It’s about Speed

Road test and picture special: Bentley GT Speed

The Bentley Continental GT continues to evolve and the latest model is the GT Speed, now available as a convertible.  Tweaked and tuned, lowered by a centimetre and endowed with the charismatic 12-cylinder engine, the headline is its 202mph top speed.  While an admirable claim, it is unlikely that many owners will ever see this figure on their speedometers; crossing continents and wafting along the Riviera are more likely.

Having spent much of my life west of the Pennines, it seems only right that the sun should set over sea rather than behind land.  So, when we have a balmy, late summer evening and the south of France is a tad too far, it is to Lancashire’s famous coast we turn.

Our red Continental is quite a head-turner.  Hood up or down, the car looks sleek, low and muscular; people stop to stare.  The first leg to pick up friend and photographer is cocooned in hood-up luxury and despite a choked motorway network it is hard to feel ruffled.

Heading further up the M6, top down and with the wind deflector fitted, conversations are conducted at civilised levels and the music through the Naim hi-fi is clear (if a little diminished by the sound of air passing overhead).  We poke and prod the levers and knobs and come to the same conclusion: that it is a very fine place to be.  The trained eye spots some VW parts in there, such as the driving mirror and sat-nav screen but the cabin is beautifully made.  The very simple black leather chosen for this press car is fabulous and complements the sparkly, pearlescent St. James’ Red paintwork extremely well.

Joining a dual carriageway, I dropped into Sport mode and counted the seconds away from a standing start: one, two, three, four…and 60mph is dispatched effortlessly.  I can’t help thinking we’ve just altered the speed of the Earth’s rotation.  It isn’t just remarkable acceleration; this is over two-and-a-half tonnes of car we have pushed improbably quickly toward the horizon.  The additional tweaking and tuning over the standard W12 makes it feel just that bit more agile all round.  Should one ever forget the increased ability of the GT Speed, the exhaust has been tuned to deliver a truly fabulous sound track.

Taking a left onto the M55 towards the coast, the sun is dropping quickly and we press-on to catch the last rays.  Finally at Lytham, we grab our spot and spend an hour snapping away until the sun has changed from orange to fiery red then back to orange before it finally drops out of sight.  Who needs Cannes?  The sky could not have been more beautiful.

As the light fades, we swap camera lenses and amble north towards Blackpool, home of tooth-rotting rock and the kiss-me-quick hat; the gaudiness of the front seems the antithesis of everything Bentley stands for.  We join the endless queue of family cars and over-excited children and crawl our way through the lights.  Doing an average of one mile per hour (perhaps less) in a six-litre Bentley is probably the fastest way to rid our planet of its fossil fuel reserves.  Avoiding the eyes of street vendors we watch the fuel gauge head towards the red section and grab sparkly photos along the way.

Clearing the Big One, Blackpool’s famous, 65 metre-high roller coaster, we bail-out and search for food and fuel.  Interestingly, the Bentley’s 0.7G acceleration seems tame compared to peaks of 3.5G for the roller coaster.

The GT Speed is quite remarkable.  In this magnificent colour, it adds cheeriness to its sheer capability.  During the week, I have only seen smiles and heard children shout “nice car” and “awesome!”.  The GT Speed is awesome.  We have the pictures to prove it.

Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible, from £167,900.  Model tested: £198,970.

Power: 625 PS (@ 6,000 rpm), torque: 800 Nm (@ 2,000 rpm), emissions: 347 g/km CO2 (band M), 0-60 mph: 4.1 secs, 0-100 mph: 9.7 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●●

With thanks to Stereoscene for image consultancy

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