What is it?
Bentley makes much of the fact that the Bentley Continental GTC Speed is the fastest open four-seater in the world. It’s also the most powerful Bentley currently offered, thanks to the McLaren F1-teasing 616bhp boasted by its twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre engine.
What it’s less keen to publicise is that, thanks to a kerb weight just five kilos short of 2.5 tonnes, its power-to-weight ratio is inferior to that of a Porsche Cayman R. Consequently the GTC is everything you don’t want in an expensive, fast and sporting car. Which is to say it is both open and heavy.
What is it like?
The GTC Speed is a GTC mechanically tweaked just enough to enable Bentley to make weapons-grade claims about its performance. Despite the power and speed records broken by its predecessor, it still moves the game on by a fractional amount: 0.4sec off the 0-62mph time, a scant 2mph added to the top speed and all courtesy of a rise in engine power of a little more than two per cent.
There’s more to this GTC than that. There are things you need to know about the way Bentley conducts its business before you can understand a car like this. When it says it’ll do 202mph it touchingly elects not to mention it’ll also do 203, 204 and many mph more.
Less excitingly, but perhaps more relevantly, Bentley has thoroughly gone over the rest of the car to make sure it is up to coping with the power and performance available. So when you look at the small print you discover completely revised and reprogrammed spring rates, fatter anti-roll bars, a 10mm drop in ride height and new software for the Servotronic steering.
So long as the corner is quick enough the GTC angles in accurately and eagerly, gripping hard and even offering some feel through its steering wheel. Ultimately there is understeer but it is mild and, compared to the alternative, very welcome.
Like its hard-topped GT Speed coupé brother, it now also enjoys the benefits of a new eight-speed gearbox, a worthwhile addition for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which being it extends the car’s miserable range by some 15 per cent.
The Aston DB9 Volante, Ferrari California, Mercedes SL and 911 Turbo Cab are all notably more nimble and rewarding to drive, and as the heaviest is well over half a tonne lighter than the GTC, it would be strange were it any other way. The Speed is clearly a sporting car as, for all its power and speed, it is assuredly not a sports car.
Bear that in mind and the car's true abilities start to reveal themselves. First is the ride quality, which would be a triumph in a coupé let alone a wobbly convertible. But the GTC Speed doesn’t wobble, allowing its gait to be as soft as its structure is stiff. The wind management is so good voices need never be raised. The heating is effective, too, so you don’t even need a coat when the conditions are cooler.
Should I buy one?
This is not a car die-hard sports car fans will find themselves instantly attracted to. Far heavier than the stockiest new Range Rover, it feels the need to pause before springing into action, like an overweight man trying to emerge from an armchair in a hurry.
You need hours and miles to see past its ostentatious appearance and headline-hungry stats and discover the real car beneath. Only then will you find that a machine you’d have dismissed as a charlatan Jack of all trades just days before turns out to be something completely different.
No it’s not as pretty as a DB9, as dynamic as a California nor, I expect, as explosively rapid as a 911 Turbo Cab or SL63 AMG. But as that class rarity: a car that is better in practice than theory because it works in all seasons for most reasons. What appeared at first to be an unnecessarily ostentatious wealth statement turns out to be an entirely convincing, consummate all-rounder.
Bentley Continental GTC Speed
Price £167,900; 0-62mph 4.1sec; Top speed 202mph; Economy 19.0mpg; Kerb weight 2495kg; Engine W12, 5594cc, twin turbocharged, petrol; Power 616bhp; Torque 590lb ft; Gearbox 8-spd automatic