+ Agile handling
+ Phenomenal power
+ First class cabin
- Looks similar to ‘cheaper’ Continental GT
Verdict: The GT Speed handles like a true supercar but has lost none of the regular Continental GT's grand tourer luxury and comfort: it’s certainly the most accomplished model currently coming out of Crewe. If you can afford it, buy it - you won’t be disappointed.
Because its bread-and-butter sales are luxurious wafters like the Continental GT and Bentayga, it’s easy to forget that Bentley knows more than a thing or two about making cars that can drive around in circles quickly.
The Bentayga and Conti are both ludicrously powerful and fun to drive, but they’re also primarily focused on effortless driving. Their natural environment is floating along the Italian Riviera or rumbling into the palatial courtyard of a five-star hotel in the South of France.
This is no place for a history lesson but Bentley’s record at racetracks like Le Mans speaks for itself, and that’s why no one should be surprised that it decided to make this: the Continental GT Speed.
In simple terms the GT Speed is a more hardcore version of the Continental GT. But before you start thinking along the lines of a Porsche 911 GT3, know that it hasn’t gone down the route of saving weight and stripping out ‘unnecessary’ mod cons such as back seats.
The GT Speed sacrifices none of the Conti GT’s luxury. Instead it’s dialled in agility and playfulness via an electronic limited slip differential on the back wheels, four-wheel steering and an eagerness to send most of the AWD system’s torque to the rear axle. The ESC has been ordered to stand back and wait a bit longer too.
You’ll want people to know you’ve spent the extra £50-ish grand on the GT Speed instead of the regular Conti, and that’s done via a darker grille, subtle body kit and unique 22-inch wheels. Keen-eyed observers will spot the GT Speed badging too, but overall there’s not a massive difference to the car it’s based on. The Bentley Continental isn’t exactly a shrinking violet in terms of design though.
Sinking into the GT Speed’s cabin is akin to what we imagine donning a Saville Row suit must feel like: it’s ludicrously opulent while remaining just on the right side of tasteful. The blend of classic old-English design and liberal use of fine materials has a powerful effect, and you survey the quilted fabrics and knurled aluminium switchgear from seats plusher than anything the World of Leather could come up with.
We like the fact Bentley has refused to short-change GT Speed customers on the luxury front just to save a few kilograms, that would be an unbefitting shortcut.
If you’ve driven other expensive VW Group cars you’ll recognise much of the design and layout of the 12.3-inch infotainment screen and digital driver display. That’s no bad thing though: it’s quick to respond, logical and features large, easy-to-prod icons. Bentley retains a bank of physical shortcut buttons too, making life that bit easier.
Even if the infotainment system isn’t unique to the GT Speed, the fact that it revolves to hide the screen and replace it with Breitling-supplied analogue dials, including a lap timer, is. It’s all very James Bond.
Because the GT Speed is still first and foremost a grander tourer you get a useful 358 litres of room in the boot, more than enough for a weekend away for two, and more than you get in an Aston Martin DBS Superleggera or Ferrari Roma. The two seats in the back are big enough only for small children but they can double as extra storage space, and we can attest to how easy it is to fit a child seat via the Isofix mounts, found on both seats.
Unlike the regular Conti there’s no V8 option in the GT Speed, you can only have it with a downright ridiculously powerful 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine, which in the GT Speed produces 659hp and 900Nm of torque. Peak torque arrives at 1,500rpm, which means the GT Speed feels livelier off the line than an F15 fighter jet.
You’ll reach 60mph in just 3.5 seconds and if you can find a private runway hit a top speed of 208mph. A razor-sharp eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is fitted as standard. A word of warning: the best we got out of it was 22mpg and that was after hours on the motorway. During the day-to-day stuff it was returning 17mpg.
If you only drove the GT Speed sedately in Comfort Mode or Bentley Mode (read ‘Road Mode’) you might wonder if you’ve been short-changed. But that’s deliberate, Bentley wants the GT Speed to be as effortless and relaxing as the standard Continental GT when asked to be.
Start clogging it a bit, you soon see where your money’s gone. Even in the more relaxed driving modes once you start gathering pace and need to change direction you immediately notice how stable and agile the GT Speed is. It drives like a car half its size and has a precision normally found in supercars rather than grand tourers.
The steering is light, which is less supercar-like, but it helps swing this 2.2-tonne behemoth from one corner to the next without making you feel like you’re wrestling an elephant for the last bag of peanuts in the shop.
Sport Mode is where the GT Speed feels most lively though. The back end is unshackled and keenly flicks out, if you give it half a chance. With the ESC turned off the GT Speed is a drift machine, but one which encourages rather than intimidates.
Forget the goon driving and you notice just how much grip there is. To be safe Sport Mode is best left to the track or empty stretches of road on a dry day, but even so it’s easy to build a rhythm while keeping the tail end tidy.
The GT Speed is without doubt the most engaging car currently coming out of Crewe, a true all-rounder with the ability to switch from grand tourer to supercar in an instant. We hardly need to tell you that it’s expensive – it is a Bentley after all – but if you have the £209,000 you won’t regret buying it over the regular Continental GT.
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