Whether it is presenting oneself well in the company of financial moguls or for purposes of high-speed transcontinental travel, most people would choose to ride in the leather-lavish, hand-built carriages of a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley. And speaking of Bentley, over time, we have sampled their whole range of vehicles, each more special than the other. But there is a new alpha: the 2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed. The name ‘Continental’ was a designation coined by Walter Owen Bentley to define models that had been driven to mainland Europe by himself at high speed. And as for the suffix ‘Speed’, which besides stating its obvious credentials, it also has historic relevance. The name dates back to the 24 Hour of Le Mans race-winning Speed Six from the 1920s. Here are our thoughts on what is arguably the fastest 4-seater coupe in the world.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The 2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed is like the ‘ordinary’ W12 (if there was such a thing), and the V8 model we drove earlier looks to be a retread of the original car that rolled out of showrooms in 2003. Albeit, the current generation (revealed in 2011) it is based on encompasses some craftier styling cues that helps it pull off a more sophisticated look. The current-generation GT body is also some 40mm wider than its predecessor, with greater track widths at the front and back.
And, just so you know, this may seem to have a compact 2-door 4-seater layout but it isn’t a small car by any means: it is a conspicuous vehicle that measures 4,818mm in length and 1,947mm at the hips. Yet, thanks to its relatively sleek 1,391mm height and lengthy 2,746mm wheelbase, it manages a sporty stance.
The Bentley Continental GT Speed bears a classical design that won’t go out of style anytime soon and perhaps is the only full-bodied car that can pose both as a luxury coupe and supercar at the same time. Designers have incorporated genuine mysticism and power into its aesthetics. It lights up the tarmac with its bejewelled bi-Xenon headlamps, encrusted with a beautiful set LED daytime running lights. At the rear, the current model has squarer tail lamps and slimmer oval rear lamps inlays.
As for the Speed model, there isn’t much to distinguish it from the ‘second sons’ of the Continental GT range besides the badging on the front-side fender. But GTs themselves, in any trim, are beautiful cars; be prepared to have people stare and even gawk at you. It’s part of the package, when you buy a Bentley.
Once we pulled open the hefty doors, we let ourselves into a cabin of vehicular grandeur. Bentley is known to be the best in the business for making coach furniture. Immediately, you are greeted first at your nose, by an aroma of earthy smells that mixes the scents of leather with wood.
Then, you open your eyes to a cabin that has been embellished with the most sought-after materials, decorated with intricate details. The double arch-like dashboard has a layout that resounds with the architecture of Bentley’s new showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road. With the model change, they replaced the VW Touareg-style 4-spoke steering for a rather sporty 3-spoke variety – thick rimmed and leather wrapped. Atop the dash, you have the Breitling embodiment of Father Time, an exquisite analog timepiece handcrafted into place, adjacent to those real metal air-vents and organ pull air-flow regulators. all in genuine stainless steel.
As for colours, they are many to choose from or you can have it in a two-tone style. orange with brown or beige with blue. Sources say the Bentley Continental GT Speed uses 45 m2 of leather, which is roughly the floor space of a studio apartment in Dubai. Then, you have genuine metal trims machined to perfection at key touch points, handmade aluminium fascia inserts and chrome-bezelled control dials. Even your feet are treated to the softness of deep-piled carpets. The individual front seats, shaped like an open-hooded cobra, are as grand to view as they are comfortable to sit on. However, getting into the tight rear quarters involves some Olympic-quality gymnastics even though the motorised front seats fold and can be pushed forward.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
It may not a habit of an aristocrat to look under the bonnet and get hands dirty but, if opportunity permits, do check out the massive 6.0-litre W12, which is basically a mash up of two V6 engines that share a crank shaft. With the aid of direction injection, the GT Speed decidedly makes the most horsepower of any Continental yet. At peak mechanical brilliance, it will make as much as 633bhp – produced at 5,900rpm – and as for torque, you have a massive 840Nm to play with under your right foot.
All that force is then multiplied by a ZF-sourced, 8-speed automatic transmission that then distributes it to all four wheels. The time invested in swapping ratios have been halved over the older model’s 6-speed and Bentley claims that the tranny can perform double downshifts if necessary. Shift in time, saves nine!
In a straight line, the Bentley Continental GT Speed is king. Squeeze the throttle and the gentle giant will hurl you across large distances hitting the 100 mark in a mere 4.1 seconds. Our estimates are closer to 4.5 seconds but that is good enough for anybody. It gathers speed not with the ferocity of a typical supercar but with such composure. For analogies, it more like a tidal wave and less like a volcanic eruption of power. And so even, at speed it keeps true to the theme of luxury. If that occasion where you have to travel across continents arises, you can test that ludicrous top speed of 332 km/h. It certainly is a mind-boggling figure for both rival companies and physicists!
The 21-inch wheels and the 275-section rubber with high-grade rubber compounds deliver very adhesive contact patches at all four corners. This, in combination with the rear-based all-wheel drive, makes for a tenacious drive around corners as well. In the real world of traffic signals, bumps and jay-walking pedestrians, this beast is just as fast or faster than an exotic from Italy or Germany, whilst keeping you isolated from street buzz and plebian chatter. That being said, when in the Bentley, you’d rather cruise at the boulevards at an easy 80 or 100 km/h and enjoy the waft-ability the suspension provides. Braking hard sends this 2-tonne machine into a nosedive as it comes to a halt. It lacks the precision of, say, the Aston Martin Vanquish, but it surely gets the job done, getting from 100 km/h to a pause in around 110 ft.
Those whose lives revolve around reducing carbon footprint will not be too impressed by the 14.6l/100km fuel economy figure and will most certainly be appalled by its CO2 emissions of 338 grams for every km it travels.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
The multi-zone air-conditioner tried its best to keep this year’s summer in check within the cabin, but it struggled when we left the car baking under the sun for a few hours.
For audio, you can enjoy the thunder of the W12 that appeases all senses. The optional 10-speaker, 1,100-watt premium audio system has been custom-built by Naim. Other related conveniences include iPod connectivity, a 6-CD changer with DVD compatibility, SD card slot etc. The 8-inch, touch-sensitive infotainment screen and sub-par navigation systems twill help you find your route. It doesn’t respond to stimuli like it should and honestly in the age of the technological inclined, the Bentley has room for improvement. But for 2016, they have added WiFi hotspot to the list. That must count for something!
Cargo capacity has never been a forte in the recent GT, and even with the 4.8m length, you are left with modest cargo space of 357 litre. It fits a regular large-size suitcase, but not more. Our advice: entrust the remainder luggage with your entourage, if you have one!
Days spent in the 2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed were from an extraordinary life. Besides endowing us oodles of pomp that came with the price tag and oh-so-svelte silhouette, it is also a truly comfortable boulevard cruiser with plenty of customisation options. And if you have property isolated from society, you just may be able to justify its 332km/h top speed, just like
W.O. Bentley used on his cross-continent ventures. With the GT Speed, Bentley certainly has put the wind
beneath the wings of the Bentley emblem. The one niggle though is that its lesser siblings are equally competent and way cheaper. then again, if one can afford a Bentley, why not get the best, most expensive one?
Body type: 2+2-seater; 2-door ultra-luxury high-performance coupe
Engine: Front-engine; twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12; all-wheel drive
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Peak output: 633 bhp @ 5,900 rpm, 840 Nm @ 2,000 rpm
Top speed: 332 km/h (drag limited; claimed)
0-100km/h: 4.1 seconds (claimed)
Price: Starting at AED 750,000 (estimated)
Good: Visual grandeur; exclusivity; rumbling exhaust note; material quality and level of customization
Bad: Pricier than ever; cramped rear cabin; not too much to distinguish itself lesser Continental GTs on the outside and inside