What is this?
Just under ten years ago we sat on the Navarra circuit wondering what we had lost there with the then-new-smelling Bentley Continental GT V8. And now here in Neuburg we are behind the wheel of the brand new Bentley Continental GT Speed, hoping that those in charge would give us some extra laps in the Audi playground.
Still, the few laps were enough to find out that the chassis engineers – led by Florian Sprenger – pulled out all the stops to squeeze the clay feet of this 2.3-ton giant into sneakers.
Then, in Navarra, not only was the twisty part of the track avoided, we were also urged to watch our step. Here and now, despite the considerable number of firm braking points, not.
The reason for this are the gigantic brake discs that hide behind the 22-inch rims specially designed for the Speed. Carbon ceramics with a diameter of no less than 440 millimeters, with gigantic claws with no less than ten pistons.
It is an option, but one that guarantees that the sturdy coupé stops perfectly under all circumstances. In addition, these brakes weigh 33 kilograms less than the standard steel ones, which also saves him in unsprung weight.
How does he drive?
The six-litre TSI twelve-cylinder engine delivers 659 hp, 24 more than the current W12, with an unchanged maximum torque of 900 Nm. Together good for a top speed of 335 km/h and an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds.
It also sounds so fast, thanks in part to the (again optional) Akrapovic exhaust. In Sport mode it is most noticeable how the cooperation between the engine and the gearbox has been adapted to the faster work. Here is shamelessly chosen for the high revs by delaying the upshifting when accelerating and downshifting a little earlier when braking.
We would be lying if we say that the Bentley engineers have managed to hide the heavy weight of the Continental GT Speed under the electronic mat. Despite the gigantic brakes you can feel the weight pushing, but the bite of the brakes and the deceleration is nevertheless reassuring.
Yet it is not the acceleration nor the braking power that impresses the most. More like the way he takes turns. With the eagerness with which a young jack russell snaps at the mailman’s trouser leg, the GT Speed targets the tightrope. Direct and accurate, even a little playful.
The GT Speed’s greatest asset is the rear-wheel steering, which Bentley used for the first time on the Flying Spur and which, although with modified steering software, is now also included in the GT Speed. Up to about 80 km/h, the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front wheels for more convenient but sharper steering. From 80 km/h, the rear wheels follow the front wheels to increase stability.
The real first for Bentley is the electronically controlled rear differential poetically named eLSD which, together with the traction control and active chassis systems, provides better cornering control and increased straight-line stability.
And the active stabilizers, which we know under the name Bentley Dynamic Ride from the Bentayga and the third generation of the Continental GT, firmly counteract all the rolling movements of the body. In the sportiest setting, the electric motors integrated into the anti-roll bar build up to 1,300 Nm in 0.3 seconds to keep the car level.
The AutoWorld verdict?
The essence of the short presentation was to highlight the dynamic qualities of the Continental GT Speed. And Bentley has succeeded in that. Because although the weight is always prominent and tangible, there were moments when we forgot the threat of the scales. Whether this is a car to skim track days with, we dare to doubt. But once in a while it should be possible to chase the boar through the beets. In the meantime, the countdown is on until the autumn, when the final version will be ready in both coupe and convertible versions.