Driven! The 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed
It’s big, it’s heavy, and it’s a blast.
The 16 different Bentley sedans, coupes, and convertibles our colleagues at MotorTrend have tested over the past decade have on average weighed 5,373 pounds, with an average of 573 hp and 561 lb-ft of torque. The new 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed weighs just more than 5,000 pounds and packs 650 hp and 664 lb-ft; in terms of its weight-to-power ratio, it's an above-average Bentley. But the work done under the hood isn't what makes the new Continental GT Speed special. Rather, it is the work done to the chassis and to the vehicle dynamics systems you notice most.
Hardware and Software
The hardware changes are surprisingly few; they focus mainly on the rear axle, fitted with the rear-steer system used on the Flying Spur sedan. The 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed also features an electronic limited-slip differential, the first of its kind ever fitted to a Bentley road car. The steering ratio is quicker than before, and a new carbon-ceramic brake system with 10-piston calipers and monstrous 17.3-inch front rotors—the largest ever fitted to a road car, says Bentley—is an option. Reordered zeros and ones streaming through the 2022 Continental GT Speed's vast electronic neural network takes care of the rest.
New software for the stability control and active all-wheel-drive system, as well as for the spring, shock, and roll rates, is designed to work with the rear steering and the e-diff to dramatically improve what Bentley chassis development chief Florian Sprenger calls "yaw response." In non-engineer speak, he means the Continental GT Speed is set up to be the most agile and reactive Bentley road car of all time.
Even before we've exited pit lane at the U.K. 's storied Silverstone Circuit, the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed makes an impression: This early-build car, not yet certified for road use, has the optional carbon-ceramic stoppers. The brake tip-in is abrupt, the pedal moving freely a short distance before those 10-piston calipers up front suddenly clamp the rotors with head-snatching ferocity. Smooth stops at low speeds are tricky; maybe out on the track, with a bit of heat in them, they'll feel better.
Bentley has built more than 100,000 W-12 engines since the original Continental GT launched back in 2003, but apart from the 700-hp, 750-lb-ft monster created for the limited edition 2017 Continental Supersports, the 2022 Continental GT Speed's version is the most powerful of the lot. Revisions to the 6.0-liter W-12's engine management software liberated 24 more horses and expanded their playground: While the regular W-12's 626 hp occurs at 6,000 rpm, the Speed's engine makes its peak power from 5,000 to 6,000 rpm. Peak torque is identical to that of the regular W-12, though it now occurs from 1,500 to 5,000 rather than 1,350-4,500.
The factory claims a 0-60-mph time of 3.5 seconds, which seems a little conservative in the context of the 3.3-second times we've recorded while testing the latest-generation 12- and eight-cylinder Conti GT coupes. Bentley says the car's top speed is 208 mph, and the 2022 Continental GT Speed feels capable of every bit of that, judged by its pull along Silverstone's long straights. It whooshes effortlessly into triple-digit velocities to the accompaniment of a velvety snarl from an engine that seems to barely raise a sweat. In Sport mode, the dual-clutch eight-speed transmission snaps from gear to gear twice as quickly as in previous Bentleys, making the GT Speed's singular surge of thrust even more relentless.
The brakes do feel better with a little heat in them, but the tip-in is still a trifle sudden, making precise pedal modulation more difficult than you want. Chassis boss Sprenger claims the carbon-ceramic brakes are "virtually fade-proof," with braking distances increasing by only 3 feet after 10 consecutive high-speed stops. But the PCCB carbon-ceramic setup fitted to Porsche's Taycan Turbo S—another fast car weighing about 5,000 pounds—feels more linear in its response and is probably just as effective on real-world roads.
Get a Handle
Corners are where the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed feels gloriously different from any other Continental GT ever built, and it's noticeable from entry to apex to exit. The original Conti GT was built on a platform better suited for front-wheel drive, one it shared with the Volkswagen Phaeton. The car was blisteringly quick between corners, but with 58 percent of its mass over the front axle, it demanded absolute precision on corner entry and patience with the throttle.
Although the third-gen Conti GT is built on the longer dash-to-axle MSB platform, the architecture of the all-wheel-drive system—which places the W-12's block ahead of the front axle—means it still carries 55 percent of its mass on the front wheels. But you really don't feel it in the 2022 Continental GT Speed.
The new Conti GT Speed still likes to be slowed and steadied before you turn into a corner, but it dives toward the apex with alacrity that belies its size and weight the moment you turn the steering wheel. It rotates confidently and allows you to get to the throttle a lot earlier than in the regular 12-cylinder coupe. You can feel the weight transfer to the rear and the traction punching you out of the corner as you go to power. And with the ESC set to Dynamic (one quick press of a button on the center console) or switched all the way off (a longer press), that massive mesa of torque will push the tail as wide as you want, and you can use the power to keep it there. Yes, this Bentley will drift. Beautifully.
It all looks and feels graceful and elegant, but like a swan gliding across a pond, the result is the product of furious activity you can't see: The rear-steer system, the e-diff, the torque-vectoring by brake, the 48V anti-roll system, and the active all-wheel-drive system all work together, adjusting everything from turning radius to roll rates to front and rear and cross-car torque splits in real time to give the GT Speed the agility and balance you want. But it all feels surprisingly analog, reassuringly natural; the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed does what you want it to do, when you want it to do it, without fuss.
If we're looking for more improvements, a tad more dialog between your fingertips and the front tires would be nice. And although the massively powerful, optional carbon-ceramic stoppers eliminate 66 pounds of unsprung weight, we'd probably save our money and stick with the standard steel brakes.
The new 2022 Continental GT Speed is not just an above-average Bentley. It's quite possibly the ultimate modern gran turismo. It is everything you expect of a Bentley coupe: big and fast and luxurious and lush (the ride characteristics in Comfort and Bentley modes are identical to those of the regular W12 coupe), a car that can effortlessly devour 1,000 miles in a day and leave you feeling calm and relaxed at the end of it. But, uniquely, it's a Bentley that's also ready, willing, and able to play when the mood takes you.
|2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||6.0L/626-hp/664-lb-ft twin-turbo, 2 x DOHC 48-valve W-12|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||5011-lb (55/45)|
|L x W x H||190.9 x 76.9 x 55.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.6 sec (mfr)|