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Engine options, top speed, acceleration and refinement

Bentley’s mammoth, four-bank, twin-turbo W12 is not, and never has been, an engine with an ostentatious streak. It doesn’t zap to high revs or demand to be heard, and it sounds only marginally more forthcoming here than in a regular GT. It revs to only just beyond 6000rpm, and no, partly because of that kerb weight, it doesn’t quite make this Bentley the undisputed performance king of the grand touring niche.

But crikey, does it ever pull. The GT Speed has the kind of performance you might call ‘comfortably monumental’. It runs the same gear ratios and axle drives as the regular Contintental GT W12 so is relatively short-geared from first to third. That, allied with four-wheel drive and 664lb ft, is what allowed this 2.3-tonne luxury coupé to crack 60mph from rest in just 3.4sec and 30-70mph through the gears in just 2.7sec. Both are a couple of tenths quicker than the regular GT managed three years ago, and faster over the benchmark standing start than Aston Martin’s more powerful DBS Superleggera. Not bad for a big lad.

The Aston is quicker to 100mph from rest, though, and over a standing kilometre because, when you get into the higher gears, the GT Speed’s ratios get longer quite quickly. In top, the Bentley is over-driven to more than 50mph per 1000rpm (running in a vacuum and breathing through a snorkel, if you will, it would run on to 310mph). It’s about 20% longer-geared than the DBS in eighth, but if you lock the car into top and bury the accelerator from just under 60mph, the GT Speed will nonetheless reach 80mph in less time than the Aston. That’s the difference made by an engine that hits peak torque from 1500rpm.

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When you’re on and off the throttle, there is a little bit of lag, which can make big, sudden pedal applications feel a little uncouth as the torque tears through the driveline slightly later than requested. But be smoother and more deliberate with your demands, squeeze the throttle pedal rather than slap it and time your manual upshifts well (a little sooner than you might think is usually better), and the GT Speed’s urgency rarely fails to impress.

Or just leave it in ‘D’ and let the car handle it all pretty seamlessly for you. The dual-clutch gearbox delivers shifts as quick and positive as you’ll need even when piling hard into a second-gear hairpin. It still has its tardy moments in everyday driving, (it’s slow when hopping into reverse, and likewise when engaging Drive), but it generally times and selects gears intuitively on the move.

Those optional carbon-ceramic brakes, meanwhile, lack a little bit of bite at speed and outright power on track, with a pedal that can seem just a little over-assisted and sensitive when manoeuvring, but they needn’t be a persistent bother.