2013 Bentley Continental GTC Speed
– Classy styling
– Cabin trim and features
– Good ride-handling balance
– Little bit expensive
– Little bit heavy
– Little bit understated
The GTC happens to be the convertible version for one of my favourite cars, the Bentley Continental GT. Heck, it costs as much as a house, so what’s not to like? But the car we drove is the Speed version, a hyped-up sportier version that doesn’t shout it out with big spoilers and stickers.
That’s not to say our test car wasn’t shouting out for attention. You can’t argue against a “Citrus” paintjob. Other than that, it’s hard to figure out the elements that identify a Speed model, unless there’s a regular GTC standing next to it. We assume it gets a unique front bumper and wheels, keeping changes to the handsome design at a minimum.
Bentleys can be customised any which way inside, so we get to see all sorts of trim and colour combinations each time we drive a Continental variant. This test car had an all-black cabin, lined all over in stitched leather, with carbon-fibre inserts replacing the wood bits. All the traditional cues, such as the a/c vent plunger-style switches and the intricately-patterned shifter knob, are still there.
The GTC is big on the outside for what is essentially a 2+2 seater. Sure, there’s more than enough space up front for two passengers in the cosy partially-bolstered bucket seats, but the upright rear buckets can only hold midget kids in comfort. As for storage spaces, there’s a surprising number of cubbies and pockets, considering how impractical its exotic rivals usually are. Weirdly, the cover for the cup-holders pops off to become a case for your sunglasses. Even the individual centre-armrests can open up to store small stuff in. The boot, which isn’t particularly big, has a cargo net to hold down smaller bags.
The tech features are the same as in the regular GTC we drove last year. Bentley continues to feed off Volkswagen tech, with a touchscreen multimedia system straight out of the VW Golf. It does the job though, with integrated stereo, phone and navigation controls, as well as short-cut buttons below for each. There’s a Bluetooth phone handset hidden away in the armrest, for whatever reason. The Naim-branded stereo is excellent, while the dual-zone a/c did a decent job in June weather. Other features include ventilated power seats, powered boot lid, adaptive cruise control, HID headlights with LED running lamps, front-side airbags, smart keyless entry and start, rear camera with sensors, and a manually-attachable wind deflector that takes up space in the boot when not in use.
The car is powered by Bentley’s trademark “W12″ engine, essentially a turbocharged 6.0-litre V12, upgraded in the Speed to make 616 hp at 6000 rpm and an insane 800 Nm of torque from only 2000 rpm, with an 8-speed automatic feeding the juice to all four wheels. The big motor moved the 2500-kg convertible in 4.9 seconds during our afternoon 0-100 kph test. The amount of kick is satisfyingly brutal, whether from standstill or flooring it while already doing 120 kph. We didn’t try it, but the Speed can apparently hit almost 330 kph! It comes at the cost of fuel economy though. We managed an eye-popping burn rate of 20.1 litres/100 km during our time.
The GTC Speed offers great grip around corners, largely feeling flat in terms of body roll thanks to adaptive air suspension. The suspension can be firmed up at the press of a button. There’s always the stability of all-wheel-drive, 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, more so than the regular GTC. The steering is soft, but offers a bit of feel, while the brakes are fairly strong. The paddle-shifters are thin sticks behind the wheel that are a bit of a reach, but get the job done. Selecting “sport” mode makes the throttle response sharper, but it can get too jumpy at low speeds, so the smoother “normal” mode is preferable in city driving.
The car rides a bit firmly, but is still smooth enough on most roads, especially if you set the suspension at the softest setting. It’s a marked improvement than the overly-harsh Speed we drove in 2008. 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 admirably kept out by the thick soft-top, although there is a moderate audible “hush” at 120 kph, and passing cars can still be heard on the highway.
There is a marked difference in power and handling between the regular GTC and the Speed, however small it may be. On the street, it matters little, but the Speed’s extra agility is welcome if you like to hit mountain roads with your leather-lined tank. We actually prefer the coupe version of this car, just for the more cohesive styling, but if you love the desert sun, there’s probably no nicer car to get sunburnt in.
Current Model Introduced in:
Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
Observed Test Fuel Economy: