What is it?
You can have one; that’s the important thing. Contrary to earlier reports, the new Bentley Continental GT Speed will go on sale in the UK after all, unlike the Speed version of the Bentayga SUV.
That’s popular in Central America, presumably among people who commission narco-submarines for their day jobs, but less so here. The Speed coupé, though, will be popular here – because it’s a driver’s car, and we like those in the UK. Yes, despite the 2273kg kerb weight, it is.
At heart, it’s a Continental – a car so popular it has been responsible for more than half of the 200,000 cars that Bentley has made in its entire history. It has a twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12 engine in its nose, driving to all four wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, with adaptive dampers, air springs and a 48V roll-mitigation system. So far, so Continental.
Where the latest Speed differs, and differs heavily, is in having active rear steer (for the first time on a Continental), as well as an electronically controlled limited-slip differential – also a Continental first. What’s more, there’s the option of carbon-ceramic brake discs (fitted behind the 22in wheels of our test car), which, although not a first, have the distinction of being the biggest discs yet fitted to any production car, at 440mm in diameter.
What's it like?
Our drive in an early left-hand-drive car is limited to five laps of Silverstone’s Grand Prix circuit with a Bentley engineer beside us. There’s no opportunity to find out what the ride is like on the road, then; we will have to wait until September for that. And although “this isn’t a track car; we’re not pretending it’s a Porsche 911 GT2 RS”, I wasn’t kidding when I told you that it’s a driver’s car.
The Continental’s interior remains uber-plush despite the addition of Alcantara, two-tone trim and Speed badging, and its seats are still big and cosseting, but the new hardware makes it move like never before.
The engine has been uprated to 650bhp and 664lb ft. It makes that peak torque from only 1500rpm and has a modest 6500rpm rev limit, so it hardly needs you to work it, but it responds well if you do.
Most of the time, the Speed is basically rear-wheel drive, and when it’s in Sport driving mode (which is all that three flying laps allowed us to experience; one with the stability control on, one with it half-off and one with it completely off), it will never put more than 30% to the front.