If the original 2002 Bentley Continental GT coupe was a truly GRAND Touring Car,
|JC and GT coupe - Detroit, December 2002
then the 2015 Continental GT Speed convertible is a truly SUBLIME Touring Car!
It doesn’t matter which way you want to interpret that description it covers everything from performance, ride and handling, interior ambience and outright one-upmanship! At AUD$637K it needs to!
I rumbled out of Bentley Brisbane on a beautifully sunny day, heading west out of the city towards Mount Nebo.
Leaving the ‘burbs well behind, I was punting over the best combination of roads possible, to get yourself acquainted with the drop-top GT Speed.
Following the gently curving, beautifully undulating Mount Nebo road up and over the hills and valleys of the D’Aguilar Range, and down to Lake Wivenhoe tells you a lot about this car.
So lets look at the package the Bentley delivers. The first thing you notice is a bottomless pit of torque, from the twin turbocharged, 6-Litre W12, pushing out around 470kW (626 bhp).
|Road test fuel economy: 17.67 L/100km
Of course the adhesion is aided by fulltime all-wheel-drive, and steering the Speed is pure drivers’ joy.
The steering does suffer from considerable kickback when the road surface changes, but this is a good thing! This highlights how sensitive the steering is to feel, feedback and subtle inputs.
The steering is ZF Servotronic rack and pinion and you need just the most delicate movements to point, control and correct the 2500kg Speed machine.
The eight-speed ZF transmission really helps the W12 deliver seamless power, and the paddles are beautifully located, and even more fun to use thanks to intricate ‘knurling’ on the surface your fingers touch to change gears.
Equally, the suspension delivers possibly the BEST compromise I’ve sampled in a big car designed for serious high-speed performance. The secondary ride is fantastic, given that in a car like this you need carefully-damped, minimal suspension movement, to keep the wheels in touch with the road.
The result is a very well-damped ride, yet it also gives you stiffness at the end of the amplitude curve of the suspension travel.
Now, to the brakes. First up, they are HUGE! The front discs are 405mm, and the rear discs are 335mm. The 8-piston calipers up front haul the big car down with amazing response.
The discs look like carbon ceramic, but according to the press kit they are iron.
Inside the ambience is wonderful, whether the roof is up or down. The beautifully-designed triple covering and folding mechanism designed by Karmann makes for a cosy ride in winter, but wind-in-the-hair (not that much in my case) is really what this car was intended for.
The immaculate white exterior of the test car was complemented by a combination of magnolia and navy blue leather, and the result is both subtle and sophisticated. The instruments are old-school dials, which look perfectly suited to the Bentley’s traditions.
The touchscreen audio-visual is competent and well-featured, but there is almost a complete disconnect when it comes to contemporary technologies like Bluetooth and music streaming.
There is a multi-function 'knurled' wheel on the steering wheel where you ‘pair’ your phone; and the menu (between the speedo and tacho) allows you to scroll through various parameters such as speed, navigation directions and telephone info.
However, this is not intelligently linked to the touch-screen system, and whilst I eventually ‘paired’ my iPhone, I could not continuously stream music. Every time I stopped the car, I had to start the streaming function again, and eventually the system just gave up, so I drove the last third of the journey without music. Very frustrating. I think Bentley and/or VWAG could learn something from Mazda!
|JC & Speed - Gold Coast, November 2015
This did nothing however, to dampen my joy at driving the Continental GT Speed convertible. I LOVED every minute of it, and after 320km I was very sorry to hand it over to my good friend and automotive writer Paul Gover – who had a treat in store himself.
Even at the dramatic pricetag, the GTC Speed delivers on every promise. It’s good to look at, performs impeccably, and will make you feel like a million bucks when you’re behind the wheel.
What more could you want from a storied nameplate, with motor sport in its DNA, leading-edge technology delivering the ultimate driving experience, and the Flying B tells the world you have taste and automotive savvy!
* My thanks to Joseph Aranga and the team at Bentley Brisbane