Bentley Continental

It's the ultimate Bentley Continental, but does the 200mph GT Speed truly take the marque back to the top table?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Few cars can match the Continental GT’s devastating cross-country performance or its ability to cover huge distances so effortlessly. The modifications to the Speed model only serve to bring those characteristics into sharper focus, without spoiling the appeal of the original package. Company founder W.O. Bentley would be proud to see this car wear his Speed badge.

It's the most powerful production Bentley ever built, and the first to top 200mph. Make way for the new Continental GT Speed, a model that can trace its heritage back to the original Speed models of the Twenties.

Added to the Continental line-up above the standard GT, the 600bhp brute sprints from 0-60mph in 4.3 seconds. And with 750Nm of torque available from only 1,750rpm, in-gear acceleration is stunning.

The GT Speed is defined by a lower and wider front air intake, and a squarer, more upright radiator grille. The subtle facelift is complemented by larger tailpipes and 20-inch alloy wheels. Self-levelling air-suspension sits 10mm lower at the front and 15mm lower at the rear to complete a look that’s certainly more aggressive than the standard car’s.

Massive 430mm diameter brakes – the biggest available on a production vehicle – fill the spaces behind the wheels. What’s more, drivers who intend to make the most of the incredible performance on offer can specify lightweight carbon ceramic discs.

And as our drive revealed, they would certainly be worth considering. The 2,350kg coupé‘s impressive 0-60mph time tells only part of the story. The work that has gone into maximising the performance has been far more complex than simply increasing the boost pressure on the 6.0-litre W12 engine’s twin turbochargers.

In fact, the engine has been significantly modified with new internals, while a revised exhaust system, cam timing chain and new electronic management system combine to improve the performance across the rev range. As a result, the linear torque delivery that Bentley is proud to list as a key characteristic of all its cars remains unspoiled. As a demonstration, the 50-70mph sprint takes 2.3 seconds – making overtaking very easy.

So the W12 formation is spectacular, but Bentley hasn’t left the rest of the GT Speed untouched. As well as revised suspension, there’s a more responsive gearbox and an uprated stability control system to match the 48bhp increase in performance. The newcomer feels more driver-focused and urgent than before.

The accurate steering is still light on feedback, and there’s a tendency for the Speed to deviate off line under full power – which is perhaps no surprise, given the car’s 600bhp – but overall it feels more involving than ever.

Although the uprated and lowered suspension has undoubtedly made the ride firmer, softer anti-roll bars mean the Bentley never feels uncomfortable. Which is just as well, as the hushed cabin – complete with its finely stitched leather seats, wood veneers and machined aluminium dash trim – is a place in which you should be able to relax.

So are there any downsides? Well, assuming you have the necessary financial clout to find the Speed’s £137,500 asking price, you had better prepare for at least one or two minor disappointments.

Combined fuel economy of 17mpg means you’ll fill up more often than you may expect – despite the 90-litre tank. And it’s a shame that the engine only meets Euro IV emissions standards, rather than the upcoming Euro V regulations, while a 396g/km CO2 figure is at the top end of the scale.

Options are expensive, too. The carbon ceramic brakes alone add £10,000 to the basic price. However, exclusivity has never come cheap. And the good news is that at least the car lives up to its astronomical cost.

RIVAL: FERRARI 599 GTB More expensive than the Bentley, but no faster, the 599’s stunning design and incredible V12 engine make it the coupé that every multi-millionaire wants to be seen in at the moment. Bentley has its work cut out matching the appeal of Ferrari’s latest and greatest.

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