For the would-be Bentley Continenal owner who can't bring themselves to stoop to the level of the entry-level V8 model
, and feel the standard W12 car is too slow, Bentley has created a new Continental GT Speed.
Designed to appeal to more driving-focused Bentley customers, there's a package of mechanical, cosmetic and interior changes to push the Conti into full-on supercar territory.
So, is the Bentley Continental GT Speed faster than before?
The clue is indeed in the name. Bentley is now the world's biggest producer of 12-cylinder engines, so it knows a trick or two about how to get the best out of them. Upgrading the Continental's 6-litre twin-turbo W12 has liberated a further 49bhp, taking total output up to 616bhp.
That's the same figure as the newly-upgraded McLaren MP4-12C, for comparison's sake, and just 7bhp less than that of the Continental Supersports.
Torque swells to a similarly meaty 590lb ft: that's up from 516lb ft in the standard Continental.
As you'd expect, performance is superior. The GT Speed will lope to 60mph in 4.0 seconds, and top out at 205mph - making the new GT speed the fastest production Bentley ever.
Does the Continental Speed only have more speed?
No - there's actually some fairly substantial revisions under the skin to cope with the higher performance. Chief among these is a new eight-speed ZF auto transmission with close-ratio gears, which not only assist in improable acceleration, but also salvage some environmental benefit.
Bentley claims a 12 per cent improvement in fuel economy and CO2 emissions, but the Conti is still unlikely to become a Green Party campaign vehicle.
Chassis tweaks come in the form of lowered, stiffer suspension, uprated steering and sticky 275-section Pirelli tyres for the besopke 21-inch wheels.
What about changes we can see on the GT Speed?
Aside from those gargantuan wheels, there's a darkened finish for the front grilles, and a 'rifled' look for the exhaust pipe tips.
The familiar interior is upgraded to Mulliner Driving spec, which adds 'sporting character to the contemporary luxury', reckons Bentley. It's no stripped-out GT3 RS though (or sans-rear seats Supersports for that matter) - this is still a sumptuous continent crosser - as per the name.
When can I see the Bentley Continental Speed for myself?
A pre production model will be pleasing the crowds (and potential buyers) with runs up the hillclimb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed from 29 June - 1 July 2012.
Following that, customer orders are likely to be taken this autumn, with a hefty price premium to boot. A standard W12 Continental goes for £135,760 currently, and the last Speed variant commanded around £20,000 over its 'base model' sister.