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First look: More Speed for ballistic Bentley

Bullocking Brit: Conti GT Speed is Bentley's first model to exceed 200mp/h.

Bentley upgrades its smash-hit Continental GT coupe, and adds a 600hp Speed flagship

3 Aug 2007

BENTLEY has moved to broaden the appeal of the ballistic Continental super-coupe series to hardcore driving enthusiasts with its GT Speed, the most powerful production car the hallowed British brand has ever produced.

Never mind that the two-tonne-plus, all-wheel drive GT behemoth was itself billed as the world’s fastest four-seater production car when it was launched in Australia late in 2003.

Due to arrive in Australia by early next year alongside an upgraded Continental GT coupe, the two-door GT Speed is the first series production car from the British marque that can send the speedometer needle past 322km/h (200mp/h) – to 326km/h, in fact, after acceleration from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and 0-160km/h in a mere 10.2 seconds.

In the overtaking-performance indicator, 80-120km/h is devoured in just three seconds.

In order to achieve these benchmarks, the GT’s awesome twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre 48-valve W12 engine – a product of parent Volkswagen – develops nine per cent more power and 15 per cent more torque in the Speed, for maximum outputs of 449kW (a clean 600bhp) and 750Nm.

The improvements flow from a new engine management system, combined with lower-friction and lighter-weight engine components.

Meanwhile, the wider and lower air-intake and more upright grille (both finished in dark-tinted chrome matrix) are designed to improve airflow – as well as create a more sinister aesthetic, of course.

There is a green tinge to the GT Speed, too, with “internal efficiency improvements” bringing CO2 emissions down 3.5 per cent to 396g/km, and a similar (but unspecified) reduction in fuel consumption.

54 center imageThese eco-oriented improvements will also be seen on the standard Continental GT, which continues with a 318km/h top speed (198mph) and claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of 4.8 seconds – despite the fact that both it and the Speed have had 35kg shaved from their circa 2.4-tonne kerb weight “due primarily to optimisation of suspension and cooling system components”.

Maximum power on the standard Conti also remains at 411kW.

In terms of handling, the GT Speed introduces a harder-edge drive to the Continental coupe via a unique chassis set-up – that is, a lowered ride height, uprated spring/damper settings and uprated anti-roll bars – as well as wider 9.5x20-inch wheels (with bespoke Pirelli P-Zero performance rubber) and the option of carbon-ceramic brakes.

Improved steering response is achieved with retuning the speed-sensitive Servotronic rack-and-pinion system, a solid-mounted front subframe and stiffer rear bushings.

Furthermore, Bentley claims that steering feel and rolling comfort are improved, on both the standard GT and the Speed, from the increased use of aluminium suspension components.

The standard GT is also said to now have better ride comfort with the addition of new low-friction dampers.

For the Speed alone, a “dynamic” mode is now included on the uprated Bosch 8.1 ESP stability control system, which offers more progressive intervention. On the standard GT, a new “sport traction” mode is provided to ensure high-level, but non-intrusive, traction.

Other than the front-end modifications and fatter wheels, the GT Speed’s exterior design includes wider-rifled sports exhaust tailpipes. Both the Speed and the standard GT also now have chromed headlamp bezels.

Inside, the Mulliner Driving Specification is fitted standard on the Speed and comprises drilled alloy sport pedals, a knurled chrome/cowhide gearlever and diamond-quilted hide to seat facings, doors and rear-quarter panels. This package is also available as an option on the GT.

Other items new to both the standard GT and the Speed include new exterior paint colours (Cumbrian Green and Granite) and new leather hide colours (Newmarket Tan and Cumbrian Green) Inspiration for the GT Speed derives from models bearing the Speed moniker dating back to 1923.

The story goes that company founder W.O. Bentley took the then-standard Bentley 3.0-litre engine and added twin SU carburettors and a higher compression ratio to create, according to the press material issued with the GT Speed, “one of the most coveted of all Bentleys”.

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