The Bentley Continental GT is now in its second generation. The first new model released under ownership of the Volkswagen Group. If we look past the fact that Bentley placed the car on the platform of Volkswagen’s slow-selling Phaeton, we see a car that revitalised a limbing British brand, bringing with it a succession of youthful new customers. No longer a niche luxury brand, Bentley is now a major global brand!
The subject of our review today is the second generation Bentley Continental GT Speed. First announced back in 2012 and debuted at the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2012, the GT Speed is the current flagship Bentley Continental GT model.
The name is a nod back to the Bentley ‘Speed’ models that first appeared in 1923. Cars such as the Bentley 3 Litre Speed were top of the range, three out of Bentley’s six Le Mans winners have worn the badge. Our expectations were therefore that this Bentley would offer luxury, handling precision and, above all, buckets of performance. Keep reading to find out what we actually found!
Engine, Drivetrain and Performance
W12. Need we say more? Perhaps just a little would be useful, but one of the biggest selling points for this car has to be that monster W12 engine. A six litre W12 engine is exactly the type you would expect to find under the bonnet of a luxury Bentley coupe.
Pushing 625 hp at 6,000 rpm and with 800 Nm at 2,000 rpm, the Speed gets a modest 50 hp and 100 Nm of torque more than the standard Continental GT. The power is delivered through a twin-turbocharger system.
The changes employed by the Continental GT Speed include a new ME17 engine management system. It is a little quicker, able to make 180 million individual calculations per second. The new system delivers better turbocharger control, torque management and sharper responses in Sport mode.
The Bentley Continental GT Speed also introduced the ZF eight-speed transmission to the Continental GT range for the very first time. A gearbox that is now available across the W12 Bentley range.
In terms of performance, the second generation Bentley Continental GT Speed is roughly a second quicker to 100 km/h than the previous generation and 0.3 seconds quicker than the standard W12 model. 0-100 km/h takes 4.2 seconds, 0-160 km/h in around 9.0 seconds and the top speed sits at around 330 km/h. Impressive figures for a car that weights 2,750 kg fully laden.
The platform the Bentley Continental GT Speed sits upon is the Volkswagen Group’s D1 platform. Shared with the Volkswagen Phaeton and the new Flying Spur, the D1 platform features conventional steel construction. It is of course interesting to note that the Audi A8 gets a more advanced version of the D platform featuring aluminium construction. We’re guessing this will be the next step forward for the British company.
Whilst the basic platform remains broadly the same as the previous generation, Bentley have added to other areas of the package. The front suspension setup includes an aluminium double wishbone whilst the rear gets an advanced trapezoidal multi-link setup. The Continental GT Speed gets new air suspension springs and dampers too which contribute to a significantly different set of handling characteristics.
The Continental GT Speed also sits 10 mm lower helping to lower the centre of gravity. Bentley fit uprated anti-roll bars and stiffer suspension bushes to this car. With all these changes, the Continental GT Speed feels sharper and more performance oriented.
Okay, so most customers won’t buy the Continental GT Speed for its improved ability to demolish tarmac. Most will buy it for the design, the looks and the status the badge provides. Thats no bad thing either. The Continental GT Speed gets a number of visual updates that improve its desirability over the standard W12 and the V8 versions.
The Speed gets new 21 inch ten twin-spoke wheels. Finished in either dark or light grey, these wheels are unique to this car and come shod with 275/35 ZR21 tyres. Bentley paint the chrome trim pieces with a dark tint.
You’ll likely spot the GT Speed from the rear so the addition of riffled dual tailpipes are what will set it apart from the rest of the range. Chrome lamp bezels are fitted at the rear and the fenders feature new W12 badging. One unique aspect that many bystanders won’t see are the black powder coated intake manifolds that sit beneath the bonnet
Overall, then, the design isn’t significantly different from the standard W12 car. In the skin though, it adds an extra edge, enough to indicate to those that know their Bentley models that it is indeed the GT Speed.
For those that need that little extra, Mulliner specification is also available as a cost option. It includes a new front bumper grille strake, a new front splitter, side sill extension blades and a rear bumper diffuser as well as a new set of 21 inch wheels and 17 different colour options. Our car looked mighty impressive event without this package.
Ultimately, the Continental GT Speed is a GT car. Luxury and comfort is paramount in this segment and the Bentley excels in this respect. Sumptuous leather is key to the inside of the Speed. Mulliner Driving Specification is standard for the interior. It includes diamond-quilted, perforated leather for all four seats, door trims and rear quarter panels. Our car’s inside was coloured black with a bright aluminium veneer and centre console.
It looks elegant yet sporty, more so than any other Bentley on offer. If you aren’t a fan of the dark look, there are seventeen different hide colours to choose from. As far as technology goes, the Bentley Continental GT Speed was the first model in the GT line-up to introduce an 8-inch touchscreen, 30GB on-board Infotainment system. This incorporates an audio system, telephone, ride and comfort settings and navigation information. As an option, a Naim speaker system is also available.
Bentley Continental GT Speed – The Geneva Motor Show 2014 Updates
Since we drove the GT Speed, Bentley have announced a series of updates for the model range. The engine gets 10 extra horsepower, up to 635 hp total. Visual changes include a front splitter, discrete side skirts and an elegant rear diffuser.
Many of the changes revolve around a series of interior packages which add new colour splits for the leather surfaces, additional technology and more comfort.
Ride remains the same with no changes to the suspension to compensate. The slightly increased power figure is said to be within the tolerances of the pre-facelift chassis. We drove the earlier second generation car and below is our driving experience of that car!
Our first impressions of the Bentley Continental GT Speed are quite favourable. It looks mighty impressive with a blue exterior and the Speed’s characteristic wheels. Our last Bentley road test with the Continental GTC W12 left us with mixed feelings. Yes, it is extremely luxurious but it felt heavy and driving wise it was a bit of a let down. Not even 5 kilometers into our drive with the Continental GT Speed we knew this is an entirely different car. Its a bit louder, both on the inside as outside, providing more of the W12’s tunes. Its ride is firmer, reducing body roll and making the car feel more nimble and lighter than a normal W12.
The interior fits to what the speed is, with its diamond-quilted, perforated leather seats. It looks sportier than a normal GT but without leaving any of Bentley’s core values out. Like on the inside, the changes on the outside are rather subtle. Many people won’t be able to tell the Speed apart from a regular Bentley Continental GT. Driving down Munich’s Maximillianstrasse only a handful of people turned their heads, even as a Speed this is not the ultimate head-turner or flashy bling-bling ride.
Leaving the city of Munich behind us its time to find out how well it does on a combination of German autobahn and country roads. Like all other Bentley Continental GTs we tested, the Speed loves the autobahn. Just put your foot down and you will feel an instant push that seems to last forever. Well, at least until you reach the top speed of 330 km/h that is. Even at higher speeds there is hardly any wind noise thanks to the excellent isolation of the cabin.
Behind the steering wheel you will find two leavers to shift manually, but most of the time you are better off to leave them and let the ZF 8-Speed gearbox do its job without touching them. Regardless which speed you’re going, small sprints are executed without any effort. No surprise really with 625hp and over 800Nm of torque available from the quiet but thirsty W12 engine. Thanks to the stiffer suspension and lowering of 10mm the Speed doesn’t tend to dive under braking like the regular GT W12 and GTC W12 do. This significantly adds to its appeal driving wise.
Coming off the autobahn we are keen to see if the suspension changes make enough of a difference when corners show up. The normal GT and GTC have quite a bit of body roll and are more gentle cruisers than a performance GT. The Speed however is a different matter, it takes corners with less roll and more precision. The wide tires and weight help maintain grip, only in wet or when extremely challenged you can get the back to move. It will never handle like a Porsche 911, but Bentley’s GT Speed is a big step up in handling compared to the other W12 models.
What About The Competition?
With the Continental GT in general and the Speed in particular Bentley operates in a range of its own. Both price as the proposition is different from other luxury cars on the market today. Mercedes-Benz will attempt to change this with their upcoming S-Class Coupe. But in terms of style and sheer luxury the Continental GT Speed is as unique as it gets.
The Bentley Continental GT Speed impressed with its sophisticated combination of luxury and performance. Despite weighing nearly the same as other W12 Continental GTs, the Continental GT Speed feels much lighter and more nimble. If there was one Continental GT we would get, this is it!