This Bentley Continental GT Speed Series 51 marks the end for the first-generation Continental, so this last-chance drive has me thinking a lot about what I would love to see from the next car, due in early 2011. Paul Jones, the project leader, has promised the base Continental will offer "the agility of the Continental GT Speed with a better ride than the standard car." I hope that leaves room for a sharper, more sport-focused Speed, as this car feels slightly dull and disinterested in curvy roads. I much prefer the Continental GT Supersports, which makes no apologies for its crisper ride. It's sharper steering and stiffer suspension, not to mention the additional 21 horsepower, make it a significantly more direct, sporty car.
We also know that Bentley will offer a new V-8 alongside the tweaked twin-turbo W-12. While the V-8 will likely have a lower output, it stands to be the sportier engine. Along with reducing overall weight, the smaller block should reduce the amount of mass that hangs over the Continental's front axle, helping handling and turn-in. Admittedly, Bentley has a rare niche with the Continental, successfully blurring the line between luxury, comfort, and sport unlike anything else out there. It's a formula that's clearly worked well, as the Continental is Bentley's best-selling vehicle by a wide margin. Personally, though, I'm hoping the GT coupe and the Speed model can raise the agility that's currently masked by the heft curb weight and questionable engine placement.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor