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First Drive: 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed

Autobahn Worthy

by on Jan.03, 2013

Tearing up the Autobahn at triple-digit speeds.

It was a scene I did not expect, but should have given the prodigious performance of the 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed.  Not satisfied with the mere 198 mph top speed of the “base” Continental GT, Bentley’s team of engineers, led by the effervescent Brian Gush, massaged the potent twin-turbo W12 engine in the GT Speed to output 616 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. Top speed after the upgrades: 205 mph.

We were encouraged by the Bentley media team to safely explore the upper limits of this beast, keeping in mind that our primary test route, the famous Autobahn network of highways across Germany, did have some sections with well-enforced speed limits.

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My driving partner and I were a bit late as we approached our departure from scenic Bavaria, Germany, as we had taken a bit too much time shooting video of the new GT Speed during our lunch stop.  So to make our international flight back home, we bypassed the route chosen by Bentley and tried typing the direct destination into the car’s GPS.

It takes a good eye to spot the distinctive revisions made to the GT Speed.

Well, the GPS system was not happy that we decided to take a direct route, and kept trying to reroute us to hit specific waypoints along the route.  Once on the Autobahn, the annoyance of the system constantly telling me to turn around caused me to exceed the posted speed while we read physical maps trying to make sure we were headed in the right direction.  Little did I know, I had entered the infamous “enforcement zone.”

Before long, an unmarked BMW pulled in front, with LED “Polizei” lights flashing and summoning us to pull over.  So at a rest stop designed to serve as a mini-courthouse for offenders, I was issued a huge fine. Shortly after we pulled in, colleagues from Canada were also busted in their GT Speed.

So obviously my first reaction when I saw the “law” was to outrun him. After all, a 3-Series Bimmer was no match for the mighty beast from Crewe, United Kingdom.  Fortunately, wisdom prevailed and I just took the hit to my wallet.

Bentley offers a wide range of customized options for the GT Speed interior.

There is a fun side to this story, as on the unlimited speed portions of the Autobahn, we were able to hit 180 mph.  Traveling at such a high rate of speed is an absolute rush.  Scenery and road signs click off in a blurred fashion, and the need to trust your instincts runs high.  The beauty of driving on German roadways is people get it.  They understand that the left lane is the “hammer” lane.  When they saw our GT Speed closing at a rapid rate, they moved out of the way.  Try that on an American road!

When you travel that fast, you’d better be able to stop fast in case of an emergency.  No worries with our test model, which was fitted with the optional ceramic disc package.  The brake discs on our test car were larger than the wheels on some economy cars.  Though the base brakes on the GT speed are certainly up to the task of hauling you down from triple digit speeds safely, the security offered in the $14,000 ceramic disc option is certainly worth the money.  If you can afford the $220K base price of the GT Speed, the additional dough won’t hurt at all.

When we weren’t going 180 mph, we were cutting through the Bavarian Alps at an aggressive clip.  Though the GT Speed weighs in at a massive 5115 pounds, adaptive suspension controls allow you to set up the car to handle like it was that zippy 3-Series I wanted to outrun.

While lavishly polished wood is the choice for most buyers, the GT Speed also offers an "engine turned" metal IP package.

Utilizing the steering wheel paddle shifters to control the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission translated into us staying on boost longer with the larger turbochargers offered on the GT Speed.  Altitude showed no ill effect on the breathing capability of the mighty W12.

Of course, the full time All-Wheel Drive system played a huge role in the handling prowess.  With a 40/60 front-rear bias, and revised Electronic Stability Program calibration, the GT Speed driver is free to explore the limits with confidence, while the new chassis settings and lowered suspension accentuates the glued-to-the-road sensation during high-speed cornering.

Externally, no significant changes were made.  The GT Speed wears a unique darkened grille, 21 inch wheels and “rifled” exhaust tips.  Why mess with perfection?

(For a first look at the Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible, the world’s fastest production cabriolet, Click Here.)

Inside, the usual Bentley excellence continues.  During a tour of the Crewe assembly plant, just prior to our travel to Bavaria, the checklist before a Bentley becomes a Bentley is extensive.  There are multiple layers of inspections during every level of assembly.  The car is largely hand built, but that no longer means sloppy when it comes to the British motorcar tradition.

Despite its mass, the Bentley Continental GT Speed is a surprisingly nimble coupe.

Perhaps my favorite interior feature is the impressive “Naim for Bentley” sound system.  With 1100 watts, the sound is crisp, clean and abundantly powerful.  Telematics interfaces are from the corporate parts bin, with the Audi system tuned to big brother Bentley’s specifications. The GT Speed’s touch screen infotainment system features a 30GB hard drive, which offers up to 15GB of storage space for music as well as mapping data.

For the new GT Speed, the infotainment system features Bentley’s latest software upgrades, including refinements such as point of interest mapping, optional satellite landscape imagery, live traffic data and HD radio.

As you drive, it provides real time monitoring of your tire pressure, access to your phone contacts (either via Bluetooth or by inserting your SIM card) and the opportunity to zoom in or out of mapping at the touch of a finger. You can listen to music via an iPod or other MP3 player, standard six-disc CD changer or an SD card.

There's not much -- other than a traffic cop -- that can catch the 205 mph GT Speed.

It’s amazing how Bentley engineers have taken what they need from other corporate platforms, and finessed them into fitting with the bespoke nature of this motorcar as if they’d been designed from the ground up for this purpose.

As usual, yards of fine, hand-inspected leather and chromed metal accents adorn the GT Speed’s interior. Burr Walnut or “engine spun” dark tint aluminum are dash choices. Special satin finish Carbon Fiber is optional and can be fitted to multiple interior surfaces. From steering wheel to gearlever, seat and armrest, every soft-touch surface in the cockpit is covered with soft, flawless leather. It’s quite impressive to view up close the craftsmanship you get for the money.

The 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed is an amazing motorcar. Yes, Bentleys are expensive. But when you understand what goes into the manufacture of one if these beauties, they seem like an absolute bargain.

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