29 Oct 2013

Bentley Continental GT Speed W12 short review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Bentley Continental GT Speed W12

Bentley Continental GT Speed W12

Why a short review?  Because I only drove it for half an hour or so, and because we'll be testing a GT Speed for a full day soon.  So this is but a flavour of what to expect.

It'll be a different viewpoint too.  My colleague, Colin, will be taking delivery of a GT Speed direct from the factory in Crewe and testing it on some of Cheshire's finest roads, whereas I was stuck on a pre-ordained 15 mile route in Hampshire.

Enough of that.  The GT Speed costs £151,500, has 616bhp and weighs 2.3 tonnes.  OK, that'll be interesting, it's big, fast, posh and pricey.

The Continental's shape, and to be honest any car shape, is a subjective matter.  I've never been particularly blown away by it.  Resolutely a coupe with a long slow rake down from the roof to the top of the boot, the strong haunches and lines are well defined and present a clean, uncluttered shape.

But I could never overlook the almost unfinished look to the boot, and the bulk of it's lower aspect.  The curves over the wheels do their best to disguise bulk but the Rolls Royce Wraith seems to be a more successful solution to a similar problem - that of needing to house a gigantic engine and to provide presence.

To be honest it would help if it wasn't painted in silver.  The palette available is vast and Burnt Orange, Dragon Red, British Racing Green 4 (yes, 4) and Moroccan Blue present the car in a much better light.

The interior is sublime.  Where it is possible to place leather there is leather.  I loved the dials and I loved the little pull handles to work the air vents.
Bentley Continental GT Speed W12

The touchscreen is easy to use.  It controls quite a few functions which means the cabin is uncluttered and where there are dials, switches and knobs they are fantastically smooth to use, and feel just as they should in a Bentley.

Just ahead of the leather armrest is a sunglasses holder.  I've never seen this in a car before but it's brilliantly conceived.  Every car I drive I shove my sunglasses case in the door pocket, and then because the hinge is broken it falls open and whatever glasses are in it get covered in whatever other rubbish goes in the pocket.  Lovely stuff, Bentley.

The seats are very, very comfortable and the driving position is just right.  The rear seats, however, are small.  Not the seats themselves but the knee room on offer isn't up to much. I couldn't sit behind me, for example and I'm 5"10'.  This is slightly disappointing.

Fire up the engine (with a real key) and take off.

So far I had yet to find the Continental's USP.  A Jaguar or Range Rover can be as luxurious inside, and just as fast, an S Class can provide more gadgetry and tech and a Maserati feels more special.

It is on the road where we discover what makes the case for the Bentley.  Silence.  Eery, dead quiet, silence.  The engine is silent, road noise is almost entirely eliminated.  It is quite weird.

An S Class is silent, but not quite in the same way.  In our modern, busy lives we rarely encounter absolute silence.  This is the kind of silence one would imagine can be found in a soundproofed music studio with no electrics humming away in the background.

The engine provides for lots of power.  As well as 616bhp you get 590 lb ft of torque, which is transferred to the road via a ZF 8-speed transmission and 4 wheel drive.
Bentley Continental GT Speed W12

One doesn't do rolling round corners in a Bentley, dear.  And one doesn't do wheelspinning or any of that vulgar nonsense.  One glides, effortlessly.  Isn't it super.

Wet Hampshire A-roads are no substitute for the autobahn though.  I'd love to take the GT Speed through France, Belgium, Holland and into the Mutterland for a wiener schnitzel and fries, then turn around and head back to Blighty.  Just for the sheer hell of doing it, and playing with the vent controls.

My only gripe with the GT Speed, aside from the silver paint job, is that I failed to find it special enough.  It costs £151,500.  For that money you could buy a handful of cars which perform the task (of being fast, special, comfortable and ridiculously show-offy) just as well, if not better.

Were it my money I would probably prefer a Maserati GranTurismo Sport (£90k), a Range Rover (£98k), a Jaguar XFR-S (£80k) or XJR (£92k), Mercedes S-Class (£88k) or CLS (£82k).  Out of that lot the Maserati feels the most unique and special, even if it's not quite as fast or quiet as the GT Speed.

But what I would probably do is find some more cash and buy a Rolls Rolls Wraith, which costs £215k.
Bentley Continental GT Speed W12

Article by Matt Hubbard