Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible | CARkeys

17 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible | CARkeys
Bentley Continental

Bentley Continental

Details correct at publication date

What’s the first thing you can say when someone asks, as you’re asking me now . what’s it like to drive a car that’s worth £206,000? Well my first line seems to be that it certainly focuses the mind when you’re reversing.

On this occasion, it also kind of helps if you concentrate when you’re going forward too, because this is not only a costly car, it’s also very quick.

It’s the Bentley Continental GT Speed W12 Convertible and it’s the fastest four-seat soft-top in the world. It has enough go to get you from here to trouble faster than almost anything else on the road.

There’s enough explosive power under that long, rounded bonnet to take this 2.5-tonne vehicle from a standstill to 62mph in 4.4 seconds, to 100mph in 9.7 seconds, and on to an incredible top speed of 202mph. Try and not scratch it while you’re doing that, though. The Neptune Blue paint alone costs £9030.

Although Bentley has been owned by Volkswagen for 15 years, and it brings in parts from 32 countries to build its range of high-end vehicles, this car truly exemplifies the power and the glory of British motoring.

It’s been designed and hand-built in Crewe, and its story is a tale of heritage and numbers – a very big heritage with numerous historic race wins and world records for cars carrying the flying B, and very big numbers to do with price, power and privilege.

The Continental GT Speed Convertible is the spiritual torch-bearer of the original 1920s Bentley Speed, built by the founder of the company, W O Bentley, to be, a good car, a fast car, the best in its class.

Its engine has three banks of four cylinders arranged in W formation. Its six-litre petrol engine is breathed on by two turbochargers so it hammers out an Olympian 616bhp and 590lb/ft of torque.

Drive is fed through an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox to all four wheels with a torque split of 60/40, biased towards the tail end. Yep, it’s just a glorified 4×4.

It’s a rare thing to even see one of these cars, so you can imagine the feeling of privilege when I was handed the keys and let loose on the highways of Yorkshire. It’s been mine for an hour, and at no time during that hour have I stopped grinning.

It’s pointless me telling you this car has good suspension, the W12 engine is smooth, it has a lot of pick up or the steering is well weighted. Of course all these things are true.

But what I can do is tell you the three main things about this car that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up – and those don’t include the hot air blowers over my shoulder.

First is the way it looks. Let’s be honest, just because it’s a Bentley doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a looker. The Mulsanne is dog ugly. It looks like it lives on a diet of pies and cocaine.

The Continental, however, is perfectly proportioned with the roof up or down.

The fabric-top is long, low and sleek, giving arguably a nicer line than its sister coupé when it’s up, and leaving a bullet-like speeder when it’s folded away. Oh and the dance of metal and glass it goes through during the process of vanishing under the bodywork has the complexity of Bach counterpoint.

Bejewelled headlamps, a dark mesh grille, a wind-sculpted flank with a long crease up over the front wheelarch and running back to the muscles bulging around the back wheels. Big 21 dark alloy wheels, two oval exhaust ports, a tidy and square back-end. The whole thing just looks built for purpose and crafted for love.

Second is the way it goes, especially when the gearshift is slotted into Sport mode. There’s an instant improvement in throttle response and the gears hold on for longer to keep the engine milling in the maximum power band.

It also block-shifts if necessary to give you maximum acceleration when you stamp down. The throttle becomes a detonator. A car this big shouldn’t be able to leap out this quickly.

Bentley Continental GT

And that takes us onto the third thing: the way it sounds, particularly in Sport mode. There’s something dark goes on in the bowels of this machine when the beast in the gearbox is unleashed. Suddenly, when you step on the go pedal, all the trumpets of heaven and hell join chorus to herald your charge for the horizon.

I’ve heard many big engines in my time, but nothing short of the Merlin in a Spitfire has yet come close to the stirring sound of this Bentley.

Interiors in luxury cars so often turn their back on natural taste and proportion, but this convertible Bentley has some very nice touches like the dark tinted aluminium fascia with air blowers that look like aircraft parts, and the white leather seats, made from the hides of north European bulls that are less chomped by parasites than those from further south.

You may feel that charging £3660 for that aluminium insert is a bit much, and similarly the contrast stitching in the leather that adds £1425 to the cost (and apparently 25 hours to the build time), but if you’re even thinking about prices, this isn’t the car for you.

The Continental GT Speed W12 Convertible is designed and hand-built for people who basically get whatever they want. No one who fancies contrast stitching in a car costing this amount will think twice about the price of it. It’s just an option to indulge in.

As for that price, the basic cost of the CGTSW12C (I’m tired of writing it all out) is actually £167,900. This test car costs more because of all the extras like the carbon-ceramic brakes (£10,400), the Naim audio kit (£5475), and of course that £9030 paint job.

Incidentally, my brother, who’s a professional signwriter, reckons he could literally gild the entire car with gold leaf for less than that, so I’ve yet to learn why this paint costs so much.

Carpet for inside the boot sir? Certainly. That’ll be £405.

I feel I could write a dissertation on this car; not only the research, design and technology that’s gone into it, but also its heritage, its value, its price, its social standing, its cultural baggage and the psychology of those who buy such things.

But for now, I’ll end by saying that the world of the Continental GT Speed W12 Convertible has been a lovely place to visit and a tremendous privilege, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I couldn’t, with a clear conscience, justify any of it.

Bentley Continental GT
Bentley Continental GT

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