2010 Bentley Continental GTC Speed Road Test Review

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Until now, the Bentley Continental GT Coupe has been one of my favourite luxury vehicles, with its elegant styling, luxurious appointments and potent performance attributes. The Continental GT Speed Coupe upped the ante, making it a potent addition to Bentley's highly successful Continental Series, extending the regular GT coupe's appeal to include driving aficionados who value exemplary performance and superb handling characteristics.

Inspiration for the GT Speed series comes from W.O. Bentley's legendary "Speed" models that first appeared in 1923 – the 3-litre model complete with twin SU carburetors and higher compression engine became one of the most coveted of all Bentleys. Now, there's a Bentley Continental GTC (the "C" is for convertible) Speed, which has replaced the GT Speed coupe as my new favourite, since I'm a fan of open cars.

The GT Speed coupe and GTC convertible both display a wider, lower air intake and more upright radiator grille in a dark-tinted chrome matrix providing increased air flow, optimized engine efficiency through the use of lower friction, and lighter weight components, coupled with a new engine management system. The result is exceptional performance. The coupe moves from 0-100 mph in a mere 4.5 seconds and achieves a top speed of 325 km/h (202 mph). The convertible rockets from 0-100 mph in 4.7 seconds and can reach 322 km/h (200 mph) with the top up, or 314 km/h (195 mph) with the top down.

Both models derive power from a 6.0-litre, 48-valve, twin-turbocharged W12 engine that delivers 600 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 553 pound feet of torque at 1,750 rpm. In the W12 configuration, each bank's cylinders are staggered, effectively creating two narrow angle V6 engines. The engine is coupled to a ZF 6-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic function and steering column mounted paddle shifters. Power is transferred to all four wheels via continuous All-Wheel Drive (AWD).

Some cars are for transportation – a way to travel from one point to another. Some cars are viewed as a status symbol.  There are some vehicles that place their primary emphasis on performance, and others that are meant to provide travel in the lap of luxury, focusing explicitly on comfort. There are but a few autos that deliver performance attributes coupled with luxurious appointments in a package that is as much a treasured art form as a mechanical marvel.

The ride height of the GTC Speed is lowered, with upgraded spring and damper settings as well as upgraded anti-roll bars for improved agility and enhanced body control. Better steering response is the result of a retuned, speed-sensitive Servotronic system, solid-mounted subframe and stiffer bushings. Roadholding capability is enhanced thanks to 20-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels shod with Pirelli P-Zero performance rubber. There are larger, wider exhaust outlets, which make the GTC Speed sound and go like stink on highway and country roads. 

The GTC Speed convertible includes a Mulliner Driving Specification interior with alloy sport foot pedals; knurled chrome/hide gear lever and Diamond quilted facing hides for seats, doors and rear quarter panels. The "Speed" designation appears only on the doorsills – pretty subtle. The interior further emphasizes stylish luxury that elegantly blends both form and function. Expanses of fine quality hides, machine-turned (1/2 swirl) aluminum trim panels on the dash, console, doors, complemented by classically designed and executed chrome-bezeled, sunken gauges and dials.
Modern state-of-the-art technology and old world craftsmanship form a union delivering elevated levels of convenience with familiar elements of luxurious comfort. The steering wheel, seats and mirrors are all heated, and the car is fitted with premium audio and satellite navigation systems. A unique centre console extends from the instrument panel to the rear bulkhead, affording rear passengers the same ambience as the front seat occupants, providing that those up front are not too long of limb. An analogue Breitling is the chronometer of choice.

In terms of exterior styling, the GTC Speed features a short front overhang with a dominant, lengthy bonnet that stretches from the front axle to the "A" pillar. The pillar-less cabin is both sleek and compact, blending harmoniously with the car's curvaceous and sinewy for and taut rear haunches. The chrome mesh grille is flanked by a headlamp design that displays Bentley DNA.

My test Bentley Continental GTC Speed sported a Silver Tempest metallic exterior, complemented by an Imperial Blue top and leather interior. The base price was set at an even $280,000, although options were added including an alloy fuel filler cap, deep pile front and rear overmats, Bentley embossed seat facings, Naim premium audio system, carbon ceramic brakes, aluminum fascia panels, aluminum centre console and door panels, destination and distribution fees and gas guzzler tax, elevated the final amount to $275,405.

That may seem a lofty sum to most working class folks, but there's a lot for the money, and the car will outperform many of its competitors for a lot less green stuff. In fact, you could purchase a couple of different Bentleys for say, the price of one Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren Roadster.

The GTC Speed is a head-turner and traffic-stopper with the top up or down. Without question, it is one of the most beautiful automobiles produced today, and is more than worthy of its performance heritage. It is both exceptionally fast and incredibly smooth, accelerating rapidly and handling nimbly, while enveloping occupants in ultimate opulence. The seats are exceptionally supportive.

The Bentley Continental GTC Speed convertible delivers elegant styling and supreme substance in a package that's sure to impress all who behold it. Of course, it's entirely possible to spend more for a competitive supercar – but what would be the point? It's rapid transit for the rich and famous who happen to enjoy fresh air, top down motoring.

Negative issues are minor, such as the nearly non-existent rear seat legroom, and the lack of an auto-stop for the front seat's rearward travel which could prove to be painful for rear seat occupants, if indeed they fit in the first place. Also, the fuel economy is nothing to shout about, but then that's not the primary focus of this ragtop.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Convertible, Bentley, 2010, Continental GTC Speed, $99,999+,

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