When: October 2012
Where: Munich, Germany
What: 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed
Occasion: International first drive
Overall rating: 4/5
If you're feeling the pinch then empty your massive garage and rationalise your supercar collection with this, the Bentley Continental GT Speed. It offers a mix of high-speed capability, luxury car comfort and day-to-day usability that's unrivalled by anything else on four wheels.
Bentley Continental GT Speed
Pricing: €300,000 approx.
Engine: 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbocharged petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: two-door coupé
Rivals: Ferrari California, Mercedes-Benz CL 65 AMG, Porsche 911 Turbo
CO2 emissions: 338g/km (Band G, €2,258 per annum)
Combined economy: 19.0mpg (14.9 litres/100km)
Top speed: 330km/h
0-100km/h: 4.2 seconds
Power: 625hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 800Nm at 1,700rpm
In the Metal:
So the Bentley is not going to turn heads the way you might in a Ferrari but then that's part of the appeal. The Continental GT's shape is familiar, the chiselled definition to its soap bar shape sharp yet unobtrusive, making the Continental GT neither obnoxious nor extrovert. That's a huge part of its appeal, and despite the addition of larger 21-inch alloy wheels, 'rifled' exhaust pipes, smoked chrome around the front and chrome rimmed rear lights the GT Speed remains as visually appealing as its lesser-engined brethren.
The new W12 badge on the front wing - apparently placed at the request of customers - is a bit rubbish in our opinions, but if you ask nicely they'll happily forget to put it on at the factory. Inside it's as lovely as ever, the Conti GT's interior something of a unique proposition at this price point, the hand stitched, turned metal, chrome and wood all lustrous in their finish and exacting in their fitting. It's a lovely place to be.
All the arguments we made for the new V8 being all the engine you'd ever need in the Continental GT dissipate the second you turn the key for the W12. If you've ever been to an air show and heard a Lancaster then you're nearly there, the Bentley's 6.0-litre W12 sounding like a big piston aero engine muffled by lamb's wool carpets and thick leather. It's glorious. There's little to mess about with either; pop it in Drive, Sport or opt to shift manually and leave the continuously controlled dampers around the mid-point and the GT Speed is straight out of the box easy, and ridiculously fast.
One hundred kilometres per hour arrives in 4.2 seconds and it reaches 160km/h in less than five seconds later. This is a relentless powerplant, its 625hp backed up by 800Nm of torque, so there is absolutely no need to rev it out; about 4,000rpm is plenty and a natural shifting point given the muscular nature of its delivery from tick over. It's shockingly fast, especially when you consider its bulk, yet its ease of use and friendliness is remarkable given the prodigious grunt.
Find a stretch of autobahn that's quiet and the GT Speed will reach 330km/h, its four-wheel drive and tweaked aero package (producing 125kg of downforce at top speed) helping keep it planted. That's the GT Speed's calling; its rounded ability is completely at odds with the extreme specialist nature of its similarly quick rivals.
Nothing with this sort of performance comes close to providing the sort of impervious delivery of the GT Speed. Rain doesn't leave you frightened to use its potential, as traction is mighty, its surefootedness a certainty. It's an epically quick, yet decisive car, the steering surprisingly alert and responsive, the chassis actually quite engaging so long as you're not looking for lurid, rear-driven oversteer. Cosseting and refined when you want it to be it'll thrill on more challenging roads too, the punch it delivers never in doubt, though the agility is the biggest surprise. Sure, it feels nose heavy in tighter bends, but the GT will move around under power, if you monster it. Not that you'll feel any need to, as the GT Speed feels crushingly quick and composed when driven at mere fractions of its potential, its upper limits being supercar quick without the histrionics.
What you get for your Money:
Two hundred plus mile per hour potential doesn't really come cheaper, at least not when combined with the sort of hand-finished loveliness that is the GT Speed's interior. You'll pay this much for a Ferrari California with nothing in it, or a V12 AMG model - neither bringing the lovingly hand-crafted interior of the Bentley.
The Speed promises sure reliability. Bentley's engine testing is the same as everything else within the Volkswagen Group, which means the W12 goes through hundreds of hours of full throttle tests, is flushed with coolant at -30 degrees before being run up to full power and is generally abused in ways that no engine should ever have to endure. If you want a supercar you can use everyday, and rely on, this is it.
Bentley's new Speed model will take a large portion of Continental GT sales by virtue of being the most expensive option in the range, and despite our love of the V8 - and its slightly more palatable economy and emissions - it's difficult not to be seduced by the W12. The performance is extraordinary, Bentley very much creating a car in its own mould rather than following the supercar norm. As such it delivers a machine of utterly unrivalled roundedness, a car that's as adept trickling through traffic as it is leaving it standing as it thunders by at huge velocities. If you want a supercar you can actually use everyday, and rely on, take shopping, cross Europe, have passengers (just) and fit luggage in, then this is it.