LUXURY and refinement meet blistering performance in the new Bentley Continental GT Speed, the British manufacturer's fastest production model ever. While it is difficult to imagine a Bentley that doesn't already have luxury and refinement, that was apparently the case with the Bentley Continental Supersports, previously the most powerful Bentley.
When the lightweight, two-seater Supersports was launched three years ago, it was such an out-and-out performance car that some buyers considered it too extreme.
So Bentley decided to retain the performance, dial back in the refinement, and the Speed was born.
The main changes are to the air suspension and roll bars. The ride height of the Supersports was reduced by 15 mm compared to a standard Continental GT and with less suspension travel, ride comfort was sacrificed.
The new Continental GT Speed, however, is only 10 mm lower, so it is more comfortable.
But there is the same exhilarating power as the Supersports. The turbocharged W12 engine punches out 625 horses and 800 Newton-metres of torque, or 50 hp more than the standard car.
This time, however, the 12-cylinder unit in a W configuration is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission instead of the old six-speeder.
Gear changes are smoother and silkier. At 4.2 seconds, the Speed's zero to 100 kmh sprint is marginally slower than the Supersports, but its top speed of 330 kmh is higher.
To demonstrate its abilities, Bentley specialists from its factory in Crewe are in town this weekend for the Bentley Continental GT Speed Experience, where customers from the region got to drive it at the Changi Exhibition Centre.
Like the standard Continental GT 2+2 coupé, the Continental GT Speed also has four seats for four adults and the acres of beautiful wood and leather that a Bentley is known for.
It rides on 21-inch wheels with massive brakes for eye-popping stopping strength, as proven when the Speed is driven at full pelt and then braked hard. You will literally be standing on the brake pedal when you finally come to a standstill but that is about as dramatic as it gets - the all-wheel-drive Bentley's deceleration is reassuringly swift and stable.
And to anyone who says the 2,320 kg Continental GT feels heavy, a very quick drive through a slalom course and a couple of moose tests should make them change their minds. The Speed is extremely responsive to steering and throttle inputs. It changes direction enthusiastically and displays the nimbleness of a hot hatch, thanks to the braking of the rear inside wheel when turning.
The electronics are especially impressive - it knows when to be playful and when to be safe. For example, when Dynamic mode is chosen, the ESP electronic stability programme allows for increased wheel slip at higher speeds. Yet it always provides a safety net to prevent the car from spinning or sliding out of control during an emergency manoeuvre.
Luxury is fully enjoyed only when outright performance is matched with outstanding safety.
Bentley Continental GT Speed
Engine 5,998cc W12 turbocharged
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Max power 625 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Max torque 800 Nm @ 2,000 rpm
0-100 kmh 4.2 secs
Top speed 330 kmh
CO2 emissions 338 g/km
Price from $720,000 (w/o COE)
Distributor Wearnes Automotive