Back in 1919, a new name arrived on the motoring scene. Bentley, a brand which would produce some of the finest cars in the world, with a blend of elegance and performance which is rarely matched.
Now, 101 years later, comes the Continental GT Speed, the most dynamic road car to date and one which sets the benchmark for luxury GT cars. I have been fortunate to test drive a number of Bentleys and for me, the trademark was that mix of performance and elegance which I discovered in every model I took the wheel of. The first Continental GT Speed appeared in 2007, inspired by the three litre Speed models of the 1920s. It would be wrong of me here not to note the early motor sport success enjoyed by the company with victories at Le Mans in 1924-27-28-29 and 1930.
Now the latest generation Continental GT Speed is more capable than ever with an enhanced sportier edge which will appeal to those in our midst who fully appreciate a performance car. Providing the power, and there is plenty, is a revised version of the six litre W12 TSI engine which delivers 650bhp and 900 Nm of torque. For such a large car, performance is impressive with the sprint from rest to 100kph (62mph) coming up in just 3.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 335kph ((208mph). Should you wish to explore the potential of this car, then you had better book a slot at Kirkistown or Mondello Park. In touring mode, this would be the perfect set of wheels to briskly cross Europe to a warmer destination. Allied to the engine is the dual clutch eight speed transmission which is twice as fast in Sport mode as the standard W12 models. Stop/Start technology is also employed. Despite the size of a Bentley, I have always been impressed with the handling and roadholding capability and the newcomer carries that on with a highly advanced chassis which includes all wheel steering and an electronic rear differential. At low and medium speeds, the rear wheels are steered in the opposite direction to the front wheels in order to respond to a rapid change of direction, while at higher speeds all wheels steer in the same direction.
Coming on to styling and this model is much more muscular than the standard car with a great on road presence. Speed models add a dark grille with a lower front bumper grille and there is discreet badging. A unique signature of the Continental GT Speed are the silver twenty two inch wheels and there is the option of dark tint or black gloss finish.
Climb onboard this Bentley and quality meets you immediately. The cabin really does showcase the fact that Bentley can produce the finest automotive interiors in the world. Handcrafted materials blend with unique trim and badging, yet it is all so tastefully executed. Duotone split hide and matching Alcantara which is also applied to the steering wheel and the exterior badging continues to the passenger fascia with an elegant Speed icon. The interior can be personalised with a choice of fifteen main and eleven secondary hide colours. Bentley’s Diamond in Diamond quilting is standard and the Speed embroidered headrests distinguish this model as the most potent in the range.
In keeping with the rest of the Continental GT family there are four seats and the luggage capacity is quite small at just 358 litres. This is a car which is simply packed with exquisite detail, somehow echoes of former Bentleys one which is technically advanced and can be truly described as a driver’s car. A few days ago the 200,000th Bentley rolled off the production line at Crewe, a Bentaya Hybrid. Worthy of note also is the fact that Bentley recently celebrated the completion of its 200,000th unit. It took Bentley 101 years to reach the milestone, with 75% of that figure only being built over the last 18 years!