2012 Bentley Continental GT Speed review
It’s powered by a 6.0-litre W12 engine that produces 616bhp – 49bhp more than the standard W12 and enough for 0-60mph in 4.0 seconds and a top speed of 205mph.
This huge engine is linked to a new eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is now standard across the Continental GT range, while a four-wheel-drive system with a 60/40 rear/front bias helps maximise traction.
The Speed looks very similar to other Continentals, but there are a few details that mark it out, including a dark-tinted radiator grille, bespoke tailpipes, 21-inch alloy wheels and W12 badges on the front wings.
What’s the 2012 Bentley Continental GT Speed like to drive?
The suspension has been lowered by 10mm compared with the standard W12, while the springs and anti-roll bars have been stiffened. However, this doesn’t mean Bentley has turned the Continental into a raw sports car.
The Continental's suspension has been lowered and stiffened
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.
Likewise, body roll is well controlled in each setting, so you’ll rarely feel the need to swap from one to another. The trouble is the GT still feels like a big, nose-heavy car when you brake hard from speed or try to hustle it down a winding road.
Ride comfort is generally good, but the Speed feels like a heavy car in bends
The biggest difference between the regular W12 model and the GT Speed comes when you slide the gear lever from ‘Drive’ to ‘Sport’; in the Speed this not only sharpens the throttle responses and forces the ’box to hold onto gears longer, but also makes the deep exhaust note much louder, particularly on the overrun.
It’s an addictive noise that will have you lowering the windows so you can hear it in all its glory when you drive through tunnels.
Unfortunately, the change in throttle response is less appealing, because the pedal becomes so sensitive that it’s difficult to drive the car smoothly or build speed with any kind of precision.
The engine sounds glorious when the car is in Sport mode
Switch back to ‘Drive’, and the engine is very quiet unless you put your foot down hard, but the gearbox can hunt between its ratios at times and there’s a bit of wind noise from around the car's frameless side windows on the motorway.
The GT Speed offers superb straight-line stability, even at autobahn pace, while on single-lane roads its awesome performance means a small gap is all you need to get past slower traffic.
What’s the 2012 Bentley Continental GT Speed like inside?
Almost everything in the cabin is trimmed with metal or leather, so the GT Speed feels very luxurious.
Only the cheap-looking plastic climate controls let the side down, but they’re well laid out, and the touch-screen infotainment system features logical menus and big, easy-to-hit icons.
Interior feels expensive and classy, despite some VW Group switchgear
The seats are also impressive, because they’re supportive and hugely adjustable, plus there’s loads of space upfront.
True, things are a lot tighter in the rear, but there's still enough head- and legroom for adults to squeeze in, so the GT Speed is a genuine four-seater – unlike the rival Aston Martin Vanquish.
The boot has a 358-litre capacity, which means it’s slightly smaller than the Aston’s, but still a decent size.
Should I buy one?
Features such as energy recuperation technology, retuned engine management software and the new eight-speed auto gearbox help the GT Speed average 19.5mpg. That's a 15% improvement over the old GT Speed. However, it’s well down on the 26.9mpg that the V8 version of the Continental GT can manage.
Yes, the V8 is a little slower, but it still delivers the sort of effortless performance you expect from a Bentley, plus it costs almost £30K less and actually feels a bit more agile thanks to its smaller, lighter engine.
These differences in price and fuel economy won't deter people after the ultimate in bragging rights from choosing the GT Speed, but for us it feels a bit too similar to the regular W12 to displace the V8 as the pick of the range.
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By Steve Huntingford