If Bentley is forever associated with blowers, surely none in the brand’s history can claim to have been as effective as the two exhaust-driven units plumbed into the Speed’s W12. Whether you are squeezing the throttle with a fine Church’s brogue or an old Nike trainer there’s no elitism here; at 2000rpm they help deliver monumental surge that gives the Speed unseemly straight-line pace.
And rather than tailing off, this is one of those cars that pulls harder the higher the revs climb, at which point the sublime eight-speed auto serves up a new gear with the calm smoothness of a waiter at the Carlton Club delivering you your next G&T. Then you’re off again – once more pinned to your seat by that phenomenal torque.
Its only problem is one of character. Twelve cylinders should sound magical, multifaceted and mellifluous. The W12 never has, and even here, tuned to the nines, compared with an Aston V12 it sounds more like a 626bhp leaf blower, only with added drone when in Sport mode.
That said, you could argue that engine noise isn’t what a Bentley is all about. After all, the venerable old 6.75-litre V8 has always been a lazy-sounding brute, and maybe the W12’s monotone hum is more in character than the snarling, spitting V8 S?
What is apt is the GT’s name, for it’s never felt remotely like a sports car. However, it’s a sharper drive than ever before as Bentley continue refining the chassis, to a degree that it’s now a pretty effective cross-country weapon, considering the mass involved.
Set the suspension to sport and it manages to control the body’s excesses over dips and crests as you exploit that immense shove and fire yourself towards yet another corner. When you arrive and stamp hard on the brakes they wipe off speed almost as impressively as the manner in which it was put on in the first place – save for nose’s heavy dive as you decelerate.
The steering also helps it to feel more agile than it should. There’s precious little feel through the wheel but the rack is quick and accurate enough, with good weighting to make it feel intuitive, too.
As you turn the Bentley in, the initial body roll settles and on these 21in wheels shod with generous rubber, the grip levels are enormous. Even when you carry vast speed into corners, the GT won’t wander off into the bushes and embarrass you. Wet or dry, as you exit you can be quite the hooligan with that torque and it won’t give you a fright, beyond a manageable dose of understeer.
But of course hooning around tight bends isn't really its main purpose, which is to be a comfortable long-distance cruiser. This is where the GT has always scored well, and still does.
Slacken off all the driving modes and the air springs help it patter over most road surfaces with an easy bent; the only time it lets itself down is over a deep pothole that creates a slightly unseemly thud through the cabin. That's a rare occurrence, though.
The minor upgrades throughout the cabin don’t stand out, but do nothing to inhibit the sense of finery. For once I don’t have to mention scratchy plastics in a review, as there are none here; just lots of leather stretched tightly and stitched uniformly over the various surfaces.
What’s not leather will most likely be either deeply chromed metal – and often knurled, like those new gear paddles, for that extra je-ne-sais-quoi - or beautiful machine-turned aluminium, which adorns the wing-like dashboard design. Okay, this isn’t a coach-built car, but it’s still finished with OCD levels of attention to detail.
It really needs a new infotainment system though, because it's far too slow-witted a thing to feature in a car costing over £200k with options - especially with Audi's excellent MMI system within the group's parts bin.
One of the Bentley’s less sexy but nonetheless key attributes is practicality. It’s a coupé that'll fit real grown-up humans in the back, and despite the boot’s narrow aperture, it’s long enough to carry a couple of boxes of Beluga, and a case of Chateau Lafite – 2003, of course – to wash it down with.