New car review

Bentley Continental GT Speed review

Bentley's biggest-selling model may be in its twilight years, but it's still a magnificent machine

Summary

Despite its age, the Continental GT Speed remains a magnificent vehicle for grand touring and has evolved into a proper old-school Bentley.
Design
9.0
Performance
10
Ride & Handling
9.0
Economy
4.0
Value
4.0

Summary

Despite its age, the Continental GT Speed remains a magnificent vehicle for grand touring and has evolved into a proper old-school Bentley.

What is it? The Continental GT Speed is an even faster, even more luxurious version of Bentley’s most successful model ever.
What’s new? More power and torque, higher top speed, Black Edition specification
Type of review: First UK drive


It’s hard to believe that the Bentley Continental GT has been around for 13 years. The first Bentley model created under Volkswagen ownership, it seems like only yesterday that it was launched to massive sales success (bringing many new customers to the brand) and considerable controversy (for not being a ‘proper Bentley’).

Now that same description applies to the new Bentayga SUV, which will once again cause car buyers to reconsider what the company stands for, and suddenly the Continental GT seems to have become a proper old-school Bentley.

Of course, over those 13 years the Continental GT has been enhanced, upgraded and improved. The second-generation model introduced in 2010 was really a major upgrade to the original car, rather than an all-new model, but the big coupé has certainly stood the test of time well.

GT Speed shows the Continental range at its best

One of the most popular versions of the Continental models (GT coupé, GTC convertible and Flying Spur saloon) has always been the Speed. With even more power, styling tweaks and upgraded specification, the Speed models show off the big Conti at its best.

This year, as part of Bentley’s ongoing evolution of the GT Speed, the engineers have found a bit more performance from the mighty 6.0-litre W12 engine, which now puts out 640hp and a planet-shifting 840 Nm of torque. This brings the 0-62mph sprint down to just 4.1 seconds. Although this is exactly the same as the Bentayga, the lower ride height and growling exhaust note of the GT makes it feel significantly faster than the SUV.

In fact, the GT Speed feels quite different in every way to the Bentayga, especially noticeable if you are driving the two vehicles back-to-back, which we did thanks to Bentley and H.R. Owen Bentley in Surrey. Although they both share an enormous amount of finest leathers and controls arranged in a broadly similar fashion, the Continental is very much showing its age alongside the newest model in the Bentley family. The switchgear and dash layout is not as space-age and slick, and the satnav system is so slow it could well be running on Windows 95.

But these details seem entirely unimportant as you sink into the superbly comfortably seats and prod the throttle. Unlike the Bentayga, the exhaust has not been muted into near-silence.  It’s not loud or uncouth, but it does rumble with menacing intent. Like most high-performance sporting vehicles, there is a sports mode to make it somewhat louder and more anti-social, which seems somewhat unbecoming of a Bentley grand tourer. On long trips, it could easily become tiring.

The GT is a big, heavy car and it does feel that way, although not in a negative fashion. Rather, it has a reassuring solidity and weight to the controls. The Bentayga is fingertip-light to direct, whereas the GT Speed requires more of a substantial heft in each movement. Again, it feels like an old-school grand tourer. Like you’d expect from a traditional Bentley.  it is superbly comfortable to drive, although adults won’t want to spend much time in the rather cramped rear seats.

Showing its age on safety

Although much of the GT’s charm is timeless, one area where it is showing its age is the lack of state-of-the-art safety equipment. Last week, we were scathing about the Bentayga’s lack of autonomous emergency braking as standard; an omission which is inexcusable on a new car launched in 2016. Well, you can’t even get AEB and many other accident avoidance systems in the Continental range, although adaptive cruise control is available at extra cost. The only reason we are not expressing similar disapproval here is that the Continentals simply pre-date much of the latest safety tech.

The Continental GT Speed summary

At a starting price of £168,900, the Continental GT Speed is not the sort of purchase one makes with value-for-money in mind. It’s also not likely that prospective owners will bother measuring up the big Bentley against similarly-priced vehicles like an Aston Martin or Ferrari. So it’s pointless to make such judgments or compare boot sizes (not bad, for what it’s worth) and mpg (poor, obviously).

After six years in its current guise, and 13 since it was first launched, the Continental GT remains a magnificent vehicle for grand touring. The GT Speed version heightens the experience even further, although it’s probably best to steer clear of some of the more lurid colour combinations Bentley is now offering as part of the Black Edition and were on display in the H.R. Owen showroom when we visited.

Bentley Continental GT Speed 2015 | The Car Expert

Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

More from The Car Expert

Expert Advice

Award-winning, independent and impartial advice on buying, financing, owning and running a car

Expert Ratings

We analyse and aggregate dozens of media reviews for each new car into an overall Expert Rating

New Cars

All the most important new car launches, model updates and car reviews

News

The latest news from all the major car brands and across the automotive industry

Latest advice

Personal Contract Purchase: the PCP explained

The PCP (personal contract purchase) is the most popular type of car finance. This guide tells you everything you need to know about PCP car finance.

Car insurance providers cut coverage for misfuelling drivers

The number of car insurance providers refusing to cover damage caused by drivers putting the wrong fuel in their cars has increased considerably.

Latest ratings

Audi A4

Based on nearly 50 reviews, the Audi A4 has an Expert Rating that matches the Mercedes-Benz C-Class but falls some way behind the BMW 3 Series and others.

BMW X5

The BMW X5 currently holds a rating of 80% on our Expert Rating scale, which is a few points behind the class leaders but still competitive.

Latest new cars

Limited-edition Cupra Ateca bolsters line-up

Cupra has announced a limited-edition version of its not-a-SEAT Ateca performance SUV.

Refreshed Mitsubishi Mirage arrives in UK

The revised Mitsubishi Mirage is now available in the UK, with pricing starting at £10,550.

Latest news

UK used car market holds steady in 2019

Some 7.9 million used cars changed hands during the year, almost exactly the same as the previous year

Private new car sales take a dive in January

Consumer new car purchases fell by just under 14% compared to the same month a year ago, according to data published this week.

What are your thoughts? Let us know below.