Bentley Accelerates with Continental GT Speed

The new Continental GT Speed is the fastest production Bentley ever.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

Bentley used the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed to introduce the new Continental GT Speed – the fastest production car the elite luxury automaker ever built.

Serving up a buried needle of 205 mph, the GT Speed is undoubtedly a deliberate effort to evolve the Bentley brand beyond the top of the luxury food chain to a high perch in the performance car world.

When the car arrives in October of this year, the Continental GT Speed will pack a reengineered and improved Bentley’s 6 liter, 48-valve, four-cam, twin turbocharged W12 engine. It generates a brutal 616 horsepower and a 0-60 time of 4 seconds – numbers rarely seen in anything resembling a luxury car. In fact, it’s surprising to learn that Bentley is now the world’s largest producer of V12 engines. You wouldn’t expect a brand usually associated with luxury and high-class touring to be able to make such a claim.

All of that power wouldn’t do anyone any good if it wasn’t effectively sent to the wheels. Obviously, Bentley engineers took care of that with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox aspires to make those automatic shifts undetectable with “intelligent adaptive control software.” Bentley claims that new transmission also improves fuel economy and emissions.

With its new power packing so much acceleration, the GT Speed needed improved suspension and steering. A stiffened chassis rides atop  21-inch alloy wheels and Pirelli PZero ultra-high performance tires. An all-wheel drive system and central Torsen differential, harnesses the prodigious power and torque of the new GT Speed and ensures huge levels of grip and stability whatever the road or weather conditions.

If you’ve ever been inside a Bentley, you know that the interior doesn’t serve up the thin carpet and plastic dashboards of standard consumer cars. The GT Speed fits in that club neatly, fitted thoroughly with natural materials. The interior is entirely hand-crafted and uses the trademarked Mulliner Driving Specification program to confirm that Bentley standard look and feel.

Said look is a matter of taste – granted you have the MSRP $192,495 or so. Bentleys traditionally employ rounded, smooth lines and stay away from the sharper, stealth angles chosen by some other – primarily Italian – super-cars. For some, that makes a Bentley look heavy and stuffy. That might be an unfortunate design choice because no Bentley – including the GT SPeed – drives as conservative as it looks.

In an era where cars are getting more advanced, but less exciting, it’s good to see the elite car manufacturers building vehicles that serve no practical purpose beyond offering thick slabs of buttery luxury and spine-tingling performance. As Bentley introduces the Continental GT Speed, Aston Martin is sending out the 2013 Aston Martin Vanquish – two very expensive, but incredibly advanced consumer vehicles.

While so much modern engineering is going into creating cars that separate car owners from the road, there are still ambitious car makers out there that look to create passionate driving experiences for those still devoted to great cars.

Yes, that comes with a cost – but doesn’t everything worth having?