Some people demand nothing but the best. Whether it’s the most exclusive restaurant, the biggest yacht or the tallest building – those living a life of luxury rarely want to settle for less.
To please this most discerning group of its customers, Bentley has revived the flagship ‘Speed’ version of its Continental GT and (you've guessed it) it’s the fastest one yet. It's aimed at those people who might otherwise buy a Porsche 911 Turbo S or Mercedes S65 AMG Coupe.
Bragging rights come in the form of its enormous twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 engine, which has been fettled to give an extra 10bhp, taking its total output up to 626bhp. It also produces 607lb ft of pulling power.
That mammoth power means brutal performance, with the top speed now 206mph – that puts the new GT Speed in the same rarified 200mph club as the Lamborghini Aventador and Ferrari F12 – both of which cost close to £100,000 more to buy.
Still, with an asking price starting at £156,700 before adding options, the W12 Speed is also the most expensive version of Bentley's coupe by some distance, but is it also the best?
What is the 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed like to drive?
Bentley promises the GT Speed is more than just a straight-line bruiser. Like the GT V8 S, its chassis has been tuned to make it sharper to drive than the standard car.
Stiffer springs, a small drop in ride height and tweaked anti-roll bars are among several changes designed to improve the handling, without – Bentley claims – spoiling the ride comfort or refinement that make it such a cosseting grand tourer.
Let’s be clear – the Speed tweaks have not transformed the Continental into a raucous sports car. However, slide the aluminium gear lever into ‘Sport’ and the exhaust note takes on a more resonant, bassy rumble, and the eight-speed gearbox will cling on to each ratio a bit longer.
Throttle response improves, too, and if you plant your right foot to the floor the horizon will start rushing fairly rapidly torwards the windscreen. Overtaking requires just the smallest gap in traffic.
The Speed turns into corners better and keeps a tighter control of its body movements than the regular Continental, but this is a car that still weighs in at 2.3 tonnes, so the extra agility is relative. It still feels like a big heavy car, and if you push too hard into a bend, suddenly brake or change direction, the laws of physics take over and drag you off line.
On narrower roads, the Bentley still feels a bit too wide and long to ever really exploit its explosive power delivery, and it can feel cumbersome on winding country lanes. You find yourself checking the width in the mirrors each time a lorry rumbles past.
Leave it in ‘Drive’ and the auto gearbox will change up early, keeping the revs barely above tickover, and letting you roll along using the engine’s huge torque reserves. It's easy to build speed without really noticing, too – because the cabin is nicely cocooned from unwanted road noise and the GT Speed remains totally planted and stable – even at high speeds.
The ride is generally comfortable, no matter which of the four settings you put the adjustable dampers in; it’s only over really scruffy surfaces that things become unsettled.
What is the 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed like inside?
Opulent, in most areas. The surfaces in your eye line are covered in hand-finished wood, metal or leather, and the major controls have a reassuringly weighty feel, although the climate controls feel altogether too plasticky.
It's not the most high-tech cabin, and certainly feels a generation behind cars such as the new Mercedes S-Class Coupe, with its outmoded infotainment system.
The Speed comes with some unique interior options, including carbonfibre inserts on the dash, centre console and on the insides of the doors, while the electrically adjustable, armchair-like seats are heated, cooled and have a massage function.
While those travelling in the front are treated to a first-class experience, anyone sitting in the back will find things a little more snug. Average-sized adults will still have just enough space to feel comfortable on most journeys thanks to the scalloped seat backs, but kneeroom will be tight if you’re sitting behind a taller driver.
Even so, the GT Speed can claim to be a genuine four-seater, whereas the the rear space in rivals such as the Aston Martin Vanquish and Porsche 911 are really a place to put very small children, or stow your excess baggage.
Despite its imposing proportions, the boot is also quite small by luxury car standards, with 358 litres of space, and an irregular shape that makes fitting in wide cases tricky.
Should I buy one?
Pampered customers searching for the pinnacle of the Continental range won’t be at all disappointed with the GT Speed, but for us, it’s not the pick of the range.
The GT V8 S get similar suspension upgrades, sounds just as good in Sport mode, feels lighter on its feet, is a lot cheaper to buy and will cost marginally less to run.
It may not quite match the Speed’s blistering acceleration, but feels just as fast in the real world, and unless the kudos of being able to travel four-up at 200mph plus holds genuine appeal, then the V8 is the better bet.
What Car? says...
W12 Speed auto