In the first part of our Driving Force series from the AW 2022/23 issue, LUX’s car reviewer gets behind the wheel of Bentley Continental GT Speed.
In this era of speed cameras and efficiency, the idea of a 12-cylinder car expressly made for two people touring the continent and called Speed, seems so impossibly incorrect that we had to try it. Our Bentley Continental GT Speed came in Damson, a rather tasteful purple close to black. The interior was also a deep purple, not of the heavy-metal kind but more what you might expect in the drawing room of the mildly wayward youngest son of an Italian count.
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Considering it is one of the faster models in a powerful car range beloved of footballers, as well as a wealth of a variety of other types, the Speed is remarkably un-blingy and understated. The engine hums: a tuneful moderate hum around town, a more purposeful hum on the highway and a “tuning up at the opera” hum when accelerating hard, when it is accompanied by a tasteful “whoosh”. It never makes any other noises, though; that would be out of keeping.
The standard Bentley Continental GT is such a good car of the type – comfortable, beautiful, powerful, fast and exclusive in feel – you need a good reason to choose the Speed, with its extra horsepower, instead. Driving around town, the difference is marginal. It picks up with a tad more vigour and turns corners more sharply, but this is a heavy luxury car and you can’t throw it around little bends as if it were a go-kart.
The Speed’s significance becomes apparent on long stretches of empty rural roads. Here, if another car is impudently driving in front of you, shoot past by twitching the gas pedal: the car surges forward, stable whatever the road surface or weather conditions, due to its four-wheel-drive, to obtain its rightful place at the head of the traffic. For more drama when overtaking a line of cars, put the accelerator to the floor and it storms past, attaining a three-figure speed.
It does all this with an air no other car, even its siblings, can quite achieve: effortless and muscular, yet the right side of involving. Bentley’s engineers have made sure that you, the driver, are not a passenger, as you are in some fast luxury cars. A Bentley driver likes to drive.
The quality of materials in the interior is as good or better than anything else on the road, perhaps barring Bugatti and Rolls-Royce. Even the Alcantara, the man-made suede stitched on the dashboard to give a sportier feel, seems of a lusher, thicker grade than in supercars. The controls feel as if they have been personally machined for you and have haptics familiar to owners of expensive watches.
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Crucially, the Speed is easy to drive. If you wanted to drive it around Mayfair or Beverly Hills, it would be no problem. Visibility is good, the controls are light and straightforward, and you can get in and out easily. The seats are comfortable in the front, although with limited room for rear-seat passengers, in GT style. If you want a Bentley for four, there are other models in the range – less sexy, but more practical.
Is there anything missing? Objectively, no. Subjectively, while the car offers all the speed you would expect, we think there is room for a Bentley that offers an even more sporty driving experience, even at the expense of some comfort. When that comes, we will certainly want one.
LUX rating: 18.5/20
Find out more: bentleymotors.com