The Bentley Continental GT is a velvet hammer with a muscular engine and a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-quality cabin. If somehow that's still not enough, Bentley has something special up its sleeve in the form of the new Continental GT Speed. Based on the Continental GT W12, the Speed dials up the coupe's styling, power and handling, resulting in not only the baddest Conti GT on the Beverly Hills block, but one of the finest grand tourers ever built.
Small nip and tuck
The GT Speed boasts a handful of visual changes giving the Continental a touch more spice. The big coupe gains a dark-finish grille and lower air intake, more shapely side sills, exclusive 22-inch wheels and Speed badging.
The lavish interior mixes leather and Alcantara in a two-tone color scheme with diamond-quilted seats standard. Piano black veneer trim is included in every Speed, but a handful of wood options are on offer, too. You can also spec new, dark-tinted turned aluminum inlays for the center console that admittedly do look snazzy. Those opting for the GT Speed Convertible have even more choices to make, like picking from seven exterior roof colors and eight interior liner hues.
None of the Speed's touches do much to change the Continental GT's first-class interior experience. Every surface inside looks and feels beautiful, from the soft leathers, Alcantara headliner and climate vent organ pulls to the wrapped and stitched lower center console area. Without a doubt, the GT Speed feels like the high-dollar cruiser it is.
In terms of technology, Bentley lifts the Porsche Communication Management software from its sister company but adds its own fonts and colors. Like in the Porsche Panamera, this software is excellent, offering navigation with Google Street View imagery, a Wi-Fi hotspot, satellite radio and Apple CarPlay. Disappointingly, Android Auto isn't supported. There's no lack of driving aids, either, with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, a head-up display and night vision all available in the GT Speed.
The biggest part of the GT Speed story comes in the performance department. Its 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 engine sees power climb to 650 horsepower, up from 626 hp in the standard GT W12. Torque holds steady at a far-from-shabby 664 pound-feet, and it's available between 1,500 and 5,000 rpm. Routing power to all four wheels is an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission that helps get the 5,029-pound coupe to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds (3.6 seconds for the 5,388-pound convertible). Both figures are one-tenth of a second quicker than their regular GT W12 counterparts. Top speeds for both Speed iterations is 208 mph.
The Speed's straight-line numbers don't represent a drastic upgrade, but its handling improvements certainly do. To punch up cornering capabilities, Bentley engineers reworked the Continental GT's all-wheel-drive system, active anti-roll bars and stability-control programing. New goodies such as four-wheel steering, an electronic limited-slip differential and available carbon ceramic brakes added to this performance, too. If you want the mega brakes, they'll set you back an additional $15,855 with black calipers and $17,560 with red clamps.
To push this 2.5-ton coupe to the limit without fear of ending up behind bars, Bentley set up an autocross course at the abandoned Comiso Air Base in Sicily, Italy. In the past, the base was home to thousands of people and a hefty stockpile of war munitions. Since the base closed in the late 1990s, nature has reclaimed the grounds, making for one of the most interesting car testing settings I've ever experienced.
With the GT Speed in Sport mode, the W12 sings on long straights shooting past weapon storage bunkers with a tight 90-degree turn at the end. Triple-digit speeds are seen before having to jump onto the brakes, instructing the 10-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers to clamp down on the gigantic 17.3-inch fore and 16.1-inch aft carbon-ceramic discs. Dive under braking is minimal as is the body roll at turn-in. If the feeling strikes, a firm press of the throttle out of corners results in controlled tail wags thanks to the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system that can send up to 93% of the engine's torque to the back. Looser stability control shackles help here, too. Crank the steering wheel hard to the right and mat the throttle, and the GT Speed will happily do donuts -- not that I'd know or anything.
Through high-speed sweeping turns, the Continental hunkers down and hangs on tight with its 275/35ZR22 front and 315/30ZR22 rear Pirelli P Zero summer tires. Considering the Bentley's porky curb weight, the composure and amount of grip available is quite impressive. Things tighten up through a nearby town center, and driving through this area is like going through a slalom -- the Speed snakes on through with little effort and drama as the four-wheel steering shows its worth.
While the Continental GT Speed's sharper handling chops impress and provide additional dynamic engagement, the big coupe still feels at its best romping around in serene comfort. Call up the car's Comfort drive setting and everything relaxes as I motor through the Italian countryside. The throttle isn't as jumpy and is actually a little too muted at tip-in before the silky engine pushes the car forward with a mammoth wave of thrust. Besides the lazy throttle response, I also wish the exhaust note had some more bark.
The Continental's dual-clutch transmission is buttery smooth in operation, ripping off quick, well-timed shifts and never fumbling during my day of driving. It features a responsive manual mode, too, if you want to swap cogs yourself, but the auto mode is tuned so well in both the Sport and Comfort settings that I let the transmission do all the work itself most of the time. For those wondering about fuel economy, official EPA-estimated numbers aren't available yet, but figures close to the normal W12's 12 mpg city and 20 mpg highway wouldn't be surprising.
The GT Speed's ride quality is superb as the air suspension erases impacts from broken tarmac, while the strong brakes don't have an overly aggressive initial bite, allowing for smooth application of stopping force. The steering is direct and lightly weighted to comfortably tackle hours upon hours of driving.
There is, however, a little tire noise noticeable inside of the coupe, which I'm willing to give a pass because of the grip they provide. That aside, the Speed's interior is nicely hushed, and the Convertible is no worse. Folding the top down takes 19 seconds at the push of the button, letting the sun's rays in, but thankfully there isn't a ton of wind turbulence at speed. This enables you to get to your destination without looking like you stuck your head into a wind tunnel, which is always a good thing.
The price of Speed
The 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed Coupe and Convertible will hit US showrooms later this fall, starting at $280,225 and $307,725, respectively. Both prices included $2,735 for destination and $2,600 gas guzzler taxes. Without question, the Continental GT Speed is pricey for sure, but if you are someone who is fortunate enough to have the means and are looking for the pinnacle of grand touring, this Bentley is it.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.