Courtesy of Park Place, our local supercar dealer, we recently spent a few days living with a Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible. Bentley is a brand that has been slowly growing on me over the last couple of months. This transformation started with the Mulsanne short termer we had last autumn. While the two are clearly members of the same family, they reside at opposite ends of the House of Bentley spectrum.
My first impression on the Conti GT Speed was one of a bit of confusion on what it was intended to be. By our norms it really isn’t a super/sports car and on the other hand it isn’t the more typical Bentley ultimate luxury performance yacht on wheels. Where we finally landed on the Conti GT Speed was firmly in the Grand Tourer camp. With a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 203 mph it certainly moves quite smartly which is even more impressive when you consider that it achieves these numbers while propelling a rather hefty 2500 kg. To put the weight in perspective, this is 2X what a Ferrari F50 weights. For those that follow American Football, this is the equalivent of a 300 lbs lineman who can run a 4.4s 40, impressive and slightly unnerving at the same time.
As a Grand Tourer, the big Conti is quite comfortable and more civilized than much of its direct competition. Rear legroom is not as generous as either the Ferrari FF or Maserati Grantursimo but it beats both on boot space by a wide margin. The build quality is outstanding and everything in the Bentley feels both substantial and hand crafted. The overall workmanship is top notch and none of the switchgear has even a wiff of being sourced from the VW Group parts bin.
The GT Speed moves down the road quite smartly. The GT Speed goes where you point it, is not hard to place, and it puts down power instantly. Where is comes up a bit short is in drama and driver involvement. Despite the power and more performance focused set up, the magnitude of the mass you are piloting remains. It is not a car that shrinks around you when you start to move at a bit of speed. The digital nanny is omni present and keeps you well away from anything that might hint at trouble. When cornering hard, you can sometime feel the backend wanting to slide just a tad but it is instantly cleansed of any such thoughts as soon as they occur. Ride quality is what you would expect in a Bentley. Road imperfections are soaked up and dispensed with smartly.
All my driving in the GT Sport was done in manual mode using the paddles to shift. Getting used to the smaller and very differently designed Bentley paddles did take a bit of time. While for general driving around town the Bentley paddles are fine, when you start to push a bit and the wheel is not aimed straight ahead, they just don’t work as well as the larger blade style paddles both McLaren and Ferrari use.
Overall, what Bentley has achieved from an engineering standpoint is hugely impressive. The build quality and finish are unsurpassed. Having recently driven both a Veyron and the Continental GT Sport, it is probably the Bentley I would rather have in my garage as it is far more useable in the real world. Does it thrill, not really but I am not sure it is intended to, it is more designed to impress and that it does well.
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After living 4 years with one such car (coupé though), I concur with SSCO’s opinion. The car is a great “go anywhere, anytime” sort of car.
With the ability of carrying 3 or 4 persons, one can actually enjoy the thrust and smoothness of 600+ HP V12 instant power (sorry, W12), and a very precise comfortable ride. The engine is compact and simple, it does not even have dry sump because you might not really need it. It’s a very heavy car, sure, but it is not a rally car, so one is not tempted to drive it like a rally car. This one has the carbon ceramic (cc) brake option which I wanted, not for the cc in itself but merely to have adequate multi piston callipers. At the time, the alternative was single piston press-type callipers, which I don’t think should be in one such car at all given the weight and performance. The latest model has adequate callipers, that seem to indicate that Bentley adjusted their product.
My car has now reached nearly 100,000 Km and nothing more than a couple of bushings had to be replaced in the front suspension so far. Of course, it is regularly serviced at the Bentley service outfit wherever I happen to be with it when it is required.
So yes, it is a great car well worthy of the badge it carries.