We put the ergonomics of our A7 to the test
Bentley Continental GT Speed review (2013 onwards)
Model: Bentley Continental GT Speed
Bodystyle: two-door coupe
Engine: 6.0-litre, W12
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Date of test: January 2012
What is it?
You don’t give a car an evocative name like SPEED and then fail to deliver on the promise. And so it is with the new Bentley GT Speed. The standard Bentley GT isn’t slow by any stretch of the imagination, but the GT Speed takes the matter of maximum speed one step further with a 205mph limit and the sort of acceleration that will turn your insides to mush.
Several visual and mechanical tweaks also mark the GT Speed out as the rebel of the Bentley range, but think of it as less of a track-day warrior and more of an extremely fast way to shrink countries.
The visual tweaks are hard to spot at first, but they are there, from a darker front grille to lower air intakes and ‘rifled’ exhaust pipes.
Where does it fit?
The Speed tops-out the Bentley GT coupe and convertible line-up, with a brilliant V8 model for those without an oil well in their garden, then there’s the standard W12 model, and the Speed we test here. At £151,100, it could be considered a bargain in supercar circles, with rivals like the Aston Martin Vanquish and Ferrari FF commanding price tags of £189,955 and £227,107 respectively.
What does it do well?
Let’s get the figures out of the way first. The standard W12 Bentley GT, with which the Speed shares a 6.0-litre engine, generates 575hp. The Speed puts out 625hp, raising the maximum speed from 198mph to 205mph, and lowering the 0-62mph time from 4.5 seconds to 4.2. One hundred miles-per-hour disappears in nine seconds.Torque is up from 516 lb/ft to 590, coming in at 2,000rpm for an insane rush every time you touch the throttle pedal. Oh, and there’s a couple of turbos to help things along, too.
Morphing from GT to racer
So what’s it like when you put all this theory into practice? Mesmerising. Put your foot flat to the floor at moderate speeds and the gearbox instantly snaps down, the Bentley’s nose rears up and you are fired up the road like an Andy Murray serve. That’s in default D mode on the gearbox. Pull back on the stick one more notch and you’ll hit S for Sport, which quickens the throttle response, primes the gearbox to hold onto gears for longer and opens flaps in the exhaust for a more rewarding noise. Immediately it feels like a different car, morphing from GT to racer in one fell swoop.
With fewer gearchanges it’s a less jerky drive and with the gearbox primed for maximum acceleration, it feels even more alert and responsive.
Hit a few bends and things don’t turn to disaster, despite the fact the Speed weighs 2.3 tonnes. Don’t get us wrong, this isn’t lithe and razor-sharp like a Porsche 911 GT3, but you do feel a sense of connection with the car as its four-wheel-drive bites into the surface and the steering communicates what the road surface is saying, although it is more soundbitey in nature rather than a running monologue of feedback.
Driving on slippery winter roads, the four-wheel-drive delivered plenty of grip and never did it feel like those 625 horses were making a break for the hedgerow. And even on hard winter tyres, the ride was like being transported on a Tempur mattress, thanks to air suspension that does a great job of keeping both the body in check through corners and smoothing out the road surface.
What doesn’t it do well?
The Bentley GT Speed is a car of compromises, cosseting you wonderfully in comfort and then displaying a wilder side when you want it to. When we mean wild, though, it’s more of a librarian’s night out than a stag-do in eastern Europe.
What I’m getting at is that the supposed sporting focus of the Speed model might be a bit too subtle for some. The performance is epic but peaceful and it would feel wrong to tear up the road like Mr Toad.
What’s it like to live with?
The GT’s cabin is feeling its age now despite a mid-life facelift. But that’s not much of a criticism because it is about as well appointed as the Queen’s boudoir, with a top-drawer mix of leather, wood and metal marking this out as a luxury car.
Again, the Speed’s differentiation over the regular model is subtle but it does get the Mulliner Driving Specification pack, which brings quilted leather seats, a metal dashboard finish, a different gear knob and drilled pedals.
With seating for four and a large boot capable of swallowing 358 litres of luggage, the GT Speed is the perfect car to jump into and head off on a cross-continental jaunt. But flying business class would probably be cheaper.
How green is it?
That’s because the GT Speed likes a drink. Despite a 12% improvement, the average fuel economy remains below 20mpg at 19.5mpg. Now the cost of replenishing such a tank might not be a problem if you can afford this car’s price tag in the first place, but constantly stopping to restock its 90-litre fuel tank will prove wearing. Carbon emissions of 338g/km put the GT Speed firmly in the super-tax bracket.
Would we buy it?
Supercars don’t get much easier to live with than the GT Speed, living up to both parts of its name. Like a great GT car it will deliver you in absolute comfort but at fantastic speed if you want it to. For some people it might not be edgy or sharp enough, but for many it will be the perfect supercar.
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