It’s hard to know why anyone would want to go any quicker than 205mph, but Bentley customers are an insatiable bunch. A constant demand for newer, faster derivatives has led Bentley to update its flagship Continental GT Speed after just two and half years in service, and the result is an increase in top speed of 1mph.
That may seem like a trivial number, but it means owners can claim they own the fastest production Bentley ever made, and the changes run deeper than you’d think. They begin with the 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 engine, which gets an ECU remap and higher-pressure turbos for an extra 10bhp and 20Nm of torque. That takes the total to 626bhp and 820Nm, 0-60mph takes 4.0 seconds flat and the top speed creeps up to 206mph, or 203mph for the convertible.
We’ll be honest, deciphering that extra 10bhp on top of the existing mountain of power and torque is virtually impossible, but then the GT Speed was a rocket-ship to begin with. The way it gathers pace is nothing like a peaky Ferrari V8 or even a burbling AMG V12, it simply delivers a wall of maximum torque from 2,000rpm to 5,000rpm giving you performance ranging from effortless to alarming, depending how deeply you bury the throttle.
Where the GT Speed really leaves you gobsmacked is overtaking maneuvers – you simply pull out, flex your right foot and everything else is suddenly a speck in your rear view mirror. Regardless of whether you’re cruising or bombing along, the superb eight-speed gearbox deals out the ratios smoothly (although the column-mounted paddles aren’t always easy to locate with your finger tips) and the rear-biased four-wheel drive system delivers unbreakable traction.
We might not be able to sense the small increase in power, but the styling updates are thankfully more obvious. A new front splitter, sharp side skirts and rear diffuser are all finished to match the paintwork – in our case a particularly fetching Burnt Orange. Gorgeous 21-inch wheels are finished in a unique ‘Speed’ design and with a dark tint, while there’s red brake calipers and a stainless steel ‘Speed’ badge is glued to the flanks.
Beneath the bodywork it gets the same chassis tweaks, compared to the standard Continental GT W12, as the model it replaces. That means a 10mm reduction in ride height, a 15 per cent increase in front camber angle and 45 per cent stiffer springs with a 53 per cent stiffer rear anti roll bar, and the changes are certainly tangible. Even in the softest of the four damper settings there’s an underlying firmness to the ride and more immediacy to the way it turns in. This is by no means a rock-hard track-special; the emphasis is tipped slightly towards performance but the luxury and long-distance refinement is still there.
Although it feels precise and easy to place on the road, with excellent weight and feel from the steering, it’s a car that still prefers to be coaxed around corners before devouring the straights. If you want a Continental GT that sounds fantastic with maximum driver involvement, the V8 S is still the one to go for, but there’s a gracefulness to the way the W12 goes about its business that makes driving one a unique experience.
Cost is unlikely to score high on a Bentley customer’s list of priorities, but with a starting price of £156,700 (£17,700 more than the V8 S) it would be churlish not to mention it. Our test car came with a pile of options too, including £10,610 carbon-ceramic brakes, that pushed the total to an eye-watering £185,710. That’s a lot when you consider the superb new Mercedes S63 AMG Coupe starts from around £125,000.