Bentleys have always paired devastating performance with unrivalled luxury. And in some ways, no model does so better than the GT Speed Convertible.
A 202mph top speed makes it the world’s fastest four-seater convertible – and this, plus a broad breadth of ability, could make it one of the greatest grand tourers ever. We put the Bentley to the ultimate test – by driving it 1,000 miles from San Francisco to Las Vegas on a variety of roads.
Regardless of whether we were navigating hilly San Francisco, mountainous Mammoth Lakes, parched Death Valley or crazy Las Vegas, the GT Speed Convertible conquered all before it with ease.
What’s more, we did the entire trip roof-down, despite temperatures ranging from -5C to 35C. The furnace-like heater, heated seats and hot-air neck warmers kept us toasty in the mountains, while ventilated seats and Arctic-strength air-con cooled us in the desert.
We could have raised the roof – at up to 20mph – and the refinement would have rivalled the GT Coupe’s. But what a waste; with the top down you can enjoy the aural delights of the Speed’s specially tuned exhaust undiluted.
Stick the slick eight-speed auto in sports or manual mode, and a valve in the silencer opens to make the 6.0-litre engine’s seismic rumble even more vocal. For the Speed, the W12 is uprated to 616bhp (the same as in the new Flying Spur): enough to propel the two-and-a-half-ton convertible from 0-60mph in only 4.1 seconds. More telling is the 0-100mph time of 9.7 seconds, and the Speed will continue pulling hard well after that, too.
With adjustable air-suspension, the car always feels totally planted. In comfort mode it glides with such composure that you forget it’s 10mm lower than standard. This, plus stiffer anti-roll bars, means the Speed is more capable when cornering in sports mode.
This all belies the Bentley’s bulk, and the grippy all-wheel drive and accurate steering give plenty of confidence. But at 175kg more than the Coupe, the drop-top doesn’t feel quite as agile on tight turns, and at times the steering wheel wobbles slightly as the body flexes. These are minor complaints, though, when you consider just how much more of a sensory experience driving a Speed with the roof down is.
And with the sun shining in on the GT’s opulent cabin, you can appreciate the craftsmanship all the more, too. Changes inside are minimal, but they do include some bespoke dashboard designs, quilted leather seats as standard and ‘Speed’ kickplates.
Outside, only aficionados will spot the 21-inch alloys and rifled exhaust. And this raises the point that, for most people, the normal GTC will be plenty good enough, yet costs much less. But then, the Speed is aimed at those who want to say they own the world’s ultimate four-seater convertible – which is exactly what this is.