First drive: 2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed Coupe and Convertible

First drive: 2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed Coupe and Convertible

2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed

The other day we were reminiscing about the first time we drove the Bentley Continental GT. It was the Speed variant, and the year was 2008. The GT had already been around for four years at that point, and the Speed was recently launched as a flagship model to keep the line fresh. We took it straight to Jebel Hafeet for our first ever run on that mountain, close to midnight, and it proved to be an amazing car.

Of course, since that GT Speed we drove at Jebel Hafeet, the car hasn’t changed a lot. There has been at least 3 facelifts since then — a major one in 2011 that was touted as a second-generation model, another one in 2014 that also introduced a new V8 variant, and one more for 2016. What we’re driving here are 2015 models, as the only obvious difference for 2016 seems to be bumpers.

2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed 7

These cars are therefore a dozen years old, but the basic design has proven to be timeless. Available in both GT Coupe and GTC Convertible form, this is a pretty hefty car, with muscular haunches and an elegant front-end that has defined several of the brand’s later models. The Speed has its own bumper design and standard 21-inch alloys.

What has barely changed is the interior. Still sticking to the double-domed dash design with the requisite leather upholstery from top to bottom, the cabin remains infinitely customisable in terms of colour and trim. Every time we get the car, the interior sports a different theme. Sometimes it’s monotone, sometimes it’s two-tone. Sometimes there’s wood and piano-black. Sometimes there’s carbon-fibre and aluminium.

2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed 12

What hasn’t changed is the old VW-sourced multimedia touchscreen and the cramped rear seats. Even at this price level, you can’t have everything. Also note that the convertible has far less boot space than the coupe, on account of that folding roof.

The Speed is powered by the long-running turbocharged 6.0-litre “W12” engine, upgraded in 2014 to make 626 hp at 6000 rpm and a ridiculous 820 Nm of torque from less than 2000 rpm, with an 8-speed automatic sending power to all four wheels. It can break the 5-second mark on 0-100 kph runs all day long, without any skill or effort required. There is always a brutal amount of power on tap, whether from standstill or flooring it while overtaking on the highway, with no wheelspin ever. The Speed can apparently hit 330 kph, making it one of the fastest cars on the road, but heck, we don’t have the wastaa to try it legally.

Overall fuel consumption can be anywhere from 17 to 20 litres/100 km, depending on your driving style.

2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed 11

The car rides a bit firmly, but is still smooth enough on most roads, especially if you select the softest of the suspension’s four settings. It’s a marked improvement compared to the overly-harsh Speed we drove in 2008. It was one of the benefits that came with the second-gen update. For a car that rides on low-profile 275/35 tyres on massive 21-inch wheels, it’s a feat to still be comfortable. Wind and road noise is ably hushed in the coupe, barely noticeable even at 120 kph. The convertible is allows only slightly more noise in with the top up.

As before, the paddle-shifters are thin plastic sticks behind the wheel that are a bit of a reach, but get the job done. Selecting “sport” mode makes the throttle response sharper and the revs stay high, but it can get too jumpy at low speeds, so the smoother “normal” mode is preferable in city driving.

2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed 3

The GT Speed offers great grip and nearly flat cornering, thanks to that same adaptive suspension. The suspension can be firmed up at the press of a button. The steering is soft at low speeds, but firms up and offers a bit of feel at higher velocities, while the brakes are fairly strong. The stability served up by the all-wheel-drive is generally unflappable, and while it is easy to overcook the front tyres of this heavy beast on sharper turns, all four wheels always stay planted on the road while electronic nannies modulate the power to keep things in line.

However, the W12 Speed still isn’t the most agile Continental you can buy. The lighter V8 version is so good that Bentley themselves gave it red “B” badges instead of the Speed’s black ones. Somehow, the V8 actually does feel less susceptible to understeer, while also having a better exhaust note, drinking less fuel and not really feeling any slower than the W12 models, aside from being 30% cheaper. Really, Bentley’s own competition is another Bentley.

For prices and specs, visit the Bentley buyer guide.

Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and Salma Sultana.

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