Steering, suspension and ride comfort

It’s far easier to describe what the GT Speed has gained in this department when you drive it on a track rather than on the road.

Find a wide circuit with plenty of room to run in to, dial up the drive modes and dial back the electronic stability control and you’ll unearth a car here that can indeed pivot and rotate underneath you like no Bentley road car has before it. It will powerslide a little, too, if you’re bold enough and use plenty of initial positive steering angle, although its limit handling does feel somewhat contrived and micro-managed when you shake it loose. This feels very much like a 2.3-tonne car with a lot of inertia to manage, however well it might succeed at achieving that at times, rather than a naturally agile, balanced and adjustable sports car.

On the road, it’s debatable whether the GT Speed does quite enough in simpler ways to deliver a really sporting driving experience, or at least one that is significantly more enticing and involving than that of any other GT. There is a shade more weight and connected feel about the steering, but what you don’t feel through your fingertips is the extra bite that the four-wheel steering undoubtedly generates on turn-in. Instead, it is produced almost as if by magic. It allows the car to take a keener line and a more playful attitude through a tight corner than you expect of something so heavy, althoughsomehownotinvitingyou to enjoy it quite as vividly as you otherwise might.

Drive with a bit of enthusiasm and you’ll feel the steering system, differential and anti-roll bars pitching the car into each apex and wheeling its mass around, only for them then to team up with the ESC a split-second later to manage the rotational momentum back out again – and all without you needing so much as a steering correction. Objectively, at least, it all works rather well, but that doesn’t make it engaging or involving.

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The filtering and isolation on which Bentley trades simply prevents the GT Speed from communicating as you might like it to, as luxurious as it undoubtedly remains. In its more lurid moments, this car simply is not quite the indulgent, predictable and flattering big hooligan that it might otherwise have been.

Track notes

Bentley ought to congratulate itself on getting the GT Speed within a tenth of its big rival from Aston Martin around MIRA’s narrow and punishing dry handling circuit, especially given that the car gives up plenty to the DBS Superleggera on power-to-weight ratio.

The GT Speed simply rockets out of second- and third-gear corners once it’s on boost. It takes a little attitude under power with the electronics dialled back and begins to handle a bit untidily when you really press it, and it takes experience to know when and where it’s best to correct the car’s angle and line yourself and when to leave that job to the active systems. You find your way, though.

The car’s considerable weight can certainly be felt under braking, however, and when turning in. Steady-state understeer is the car’s default way of communicating its limit (until you start hoofing the rear axle around, that is), and it’s the outside front tyre that generally takes the hardest punishment.

Ride comfort and isolation

Bentley is right to bill the GT Speed as the match of any Continental on refinement. Crewe’s chassis engineers will tell you how much easier their life was made by the lightweight forged wheels (which come in only one size here, so they didn’t need a tuning compromise that would work across rim sizes), the lightweight carbon-ceramic brakes and an uprated performance tyre.

Only on open, coarse asphalt does the car seem to generate any more noise than a regular GT. Around MIRA’s inner test track it proved just a little noisier than the GT W12 was at 30mph, but then a decibel quieter at a 70mph cruise. The difference to that Aston DBS Superleggera we mentioned earlier? At 70mph, it’s a whopping 11dBA. The GT Speed may not be as hushed as a super-luxury limousine, but if you like a quiet, well-isolated, genuinely luxurious fast coupé, it takes some beating.

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The car’s low-speed ride can be really supple around town – too soft, at times, in Comfort mode when it allows the front chin spoiler to ground out gently over speed bumps. That apart, though, the ride deals with both small inputs and large ones impressivey well.

Out on flowing country roads, body control and supple comfort are typically better combined in Bentley mode than they are in Sport, the latter introducing just a hint of jittery brittleness to the ride over more complex surfaces.