Not much more than a year after its launch Bentley’s performance flagship has had a minor tickle, presumably with the aim of keeping its kudos-hungry clientele assured that they’ve got ‘the latest version’.
The 2014 Continental GTC Speed squeezes 10bhp extra from its already humungously powerful 12-cylinder twin-turbo engine (now making 626bhp), and 17lb ft of extra torque to take its twist action to a Space-Shuttle-equalling 607lb ft. Given that the previous version was already torquey enough to push and pull Dreamliners around an airport apron we’d say these changes might not be detectable to a driver, even one taking the unlikely step of chopping in his 2013 Conti for this new one.
Bentleys are meant to be sporty – is the GTC Speed a performer?
It’s hellishly quick in a straight line, as you’d expect, knocking off the 0-60mph benchmark in just 4.1sec, surging to 100mph in 9.7 and, theoretically at least, going on to hit the double ton, topping out at 203mph. That makes it only a whisker slower than its tin-top brother, which manages 4.0sec and 206mph. Pretty impressive when you consider that, at a gargantuan 2495kg, the cabrio is 175kg heavier than the coupe.
With all that weight you might expect the GTC Speed to handle like a turbocharged bus, but you’d be surprised. There’s a lot of dynamic talent underneath this awesome skin, including a four-wheel-drive chassis that dishes up most of the drive to the rear (60:40 as a rule, but it can push that ratio as far as 85:15), allowing you to defy physics with your speed in tight corners.
When the bends are faster the handling is a revelation. The Speed models have a lower ride height than standard GTCs, and perform the trick of seeming lower, lighter and sharper than a car of this size has any right to do. You can actually hustle it, using the sympathetic gearing of the eight-speed auto to balance the revs and hang on to more momentum than seems possible.
When you realise that you’ve maybe overcooked it you’ll need a decent set of brakes, and I’ve always found Bentley’s standard steel dinner-plate discs right on the money. But our car had £10,610 worth of carbon ceramics which, when cold, give you the fright of your life and, when warm, seriously lack feel. Save them for the race track.
It’s a convertible – does that mean refinement is compromised?
Inevitably, but only by the smallest of margins. Firstly, the ride is so extraordinary that it defies normal road-test description. Forget primary ride or secondary ride, the GTC Speed simply bulldozers through potholes, over bumps and off cambers without bothering you with any of it. It’s a force of nature, helped by all that weight and bespoke 21in wheels running on fat tyres.
Chassis integrity is impressive, too, with just the occasional shudder suggesting a modicum of the coupe’s body control has gone west, and absolutely no sign of scuttle shake (let’s face it, nothing weighing 2.5 tonnes ought to be capable of shaking).
Cabin noise is subdued for a fabric-roofed convertible, although I was disappointed by a fair amount of whistle from the c-pillars, which led me to check more than once that the rear windows were fully closed. Drop the roof and you’re into a straight fight between the howling of the W12 engine and the howling of the wind. Select Sport mode and the exhaust then joins the party, making a racket that flicks from fun to tedious in the space of about five minutes.
What’s the Bentley GT Speed cabrio like inside?
Utterly sumptuous and incredibly cool at the same time. Bentley is brilliant at putting every penny you’ve spent on clear display inside its cabins, rather than hiding it demurely beneath the surface. The dash and control surfaces are coated with dark-tinted aluminium veneer, the seats are upholstered in diamond-quilted ‘porpoise’ grey hide, supplemented by a ‘secondary hide’ whose colour is ‘hotspur’, and there are many lovely touches, such as the hilariously overdone spectacles case clipped into the transmission cubby, which weighs about as much as a jockey and is a £470 option.
Because Bentleys are drivers’ cars, they never lose sight of the job in hand, which means that the instruments are clear and classical, the drilled pedals are perfectly spaced and weighted, and the steering wheel, which at first glance appears rather low-rent in this company, reveals itself to be a sensitively weighted helm, which reads messages to your palms which the chassis has been keeping from your backside.
The fabric roof is a seven-bow, triple-layered masterpiece which works beautifully, but it takes 25 seconds to operate which, in cabrio terms, is long enough to knit a cardigan. You can work it at speeds up to 20mph but hardly anybody will be impressed.
Oh, and the back seats, though deliciously lovely to look at and touch, could not be feasibly sat on by any adult human being I have ever met.
Can anybody afford one in 2014?
Emphatically yes. Bentley is on a roll, having sold more cars in 2013 (just over 10,000) than at any point in its 95-year history, admittedly most of these going to China and the Americas, where new wealth is on every corner. But Europe is Bentley’s third biggest market, followed very closely by the UK and the Middle East.
These customers are probably deaf to Bentley’s proclamations about ‘a 15% improvement’ in fuel economy and CO2 emissions over the previous generation GTC Speed – at 19mpg and 347g/km we don’t expect Greenpeace to be running a GTC on its fleet anytime soon.
In any case, it costs £172,400 base, and in the spec we tested you’re looking at £202,810. That’s about £1000 per mph.