In the World of today, the luxury market has been filled with vehicles which range from SUVs to convertibles, and from four-door saloons to stylish sporty coupes, capable of bringing you from A to B in sheer style and refinement.
The absolute pinnacle in the market space are the Brits at Bentley, who have become the market’s benchmark when it comes to offering a sculptured presence and an attention to luxury detail that not many are able to touch today. Bentley’s current ability to make you feel so special behind the wheel of their cars is a feast we should celebrate in an everchanging car World.
Bentley’s new Continental GT Speed is the latest in a lineup of grand tourer excellence and it was parked in front of me for a week long loan allowing me to breathe the lovely smell of the leather, feel the infinite amount of speed and the ability to bring myself from A to B in the most pleasant, sporty way I have experienced in a long time. Three years into the third-generation model’s lifecycle, the Speed version of the latest iteration of the Continental GT is here. Available as Coupe or Convertible, the new Speed offers just that touch more sportiness over the standard Conti.
Gallery: 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed test (UK)
Photos by Vincent Toth
The subtle changes to the GT Speed are both technical and visual. Noticeable differences are the new, darker colour for the grille at the front and the lower air intake, but also the Speed badging in chrome, alongside the new 22-inch wheel design, which comes in three different colours. You can opt for bright silver, a darker silver or gloss black. The “Jewel” version of the fuel and oil filler caps come as standard. At the rear, there is a subtle carbon lip spoiler, plus an optional Akrapovic exhaust with brushed matte grey tailpipes.
Cabin full of exclusivity and grandeur
Open the door and you are greeted by the door sills and head rests telling you are entering the cabin of the Speed. Inside, the interior is trimmed in leather hides and Alcantara with 15 colours and 11 further combinations available. The duotone colour split featured a combination of Portland and Beluga leathers, which made for an exquisite driver’s cabin. After finding my place behind the familiar looking steering wheel, the cabin breathes exclusivity and grandeur at me. Here and there it is a bit too much bling-bling, but I get what Bentley tried to achieve here. The sports pedals and the additional Speed badge on the dashboard let the driver know it is not the “ordinary” GT you are taking out for a spin.
The front seats offer a lovely level of refinement and adjustability. They are a great place to be in and offer more than ample support while taking corners. The rear seats however are only suitable for kids or average-sized adults who would jump on board for a short drive. The seating position is where you expect to be in a Continental GT. It is not a sports car so you are not positioned deep inside the cabin. Instead you are driving a potent GT, which allows you to grace across the long bonnet. For those who would like to know, the boot space is 358 litres and offers more than enough space for daily driving, a weekly visit to the golf club or a long weekend trip.
Interior tech is good, but not brilliant
On the topic of infotainment, you are being treated by a system we have seen before. The user interface and fonts might been altered, but the familiar Audi notification sounds reveal the origins of the multimedia and driver’s dashboard systems. The star of the show is the optional Bentley Rotating Display, which offers you the option to rotate between a blank canvas for ultimate driver’s set up, three wonderful gauge faces, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The features inside the system are on point, but Android Auto is surprisingly missing.
Look around the cabin even further and you will notice more systems borrowed from its German family members. The lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, head-up display, and night-vision camera are all familiar VAG, which isn’t a bad thing at all, but it does take away from the exclusivity of the interior package. For those who have driven a latest generation Audi A3 or A5 will notice the similarities inside the 200K Bentley.
Same goes for the steering wheel and the rather plasticky buttons placed either side of the airbag cover which carries a lovely Bentley wing emblem. The panoramic roof ends my thorough look of the interior. It offers an additional cover that slides gently into place and surprisingly killed any additional sound coming from the glass roof.
Time to go for a drive, hitting the German Autobahns, twisty mountain roads and touching on the sporty nature of this GT Speed. The vehicle available for the test drive was one dressed in a colour named Julep - by Mulliner, or for anyone else other than Bentley; Metallic Green Gold. You could say it is moderately in your face as a colour choice, but after a couple days I started to appreciate the nature of it and how the vehicle offered a presence and stance so familiar to Bentley as a car brand.
Push the starter button and the 6.0-litre W12 TSI engine comes into live accompanied by a wonderful dark undertone, which is never intrusive but still lets you feel like you are driving something with a sporty connection. On the first metres, you immediately connect with the sheer amount of grunt which is available under the right foot. A total of 659 PS (650 bhp) / 900 Nm (664 lb.ft) is available when you require it. Enter the German Autobahn and you experience the true nature of the W12’s monumental performance bringing you to top speeds beyond 300 km/h which sheer ease. My lord, it is quick and stable at high speeds!
But be gentle! It is a Bentley and it likes to be treated like one. The GT powerhouse is not a thoroughbred sports car with immediate responses, so if you are asking too much from the drivetrain than you will experience some delay and lag. All in all, you are still driving a 2,273 kilogram (5,011 lbs) machine capable of catapulting you forward from zero to 60 mph (96,5 km/h) in 3.5 seconds, 100 mph (161 km/h) in 7.8, and it pulls you on to a top speed of 208 mph (335 km/h), so be respectful.
Braking power comes from massive carbon fibre brakes, which do their job top notch. They are even the largest front brakes on any production vehicle at 17.3 inches and came in quite handy on the twisty country roads where the Speed’s excessive weight can come into play. The combination of the sonorous engine, the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox and the way Bentley set up their three-chamber active air suspension with adaptive damping plus Bentley Dynamic Ride offers a sheer level of brilliance. Add this lovely mix to the all-wheel steering and brand new electronic rear differential, and the most playful Bentley to date shows you how enjoyable a battleship-sized GT can be when you ask it to be agile.
Put the GT Speed in Sport mode, and the party even gets better. You are moved out of your comfort zone, because the Akrapovic exhaust lets itself heard on almost every downshift. Push the car harder, and its sharper handling starts to show itself, and provides additional dynamic engagement. Nicely controlled tail wags out of corners are combined with a body control through sweeping turns, which feels remarkable to say the least for such a heavyweight. The grip is impressive throughout.
The physics defying aspects never allow for any disconnect between the driver and the GT Speed, but a rewarding nature in which the car constantly tries to tell you that it can do all of this any time of the day, but wonders if you really want to. A common nature among Bentleys, but in this case more prominent throughout its driving characteristics.
Don’t get me wrong, this Continental GT is no precision weapon nor a battleship read to attack. The Brits sculptured a machine capable of ironing out all of your stresses most of the time you are driving it, but also decided to create the most entertaining, monumentally fast and best luxury GT in the market space today. This GT Speed is in my opinion undeniable the most desirable product coming from Crewe at this moment and the ultimate pinnacle for those requiring an all-encompassing two-door grand tourer. My final word of advice? Definitely take the convertible over the coupe…