almost unbreakable all-weather traction. And while the steering lacks feedback, it’s precise and well-weighted.

Yet it’s the Bentley’s ability to turn from sportscar to luxury coupe at the touch of a button that really impresses. Select Comfort mode and the Speed wafts silently along, effortlessly soaking up bumps and potholes. Even the rorty exhausts settle down to a barely audible background hum.

This dual personality is reflected in the car’s low-key appearance. Look past out test car’s distinctive Speed Yellow paint and you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the standard car. Closer inspection reveals the new 21-inch alloys, dark tint finish radiator grille and huge, ‘rifled’ tailpipes. Owners wanting to make more of an impact can specify the Mulliner Styling Specification, which adds a carbon fibre front splitter, sill extensions and rear diffuser.

It’s a similar story inside, where the changes to the Continental’s cosseting cabin have been limited to diamond quilted stitching for the leather seats and ‘engine turned’ metal trim for the dashboard. However, as with any Bentley, the interior can be comprehensively customised - the only limits are your imagination and the depth of your pockets.

Disqus - noscript

How often can you take this car up to its maximum speed? Get a 3.0 diesel VW Phaeton 2012 with 10K on the clock for £35K and you get 2/3 extra seats and the same smooth drive

I'll rather have the Mulsanne. It's much more spacious for 5/6 passengers, bigger boot, more executive and nearly as quick (180mph). Thoug its slightly more expensive.

Overweight, overpriced and over here. A vw phaeton with a sports pack.

Key specs

  • Price: £151,000
  • Engine: 6.0-litre W12
  • Power/torque: 616bhp/800Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
  • 0-60mph: 4.0 seconds
  • Top speed: 205mph
  • Economy: 19.5mpg
  • CO2: 338g/km
  • Equipment: Leather trim, climate control, sat-nav, air suspension, adaptive damping, 21-inch alloys
  • On sale: Now
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