The 2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed, available in both coupe and convertible versions, looks a lot like the 2013 Continental GT Speed -- which, in turn, looks a lot like the Continental did when it made its debut in 2003. Though the Continental was never really a performance slouch, the Speed trim has always upped the ante with successive updates, resulting in a new holder of the title “Bentley’s fastest production vehicle to date.”
To Bentley’s credit, it isn’t trying to pitch the ’15 GT Speed as an all-new car, or even a new generation. That’s more than we can say about some automakers and their liberal interpretation/outright abuse of nomenclature.
Instead, the new model sees the stalwart Continental GT Speed benefitting from a series of subtle revisions -- all of them good things to our eyes. Most notable: It’s now faster than ever, with a top speed of 206 mph, at least for the coupe version. Convertibles are hobbled, making do with a molasses-like 203 mph.
The 2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed's turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 engine produces 626 hp and 607 lb-ft of torque.PHOTO BY BENTLEY
The Speed can thank its 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 for these impressive figures. Yes, it’s the same W12 found in the last GT Speed -- and, yes, the same W12 found in the first GTs to roll out of Crewe more than 10 years ago -- but like the car surrounding it, it has undergone a series incremental upgrades and improvements.
The result is 626 hp and 607 lb-ft of torque, the latter accessible from 2,000 rpm to around 5,000 rpm. Compare all that to the 616 hp and 590 lb-ft in the past GT Speed, which topped out at 205 mph. The eight-speed ZF automatic remains; all four wheels are driven, with a 40/60 front/rear-torque split. 0-60 takes 4.0 seconds for the coupe and 4.1 seconds for the convertibl
A pair of oval exhaust tips, their inner walls rifled, is unique to this model, in addition to the 21-inch wheels and subtle “Speed” badges found inside and out. The interior emblems aren’t just molded stainless steel. They're injection-moldedstainless, we were told, as though that fact were a particular point of pride for the Bentley folks.
In addition to the horsepower boost and those injection-molded emblems the Speed has a ride height 10 mm lower than the base GT, plus stiffer springs and suspension bushings stiffened by “up to 70 percent.” The rear antiroll bar is also a stated 53 percent stiffer.
What’s it like to drive?
The car certainly didn’t seem to shrink around us on the tight Scottish roads -- roads often lined with low, ancient and jagged stone walls planted what felt like mere inches from the side of the car. Part of that was undoubtedly our lingering discomfort with the test cars’ unfamiliar right-hand-drive configuration. Mostly, though, it’s the nature of the Continental -- an unabashedly big, shamelessly heavy grand tourer. The car is hefty; the coupe weighs 5,115 pounds; the drop-top, 5,500 pounds.
That makes what has been done with the Speed all the more impressive. The lowered, stiffened suspension does translate to surer handling and a firmer roadgoing manner. Non-Speed Continental GTs get a bit floaty when hustled; the wheels stay glued to the ground, but the sprung mass can behave in an unsettled -- and unsettling -- way when you barrel over road imperfections. The Speed, by contrast, feels positively planted, contributing mightily to driver confidence from zero to…well, Vmax, we suppose, not that we made it to 206 mph.
The Bentley Continental GT Speed has never been accused of being a slouch when it comes to power -- bluntly incorporating "Speed" in its name -- but it seems the company's engineers believed there was...
We did get close, though, on the 3-kilometer runway of Scotland’s RAF Machrihanish airport – an unused strip of tarmac so long that it was considered an emergency landing point for the Space Shuttle.
Our top speed? 181 mph in a pretty blue coupe. The car was still pointed straight and pulling smoothly when we reached the braking zone. A drama-free 206 mph would have been ours if we hadn’t run out of pavement. Fortunately, the Speed’s optional 16.5-inch carbon silicon-carbide front-brake rotors -- as massive as anything else on the car -- slowed the car with as much ease as the motor exhibited on acceleration.
How long will the tires last should you hit top speed? We couldn’t get a firm answer, but Bentley’s affable director of product management, Paul Jones, assured us that the rubber was rated for speeds 5 percent higher than Vmax. Whew.
We were impressed by the GT Speed’s apparent durability and off-the-line capability: A small fleet of three coupes tore down the runway, one right after another, for a few hours without any apparent problems. That was after two days of countryside driving. All that had been done to prep the cars, we were told, was a pre-run increase in tire pressure.
Waiting for the other drivers to streak down the runway did have another benefit: We got to stare at the cars for a while. It’s said frequently about a variety of vehicles, but the Continental GT form really does look great in motion.
The Continental GT Speed coupes we used for speed runs were, we were told, bone-stock.PHOTO BY BENTLEY
Do I want it?
The stock answer here is to say something along the lines of: Sure, why not. If you’re actually considering buying this car, odds are good that you already have a stable of high-end vehicles to your name -- Bentley’s market research bears this out -- and you’re in a position to make a quarter-million dollar purchase on a whim. So go for it, big guy.
That answer is, as another writer on our launch event pointed out, more or less a cop-out.
So let's examine the pros and cons. The Continental GT Speed is not the newest, lightest or most powerful car in its class. Nor is it the most exclusive luxury tourer on the block; all cars in the Continental GT range look visually similar, and Bentley has sold scads since the first generation was introduced.
That said, the Continental GT Speed offers many of the benefits of owning a personal express locomotive with few of the drawbacks (if you think those saps searching for a diesel pump are having a hard time, just try finding a re-coaling station these days).
The Continental GT Speed's interior gets a number of unique touches, including embroidery and badges.PHOTO BY BENTLEY
Those seeking the latest in gee-whiz gadgetry might look toward the S-Class Coupe and its derivatives. Want the classic wail of a conventionally configured V12 rather than the peculiar rumble of Bentley’s W12? There might be a Ferrari in your future. But if you seek power, presence and the sort of reassuring heft and solidity a bank-vault manufacturer would be proud of, the Continental GT Speed is a very respectable choice.
Opt for this model if you want enhanced handling and a top speed that will make your AMG-driving buddies wilt. The decade-old lines still look fresh (try a non-metallic paint job if you’re looking for something different, and go for the engine-turned aluminum dash trim over the carbon-fiber accents) and rest assured that the Speed’s walloping W12 will happily propel you to bullet-train velocities without breaking a sweat.
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