Road Tests

Road Test: Bentley Continental Speed GTC

Time 12 years ago

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BENTLEY dealers. They’re selling loads of used cars. The problem is the new side. What they need is something to get the confidence going.

How about, then, a 200mph convertible? With 600bhp? That does 60mph in 4.5 seconds? And, with 750Nm of torque, has enough grunt to pull a whole housing estate down? 

That should do nicely, thanks… It’s not lunacy, either. Despite the recession, Speed variants of the GT Coupe and Flying Spur have easily dominated sales of their respective ranges. The logical extension of this policy is to bring it to the drop-top four-seat GTC range.

Bentley’s timed this to coincide with a minor facelift for the GTC. This introduces a more upright radiator grille, subtle alterations to the front end – plus bespoke additions to differentiate the Speed.

These include mammoth 20-inch alloy wheels (which can optionally house the largest production car brakes in the world), a rear boot spoiler, moody dark matrix for the front grille and twin bulging exhausts. Airflow at the front is improved too, with bigger intakes, which means it needs more space to exit, as well…

Inside, there’s the de rigueur diamond-quilted leather, special knurled aluminium embellishments, and a much nicer three-spoke steering wheel. The car’s lower, the suspension’s firmer, ESP stability system is more lenient and the gearchange settings sharpened. Job done, for the most dramatic four-seat convertible in the world? Well, it’s certainly not short of drama, that’s for sure.


You can’t quite do 200mph with the roof down. There, it’s limited to a mere 195mph. As if that’s any more sensible. By that stage, hats/toupees will have been long flung down the road. For this thing is fast.

Yeah, pretty obvious, that. It’s even called ‘Speed’, for heaven’s sake. What’s less obvious is how it deploys this power: with total accomplishment, utter confidence, freedom from drama and the kind of feeling of complete power that dictators thrive on. Sportscars feel fast, race cars feel dramatic. The Bentley? It’s plain thrusting.

There’s no other way of describing the sheer thrill of pressing the aluminium right pedal, being buried into your seat, and rocketing forward to three-figure speeds. There’s no real drama from the car, it just flashes forward – whatever the weather, whichever way the car is pointing. It’s mighty.

That’s four-wheel traction for you. Which, with the light, accurate, pin-sharp steering, fluid damping and taut yet nevertheless supple ride, makes it all seem a bit too easy. Grip from the 20-inch tyres is total (only a feeling of nose-heavy understeer near the limit belies this car’s 2.5-tonne weight), and general agility in corners makes a mockery of convention.

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To really appreciate the sheer forces at work here, you need to fold that beautifully finished roof. Just 25 seconds later, you’re fully connected with the roars that go with the thrust (and the thirst).

Two bellowing exhausts which are more tuneful than a saxophonist on speed, plush a general bellow of engine ingesting air that leaves you in no doubt as to where all the fuel is going.

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Silent inside, the Bentley Speed is truly a warrior from outside – and it’s the GTC’s ability to showcase this to the 2+2 passengers savouring the delicious, even-more-customisable-for-2010 interior that really makes it special.

It’s the ideal car for Bentley dealers – and not just because it’s arriving just in time for summer.

by RICHARD AUCOCK

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James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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