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First drive: Bentley Continental GT Speed (2015MY). Image by Bentley.

First drive: Bentley Continental GT Speed (2015MY)
The Crewe car maker tweaks the bombastic GT Speed and ends up creating the fastest road-going Bentley ever.

 



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| First Drive | Loch Lomond, Scotland | Bentley Continental GT Speed |

Overall rating: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Sublime. If you want a grand tourer that has a sporting edge, rather than a sports car that tries to cruise comfortably on occasion, then the Bentley Continental GT Speed really has no peers. It was never lacking in pace with 625hp, but with an extra 10hp, 20Nm and the headline 206mph top speed, the 2015 car is our favourite way to demolish continents.

Key Facts

Model tested: Bentley Continental GT Speed
Pricing: Coupé from £156,700
Engine: 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: two-door coupé
Rivals: Ferrari FF, Mercedes-Benz S 65 AMG Coupé, Rolls-Royce Wraith
CO2 emissions: 338g/km
Combined economy: 19.8mpg
Top speed: 206mph
0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
Power: 635hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 820Nm from 1,700- to 5,000rpm

In the Metal: 5 5 5 5 5

Despite the general shape of the Continental GT having been around for more than a decade now, the second-generation car still looks bang on the money. The visual tweaks for the 2015 GT Speed are minimal, but then the most rapid Conti hardly needed extensive plastic surgery. For the record, you're looking at the Speed's lower body kit now being body-coloured, a dark tint applied to all the light clusters and the captivating 21-inch alloys too, red brake callipers, the 'Speed' logo on the front wings and a new colour, Candy Red - although we prefer the striking Burnt Orange of our test car. 'Classic' Speed and W12 signifiers, like the rifled, 40mm-wider exhaust pipes and the black-backed winged 'B' badges, remain.

Inside, the two-tone colour split treatment on the doors, fascias and gear lever is the biggest giveaway of the revised Speed, and it works really well at enlivening a cabin that was pretty much faultless as it was. Matching contrast stitching is applied liberally to most of the dashboard and for a small fee (well, small to a typical Bentley customer; £800 to you or I), you can carry that feature over into the diamond-quilted seats, which also have 'Speed' logos stitched into the headrests. It's all suitably opulent inside, with the stress and fatigue of long-distance drives in lesser machinery simply not an issue in a Bentley; 500 miles in a few hours across two days is like popping down the shops for a pint of milk.

Driving it: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Even if you drove them back-to-back, you'd be hard pressed to notice a 1.6 per cent power increase and a 2.5 per cent torque hike on a car that was monstrously quick to start with. But the headline speed and the subtle upgrades to the 2015 GT Speed make it worth the hullabaloo - on the 10,000ft Machrihanish airbase runway near the Mull of Kintyre, the big Conti pulled an easy 182mph, with plenty in reserve; in hot, humid conditions that were hardly ideal for its optimum performance.

It sounds excellent too, all rumbly menace and possessed of a really noticeable shift between its Sport and non-Sport settings. If you get the chance, sit in one at a stationary idle and just keep knocking the gear lever in and out of Sport mode. The immediate change in exhaust note is remarkable. Having said that, for all the W12's magnificent song, its 'little' brother, the V8 S with the sports exhaust, has it licked. The Speed can never quite summon up the same Spitfire-esque thunder of the 4.0-litre car.

Otherwise, it's as you were for the GT Speed. This means generally excellent for something that's a grand tourer first and foremost. That the car weighs 2.3 tonnes is never far from your mind and if you start asking tough questions of it on tight roads with the air springs on their firmest setting, its bulk makes itself known. But to upset it, you'll be so far beyond the legal and acceptable limits of practically any public road that it becomes an irrelevance.

It can hustle along in a reasonably nimble manner, the all-wheel drive providing the sort of massive, dry-weather traction that allows you to get back on the throttle on long, sweeping bends a lot earlier than you'd imagine. The steering is as on other Bentleys we've tried recently, which is to say full of feel despite the obvious lightness engineered in to make the car easy to manoeuvre at lower speeds. Refinement is unimpeachable whether cruising or charging, while the eight-speed auto is the epitome of its type. The carbon brakes are great but, even on this top-line Continental, they're an option... at £10,610. Yikes!

What you get for your Money: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Yes, we really have just given a car that costs in the vicinity of £200,000 (with options) nearly full marks here. Firstly, put away your gripes that centre around the fact there are one or two Volkswagen Group buttons in the interior; a factory tour of Bentley's astonishing Crewe facility will reveal many handcrafted marvels that make you think the Continental is a bargain, not a rip-off. The attention to detail that goes into making the mighty W12 powerplants (Crewe is the biggest single producer of 12-cylinder engines anywhere in the world), or the book-matched wood trim in each car, or the hand-stitched steering wheels - it's all gobsmacking. The end result is a car that feels worth every single one of the pounds required to buy it, and possibly a few more besides.

Worth Noting

You can, as before, have your 635hp GT Speed in Convertible format. The penalties over the Coupé version are thus: it requires an extra £15,700 just to buy it in the first place; it loses 3mph from the top speed and adds 0.2 seconds to the 0-62mph time, at 203mph and 4.4 seconds respectively; it weighs an additional 155kg; and that has an impact on fuel economy and CO2, which are behind the Coupé's 19.5mpg and 338g/km returns at around 19mpg and 347g/km. There's also slightly less space in the occasional rear seats, less room in the boot and - strangest of all - no real aural advantage with the roof down; the Coupé sounds every bit as good as the rag-top. Unless you like a lot of sun on your bonce, we'd advocate the Coupé version if you're after a GT Speed.

Summary

When considering the Continental GT in any format, it's worth reminding yourself that it doesn't set out to try and handle like a Ferrari. Instead, it takes a very British approach to top-end performance that favours extra-long-distance comfort over outright dynamic fireworks, and we love it all the more as a result. If you're being hyper-critical, the recently launched V8 S model drives a little bit sweeter, costs slightly less and sounds even better than the glorious baritone of this (so far) ultimate W12. But the GT Speed has a charm all of its own nonetheless; in essence, the best GT just got a tiny bit better.


Matt Robinson - 23 Jul 2014









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2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.

2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.



2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Image by Bentley.
 






 

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