Bentley Continental GT Speed, motoring review: As a motorway machine, this model is magical

John Simister wallows in the GT Speed's vat of syrupy pulling power

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Price: £164,500
Engine capacity: 5,998cc
Power output: 635 bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Top speed: 206 mph
Fuel economy: 19.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 338g/km

On hearing that the latest Bentley Continental GT Speed had gained a further 10bhp over the ample 625 its immediate predecessor had already, I wondered if it would be possible to detect such a proportionally tiny increase.

I am reporting on this GT Speed, though, for two reasons. First, Bentley has had a sudden burst of new model news, surprising given that the company has just the two basic ranges (the Continental and its derivatives, and the larger Mulsanne and its derivatives). Second, I have hitherto been lukewarm about the GT Speed and its unnecessarily extravagant W12 engine, preferring instead the cheaper, lighter, more frugal and nearly as rapid V8 Continentals, but some sort of planet alignment must have happened with this latest one, because it's fabulous.

The last two Speeds I drove, the first of them a GT, the second an open-top GTC version painted in an embarrassing shade of purple, made me more convinced than ever that they were largely pointless cars given the existence of the V8. Their exhaust systems were tuned to emit a contrived and tiresome boom at gentle engine speeds when sport mode was selected in the eight-speed automatic transmission, a mode without which the Bentleys felt the heavyweight, high-inertia machines that they were. In each, the engine's enormous pulling power couldn't disguise a mass of over two tonnes. Though very fast indeed, they felt oddly aloof and wooden.

So, why do I feel different about the latest version? With the engine's extra urge comes a crisper, more responsive feel which renders the sport mode largely redundant. Instead you can wallow in the vat of syrupy pulling power and gobble up gaps in the traffic the instant they appear, inertia seemingly banished, engine trumpeting a distant fanfare, all the Bentley's sinews somehow tautened.

As a motorway machine, it is magical. You just enjoy the relaxed ambience and the lavish but tasteful furnishings. For those engaged in Bentley one-upmanship, this latest Speed puts you in a position of strength. I would still favour a V8 and save myself £28,000, but I can see why someone lacking a CO2 conscience might disagree.

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