It has a six-litre engine, 600bhp and leaves the competition standing, doing 0-60 in four seconds. Neil Lyndon takes a ride in the £151,000 Continental GT Speed
On a German autobahn, I went to sleep in the passenger seat of the Bentley Continental GT Speed. Overcome with the need for a quick zizz, I reclined the opulently upholstered backrest and stretched out my feet on the Wilton carpet. For nodding off in motion, not even a first class seat in an Airbus A380 would have been a more reposeful spot.
After some minutes rocking in the bosom of Abraham, I woke up and sensed that we might be going quite fast.
“What speed are you doing?” I asked my driving companion.
He glanced at the instrument panel. “It says 163mph,” he said. “At the moment.”
Several things are remarkable here. The first is that the driver was at no risk of having his licence ceremonially cremated in court while the judge sentenced him to life in prison – as would certainly happen in Britain. We could have been travelling on the autobahn at the GT Speed’s theoretical top speed of 205mph and it would still have been legal.
Secondly – and perhaps I should have mentioned this before – it was raining cats and dogs. ‘Siling down,’ as they say in Yorkshire.
Which makes the third point the most remarkable of all: it was completely safe. I felt in no more danger at that second in the GT Speed than I do now, sitting at my desk. The driver knew what he was doing but, even more tellingly, the car itself was at nothing like full stretch.
With permanent four-wheel drive and as much electronic stabilising gadgetry as a fighter jet, we could have been travelling at that speed on a frozen lake and still have been secure (in fact, a Bentley much like this one does hold the world record for speed on ice).
The Continental GT Speed is the fastest production car ever made by Bentley. The six-litre, 12-cylinder engine that has been powering Continental GTs for ten years has been augmented in the GT Speed to produce over 600bhp, which means that this two-and-a-half ton luxury grand touring car for four people can accelerate from 0-60mph at the rate of a supercar in four seconds.
For overtaking, nothing is faster on the road except, of course, the motorcycle courier’s 15-year-old bag of rust.
Bentley has lowered the suspension to give the GT Speed a more aggressively sporty look than the standard Continental GT, stuck it on 21” wheels, done a lot of expensive dickering to the underbody to make it more aerodynamic, and fitted a spoiler on the tail that pops up to keep the wheels on the ground whenever the car is being driven in the imperious style it asks for.
Naturally, this is an indefensibly excessive concoction which – with its 340 g/km CO2 emissions and its 17.5mpg fuel consumption – raises two bejewelled fingers to political correctness. With an asking price of £151,000 plus VAT, is about as egalitarian as an Eton education.
Even so, the world will be a poorer place when such senseless powers and sumptuous luxuries as are brought together in the Continental GT Speed are finally outlawed altogether.
Those who can afford them ought to wallow in them – awake or asleep – in the little time that may be left.