Bentley Continental GTC Speed (2009) review

Published:24 March 2009

Bentley Continental GTC Speed (2009) CAR review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

Three years on from its original press launch, Bentley has just added extra appeal to its Continental-based GTC convertible with the introduction of the GTC Speed. Power climbs from 552bhp to 600bhp and torque from 479lb ft to 553lb ft, helping the Speed to crack 60mph in the same 4.8sec as the GT, while ‘only’ 195mph is on offer, roof down. Disappointed? Don’t be. Close the roof and the Speed will reach 200mph – a first for a drop-top Bentley.

I expect the price shoots up for the Bentley Continental GTC Speed?

It does, from £136,200 to £153,400. Fear not, though, the standard GTC remains on sale for those whose credit can’t quite stretch. But we expect the Speed to sell well. It’s the third Speed model (the Continental GT came first, followed by the Flying Spur), and the previous two have performed well – the Continental Speed accounting for 70% of all Continental sales since the Speed’s launch, the Flying Spur Speed 30%, perhaps because it’s a less sporting car in the first place.

This GTC Speed looks the same as the GTC to me.

Subtlety is the name of the game here. The only Speed branding we could find was hidden on the sill plates, while telltale clues are restricted to the more upright, dark tinted grille, new 20in rims that are a smidge wider than before, a discreet rear spoiler and a slightly lower stance.

So my £10k goes on the oily bits, then?

Pretty much. The GTC Speed gets the styling tweaks outlined above, plus the Mulliner pack (quilted hide seats, three-spoke multi-function wheel, knurled chrome gear lever) that comes at extra cost on the plain Jane model. But fettling that 6.0-litre, twin turbo W12 (two narrow angle V6s on a common crank) doesn’t come cheap, and the extra shove comes courtesy of lower friction, lighter-weight components and a new engine management system. Factor in the suspension upgrade and, what the hell, it’s £10k well spent.

How does it drive?

Very well. That W12 is as tunefully charismatic as ever with its surprisingly diverse repertoire seemingly played out on the bassiest of bongos. And by god is it quick – the GTC Speed fires itself forward with breathtaking rapidity for any car, let alone one weighing two and a half tonnes.

The six-speed ZF torque converter auto can feel a little lazy when you command gears via the fixed paddles, but the engine’s flexibility means you barely notice that in auto mode, and the pay-back is extraordinarily refined low-speed manners.

Speed spec also means revised steering with extra feedback around the straight ahead. It works well. There’s zero feel, of course, but it generally feels light and progressive, though it can bulk up through corners taken a tad too ambitiously, at which point you’re suddenly aware of how much metal you're chucking around. Thankfully the four-wheel drive system is more than up to the task of bailing you out of trouble, serving up amazing levels of grip.

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Bentley Continental GTC Speed drive

Does the firmer suspension upset the ride?

A little. Bentley has also solid-mounted the subframe to the body, and firmed up the rear mounting points as well as stiffening the springs and dampers. Select the softest of the four modes and you’ll find too much wallow and too little compliance over secondary imperfections. The second mode is the best compromise, largely eliminating the wallow without feeling too much firmer. The other two settings don’t seem particularly relevant (the ride just gets more uncomfortable).

Personally I’d prefer two settings: one that tallies with the second mode I mentioned, the second offering less wallow and more compliance.

Other niggles? The centre console buttons and sat-nav looks and feels very dated now, and the seat backs are too firm for a car this cosseting. The brakes – though extremely good – do feel like a weak link when you try to stop this 200mph leviathan from high speed. Perhaps the optional carbon ceramics could be in order, sir.

I suppose a two-and-a-half tonne Bentley with a roof chop likes to wobble as well as wallow?

Not really. Bentley claims the GTC is twice as stiff as a Mercedes SL and it certainly feels rigid enough. Drive very fast over tricky roads and you’ll eventually feel the occasional kick-back through the steering wheel and a bit of distortion from the front end, but all in it’s incredibly composed.

Don’t I get a folding hard-top for my £146k?

No. The fabric roof preserves the elegant Continental looks and helps keep weight down (the last thing the GTC needs is 150kg of lardy folding hard-top). It folds neatly away too, leaving the impressive stowage capacity entirely untouched. Roof up, it feels as quiet as a coupe, while the interior light and sumptuous lining give the appearance of a fixed-roof too. Roof down, occupants seem well isolated enough, but it’s worth noting that we tested this car on one of the wettest and windiest days of the year on open Welsh moorland – not particularly representative!

Verdict

Overall we’re incredibly impressed with the GTC Speed. It’s amazingly refined, astonishingly fast, fun (yes, fun) to drive quickly over great driver’s roads and very well crafted. Our main gripe is the ride. It could be more compliant in its softest setting, and we wonder whether a GTC Speed specified with the regular GTC’s new low-friction dampers wouldn’t be a better real-world compromise. But should you spend the extra £10k? If you can, yes.

>> What do you think of the new Bentley Continental GTC Speed? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

Specs

Price when new: £153,400
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 5998cc 48v W12, 600bhp @ 6000rpm, 553lb ft @ 1750-5600rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 4.8sec 0-60mph, 200mph, 17mpg, 396g/km CO2
Weight / material: 2485kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4804/2194/1388

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  • Bentley Continental GTC Speed (2009) CAR review
  • Bentley Continental GTC Speed (2009) CAR review
  • Bentley Continental GTC Speed (2009) CAR review
  • Bentley Continental GTC Speed (2009) CAR review
  • Bentley Continental GTC Speed (2009) CAR review

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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