New Car Reviews

2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed – Bentley Makes Its Number

The standard Bentley Continental GT can do 198 mph, which usually is fast enough, even when you’re running late for the airport. Nonetheless, Bentley now has added another model, the GT Speed, whose chief bragging point is that it reaches the magic 200-mph mark, maxing out at 203 mph, to be exact. But the extra 5 mph strikes us as not worth the price.

There’s the literal price of course, an extra $24,000. But that hardly seems of consequence when a regular Continental GT already goes for $182,285. In addition to the greater speed–largely due to the fact that the engine’s output has increased to 600 hp (rather than 552 hp) and 553 lb-ft of torque (as opposed to 479 lb-ft)–the extra cash also buys Bentley’s Mulliner Driving Specification interior upgrade (quilted leather upholstery, a choice of engine-turned aluminum or wood trim, and drilled pedals), unique twenty-inch wheels, revised steering, and a retuned chassis with a lower ride height.

The idea is to turn the Continental GT into a more hard-edged machine, but it’s not a direction the big Bentley coupe really wants to go. With a twin-turbocharged W-12 engine hanging out ahead of the front axle, all-wheel drive, and a curb weight north of 5000 pounds, the fact that the standard Continental GT drives so well is already a triumph of engineering over physics. Asking it to be more of a sports car is asking a lot.

Yes, the GT Speed is a bit quicker: 0.3 second faster to 60 mph (at a factory-estimated 4.3 seconds) and 0.8 second more swift to 100 mph (10.3 seconds), but that’s hardly transformational stuff. The air spring/damper units are 22 percent stiffer, but the standard car already offers four damper settings, and with that flexibility, we don’t see the value of giving up any further ride comfort. The firmer GT Speed setup really doesn’t turn this big, heavy coupe into a plaything through the twisties, and any gains there may be are sabotaged by the changes to the steering, which actually has been lightened for GT Speed duty. It’s too light and too quick, effects exaggerated by the GT Speed’s smaller-diameter steering wheel.

Optional carbon-ceramic brakes (available on the regular Continental GT as well) feature rotors “the size of a family pizza,” in the words of chief engineer Ulrich Eichhorn. At 16.5 inches in front, they’re the biggest in the business. For your extra $16,500, they provide fade-free performance with no squealing, less brake dust, and pads that should last the life of the car. They work fine when you’re decelerating from triple-digit speeds, but in mellower driving, they aren’t quite as easy to modulate as the standard iron-rotor stoppers.

Like a dutiful salesman, the Continental GT Speed makes its number. But we can’t help preferring the standard car. Yeah, it goes only 198 mph, so you just have to leave your house a little earlier.