With the drilled-alloy throttle floored into the plush deep red carpet of the Continental GT Speed, the fastest Bentley ever produced, the world around me dissolves into a mesmerising blur. The 6.0-litre twin turbocharged W12 is emitting a deafening roar and the needle in the speedo is at the extreme right of the gauge. The revs are still climbing but the stretch of tarmac I’m on isn’t long enough to accommodate this 616bhp road missile. I back off to a more respectable speed, but coming down from where I’ve just been, 200kph feels slow.
Like most, my brain computes better when it isn’t being squashed by 800Nm of torque. That’s the sort of sensation that burying your foot in this brings; there’s no better cure for a headache. I begin to ponder what life would be like with this big, beautiful and very, very fast car. Doors would open, I’d be treated like a household name and it wouldn’t be long before I was totally broke — 22.2 litres-per-100km around town will do that to you. Since I’m Dh991,000 shy of the Dh991,000 price tag, I don’t have to worry about that, but for those with private jets, yachts and who demand more of everything in life, the GT Speed will be on top of their ‘want’ list. Here’s why.
For those privileged enough, the chaps in Crewe have turned the Continental GT up a considerable notch. It’s now capable of reaching 330kph and there is so much more fire in its considerable belly that it can despatch the 0-100kph sprint in 4.2 seconds flat.
It’s been lowered by 10mm at front and rear and boasts an uprated suspension, anti-roll bars and bushes to provide a sportier, harder and far more thrilling ride.
On the looks front, not much has changed. It would take a very keen eye to spot any differences at all between this and the regular GT. Closer inspection reveals a darker-mesh grille, 10-spoke 21in alloys and ‘rifled’ exhaust tips. Granted, that’s not much to get excited about, but the real changes have taken place where it really matters — under the aluminium bonnet.
The legendary W12 has been stoked by 100Nm, the cooling system further improved and the chassis has been upgraded to handle the extra 49 horses. The aluminium double wishbone front and trapezoidal multi-link rear setup now gains air suspension and dampers for improved agility and body control. The GT Speed packs such a ferocious punch that you’d really think twice about whether to prod the loud pedal with anything but a girly tap. Anything more and you awaken the 48-valve giant sitting inches in front you. Feel lucky? Only then should you dare to turn traction control off. Fortunately, the switch has been hidden behind the fat steering wheel, so you’ll never find it.
This thing delivers thunderous, supercar performance and somehow manages to channel all that anger onto the road without spinning off wildly into a hedge. It’s nothing short of miraculous. Standard fitment on all Continentals is permanent all-wheel drive with a central Torsen differential (biased 60/40 in favour of the rear) which certainly ensures massive amounts of grip, as do the sticky 275 35R21 Pirelli PZero ultra-high performance tyres.
The uprated steering provides plenty of feedback and is perfectly weighted; not too light and not too heavy but you can’t really toss this nose-heavy, 2,750kg behemoth around.
You might expect the GT Speed to sound like a frenzied monster on the loose but it’s far from obnoxiously loud. After all, this is the gentleman’s race car. Therefore, the exhaust (developed from the free-breathing Continental Supersports Ice Speed Record car) produces a refined rather than raspy growl under hard acceleration.
Inside, you may have thought the white coated ones might have done away with all that leather, chrome and maybe even the back seats to lighten the load and enable it to reach those dizzying speeds. But you can go fast and still sit on the hide of a cow of your choice — with the back seats still intact. Not that you’re going to get an average sized adult there. Despite its sporting overtones (it is probably better suited to a drag strip than Sunset Strip…) it’s still a Bentley, which means it retains that gorgeous hand-crafted interior, packed with the finest natural materials, and is smothered with beautifully polished veneers and cool-touch metals. Combined with the craftsmanship for which the carmaker is renowned, there’s no doubt the cabin is of extraordinary quality. You can leave the fireproof boots and crash helmet at home and tear up the tarmac in your top hat and tails. The diamond-quilted, perforated leather skins on all four seats are sublime and not only smother the chairs, but the door trims and rear quarter panels too. Lest you forget what you are sitting in (brain cells will be lost each time you mash that loud pedal…) the embroidered Bentley emblems on the headrests are a nice reminder that this isn’t your average daily runabout.
Even though this is a slush-box and a very good eight-speed ZF at that (it can shift down from eighth to fourth for stupendous acceleration), you’ll be clutching the chunky gear lever like it was a row-your-own thanks to the classy knurled finish. And since there isn’t a B-pillar to ruin the fluid profile, over-your- shoulder visibility is almost perfect, but good luck spotting that Yaris through the rear window. Anywhere else but an open road and the GT Speed feels awkward to drive. It’s a chunky car measuring 4,806mm long, 2,227mm wide which makes meandering around town tricky. That it is rather portly means the stoppers have to be made of strong stuff. Good to know then that the ventilated cast iron discs are a massive 405mm in diameter at the front and 335mm for the rear and are backed up by eight-piston callipers. Pay a bit more and you can get even bigger Carbon Silicon-Carbide discs but ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Drag Torque Control are standard. There’s more wizbangery in the shape of an advanced eight-inch touchscreen, 30GB on-board Infotainment system and satellite navigation.
I’ve been sitting in this GT Speed for hours, gobbling up miles of road and I could keep going without a problem. But then every Bentley offers astounding levels of luxury and comfort so you’re not buying this for that.
OK, so this is the fastest production Bentley in the history of the storied carmaker, but — and as painful as it may be to accept — that isn’t particularly relevant to the vast majority. So it begs the question; why would anyone want to splash out on this instead of the just as good, if not quite as quick, Conti GT V8 that costs about Dh270,000 less?
Just then, a helicopter flies overhead and lands on the Burj Al Arab’s helipad. A Mulsanne waits below for the occupants where they’ll be whisked to a swanky part of town for matsutake mushrooms and Almas caviar. And there’s my answer. Because some folk can.
Specs & ratings
Model Continental GT Speed
Engine 6.0-litre twin turbo W12
Transmission Eight-speed auto, AWD
Max power 616bhp @ 6,000rpm
Max torque 800Nm @ 2,000rpm
Top speed 330kph
Plus Rip-roaring yet refined ride, gorgeous interior
Minus Awkwardly positioned paddle shifters