Bentley Continental GT Speed- Shining bright in 2022
The Bentley Continental GT’s shepherds have mastered incremental progress punctuated by the rare leap. When we tested the original GT Speed in 2008, it weighed 5180 pounds, with a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 engine that produced 600 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, reached 60 mph in four seconds, and was capable of reaching 202 mph. Thirteen years later, the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed claims to weigh 5011 pounds, produces 650 horsepower and 664 pound-feet of torque from a revised 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 engine, accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, and tops out at 208 mph.
Other cars’ designs and performance may have progressed further or more quickly, but Bentley recognizes what it has. The formula worked in 2003, and it still works now, as we learned in Sicily behind the wheel of the newest Continental GT Speed.
The third-generation Continental took a step further in terms of appearance, transforming the enforcer body of the previous model into that of a pentathlete. To create the Speed, which is available as a coupe or convertible, Bentley’s clothing department added 24 additional ponies to the W-12’s arsenal, then darkened the grilles, added a carbon-fiber splitter, contoured the side sills, and fitted a unique set of 22-inch wheels. Yes, it’s marginal.
In everyday driving, the Speed’s roughly $50,000 premium above the ordinary car is a waste of money. Copious shove hustles 2.5 tons of Anglo-German equipment, and copious hides turn that equipment into a hushed chamber in a private London club, just like the normal GT that makes the same torque. Like Welsh Guards protecting Windsor Castle, the triple-chamber air suspension with adjustable damping and 48-volt active anti-roll bars keeps the driver safe from the outside world.
Potholes and strangely uneven pavement were visible but not felt on Sicily’s tiny, convoluted road network. The Pirelli P Zero PZ4s—275/35R-22 in front, 315/30R-22 in back—were forced to howl by desperately uncouth surfaces, but there’s only so much thunder one can hide after putting 5000 pounds on low-profile rubber with contact areas as huge as elephant feet.
The issue developing this new Speed was that when Bentley intended to improve the Continental GT, “we’d maxed out all the tools we had,” as engineer Nigel Hamlyn told us. As a result, engineers took a risk and expanded Bentley’s toolkit. The W-12’s torque is normally supplied to the rear wheels via a redesigned, more rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, but up to 36% can be sent to the front wheels to make the most of available traction or to counteract oversteer. The Speed also adopts the Flying Spur’s rear-wheel-steering system, which has 4.1 degrees of maximum steering lock for better handling and low-speed maneuverability. The front axle still has brake-based torque vectoring, but the rear axle now has an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD).
This is still a large GT, not a sports car. Even in the now faster-shifting Sport mode, letting the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic shift for you means having to time steering and pedal inputs to the twin-scroll turbos at maximum boost. It’s better to take over shifting and keep the turbos spooled, even if it means being so high in the rev range than the W-12’s normally menacing rumbling becomes a gravelly shouting. Forget about theatrics like pops on downshifts and overrun; Bentley has mostly tuned them out.
“I enjoy huge brakes and I can’t lie,” someone at Bentley HQ sings about the 17.3-inch front rotors with 10-piston calipers. When you stomp on them, they’ll make your eyes bulge like Wile E. Coyote’s, not to mention the eyes of any drivers behind you.