12 December 2013
Until recently the Bentley Continental GTC Speed was the most powerful convertible Bentley had ever produced and only lost the tag when the range-topping “Supersports” Continental was let off the leash in mid-2010. Building on the success of the Continental GT the “Speed” features the famous W12 6.0-litre Bentley engine but the engineers have managed to increase power from 552bhp to 600bhp, does the Speed live up to its name?
There aren’t many car manufacturers that would collectively sit down and look at an existing model which has a top speed of 195mph, 552 bhp under the bonnet, a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds and think it wasn’t swift enough but these discussions look to have taken place at the Crewe-based prestige car maker. The result of these talks is the Continental GT Speed – available in coupe or convertible form, which features an up-rated engine under that beautiful bonnet. The engine offers 15% more torque and 9% more power than the standard Continental GT, while engine efficiency is optimised by the use of lower friction, lighter-weight components and a new engine management system. Thanks to this power and torque increase, and a 55kg reduction in weight, the GTC Speed is capable of hitting 200mph and 0-62mph time shaves 0.3 seconds off the standard Continental GT at 4.8 seconds. Coupled to the engine is a flawless six-speed automatic transmission. The result is a stunning experience, with almost bottomless well-like reserves of power to be had. Put the pedal to the foot and instantly feel and hear the engine roar, in lesser hands all that power could have been a problem, but the engineers at Bentley are well versed in ensuring all the grunt finds its way to the tarmac, and those majestic 20-inch alloy wheels. The latest versions of the W12 6.0-litre engine have the capability to run on petrol, E85 bioethanol or any mix of the two, all from the single tank. Running the car on E85 can have a significant positive impact on “well-to-wheel” emissions, however at 396g/km, CO2 emissions are among the highest of any production car on UK roads. Fuel consumption isn’t the car’s strong point either, the engine’s thirsty and the car weights near two and a half tonnes, so a combined mpg figure of 17 isn’t going to win the car any economy awards. Frankly though, the Bentley Continental GTC Speed isn’t about frugality, it’s about performance, style and luxury. And on those three criteria the car scores a perfect 5.
As well as being faster than the standard Continental GT, the Speed has seen subtle yet noticeable changes to the car’s ride and handling. The most noticeable change is that the car’s suspension has been lowered by 10mm at the front and 15mm at the rear for improved handling, while the 20” alloy wheels are fitted with bespoke Pirelli PZero performance tyres to provide the Speed with superior grip as well as a very sharp steering response and ride. Being a convertible the car’s steel body has been stiffened up against the Coupe, although no additional work has been carried out on the standard Continental GTC to cope with the increase in performance, simply because of the engineering expertise already poured into the car. With all four wheels driven the car has excellent all weather traction, while the GTC Speed also features an advanced electronic stability programme (ESP). The ‘Sport Traction’ mode for the GTC moderates ESP intervention at low speeds, benefiting driver interaction and control, particularly on low traction surfaces. The ‘Dynamic Mode’ of the GTC Speed allows increased wheel slip at higher speeds compared to the standard chassis. This ensures that torque is reinstated more quickly, allowing the driver to exploit the full potential of the engine. What you’re left with after all the subtle tweaks is a firmer, slightly edger ride, as you would expect in the more powerful car.
Only the Bentley enthusiast or standard Continental GTC owner is likely to notice any aesthetic differences between the GTC and GTC Speed on first pass, but Bentley has changed some of the finer detail on the pricier GTC Speed to distinguish it. For starters the multi-spoke alloy wheels are unique to the Speed, while the boot features a new lip spoiler to improve high speed aerodynamics. The car also sits slightly lower thanks to the 10mm/15mm lower suspension. Build quality on any Bentley is always first class, and a key component of the Bentley brand. Expect all the usual luxury and refinement in the cabin, with subtle distinguishing changes over the standard GTC. For example the treadplates on both doors have “Speed” inlayed, while the cabin is based on Mulliner driving specification. So expect diamond quilted leather seats and alloy foot pedals. Bentley is keen to offer drivers a number of ways to personalise their pride n’ joy and the GTC Speed is available with a dark tint aluminium option.
Bentley are hardly likely to put so much effort into creating such a work of engineering brilliance and then not laden it with all the safety and security features you’ll ever need. One interesting fact is that the GTC Speed features some of the largest front brakes found on any passenger car in the world, so all that weight and power is controlled with consummate ease. Each of the four wheels are independently operated with self adjusting springs and dampers to give the driver real feedback and to keep the car squarely on the road. Being a convertible the car also comes with a roll-over protection system and a reinforced windscreen. The car also features a multi-function alarm system, including interior sensing even with the roof down. A GPS tracking service is an optional extra too.
True supercar performance usually doesn’t come with four seats, good sized boot, and a retractable roof, which are all part of the appeal of the GTC Speed. It offers that sizzling performance but in a car which can be used to pop down to the supermarket with the family. The boot offers a usable space with the roof up or down, and while the backseats aren’t massive they will comfortably seat children, child seats, and for shorter journey’s you’ll not get many complaints from adults either.
Weighing in at £156,800 new the GTC Speed carries a hefty £17,600 premium over the standard GTC which is basically the cost of a decent specification small family car, so is the GTC Speed worth such an additional premium? Difficult to come to a meaningful resolution when dealing with such a prestigious marque – the car has more power, it’s faster, more exclusive, and just has that little bit extra quality in the cabin, so for many people buying this type of motor then those extras are likely to sway the purchaser towards the GTC Speed. It goes without saying that the car is rather expensive to run, its top group for insurance and for road tax, while that 6.0 litre engine hiding under the bonnet will drink petrol like there’s no tomorrow. Still if you’re in the market for a truly iconic, four seater, supercar convertible then there really isn’t any meaningful competition out there; it really does stand out from the crowd.
Submitted: 24/06/2010 14:07:15
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