Bentley Continental GT Speed: Bahn blasting in Crewe’s MissileBy Botchi Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
BERTISCHGARDEN, Bavaria, Germany—Bentley chose a most demanding location to sample its newest offering, the Continental GT Speed. This car is the firm’s top-model variant of its 2+2 Grand Tourer, designed to devour continents with absolute ease and other-worldly luxury.
Bentley’s goal was to build the world’s only true super-luxurious Grand Tourer, with supercar performance credentials. Sounds like a tall order, but Bentley has just about succeeded. The figures alone are impressive: 616.44 hp, 800 Newton-Meters of Torque mated to an 8-speed Tiptronic and AWD with a 60-percent bias to the rear for a more engaging, sporty drive, a top speed of 330 kph, naught to a hundred clicks in 4.2 seconds. Which is amazing, considering its 2,300-kg weight, with its bespoke Pirelli tires measuring 275/35ZR21 tires rated to 350 kph, exclusive GT Speed new-design 10-spoke magnesium alloy wheels in 21 x 9.5-inch size, the largest production carbon-ceramic brake discs measuring 405 mm fronts and 365 mm rears with radial-mounted 8-piston calipers all around, a 10.1 surround sound system supplied by British audio specialist NAIM.
The W12 engine has been undergoing development for almost a decade now, and has reduced fuel emission and consumption while increasing power and efficiency. To date, Bentley is the world’s largest 12-cylinder-engine producing firm, with over 26,000 W12’s produced since the Continental’s introduction in 2004. While critics argue that the basic architecture hasn’t changed since its debut, Bentley engineers will counteract that, saying that so much improvement has been done to engine, powertrain, suspension, electronics and NVH refinement that it might as well be called an all-new car. The underside has been fully sealed, achieving greater NVH refinement, reducing drag and producing down-force. A pop-up spoiler mounted on the boot-lid raises at 120 kph, increasing down-force by 125 kg at top speed. The suspension is 10 mm lower than the regular GTC variant, and since it is an active air-suspension design, can go lower by 15 mm at 180 kph, and a further 6 mm past 250 kph to reduce drag and help balance the weight and aerodynamics of the big Bentley at very high speed.
To prove a point, 21 different types of acoustic damping materials are used, and the windows are double-glazed to provide better insulation. The chassis itself has utilized the latest in smart metal engineering, with aluminum being used extensively to lighten the body, and a high amount of carbon-steel for load-bearing and crash-stopping sections. To prove a point, Bentley says you can take a Continental’s chassis, secure the front driver’s side corner to a secure anchor, then hang ANOTHER Continental from its passenger side rear, and the chassis will only twist less than HALF a degree.
The engine is also brutally tested. It runs for an hour straight at maximum revs and load, four times in total, to assure it delivers power, reliability and efficiency, equivalent to driving 32,000 km from new. It has also been shock-tested by starting up the engine from -40 degrees Celsius then revved to the limit, and by draining the coolant while it is being revved to redline to check for thermal stress on engine parts and cooling stability.
As a driver, I can say that the Bentley is amazing. The 800-Nm torque plateau arrives at 2000 rpm until almost its 7000 rpm rev cut, similar to a 747-400 accelerating at full-tilt during takeoff. It might gain enough velocity to fly if the Bentley only had wings! The sound from the sport-tuned exhaust is amazing: menacing, aggressive, but cultured, even and pleasing to the ears that only a 12-cylinder engine could bring. The turbochargers, thankfully, do not muffle the W12’s unique induction and exhaust notes. Yet the vast torque plateau also makes slow and easy, fuel-efficient wafting far more fuel-efficient. The Continental will pull away cleanly in sixth gear (out of 8 gears), and as low as 1000 rpm in traffic.
The active air suspension also raises itself when going through rough roads, and there’s dynamic traction and stability control, ABS-EBD brakes with brake assist and 12 airbags
As a passenger, I find the Bentley an overwhelmingly beautiful place to sit in. The engine-spun aluminum dash plate (looks like fish scales to the uninitiated) is so British, and so removed, classy and different from the usual wood/matte aluminum/plastic/carbon-fiber you see in most sports and luxury cars. The leather is so soft and warm to the touch, almost too delicate for my sweaty palms to grab, hence the obligatory leather gloves to keep the hands warm from the chill, and sweat away from the steering wheel. The heated/ventilated seats, which come as standard, is handy in single-digit Bavarian fall weather, and the NAIM audio system plays beautiful opera/marching band/classical music from some of Deutschland’s finest classical composers such as Wagner, Bach and Beethoven.
Is the Philippines ready for another uber-fast sport Grand Tourer? You bet, and the Bentley is the one to beat!
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