2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible | road test
That twin turbocharged W12 engine!
Speed, power and handling all rolled into one extremely luxurious package
Not much space for rear seat passengers
Infotainment system picked up from VW parts bin
Introduction & Summary
The Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible, doesn’t need much of an introduction really. But for those of you living under a rock, it is the topless version of the Continental GT Speed, a 2+2 grand touring coupe. Sitting under the hood is a twin turbocharged W12, hand built in Crewe, putting out 616 horses @ 6000 rpm and 590 lb ft of torque at just 1,700 rpm. All this power is put down to all 4 wheels via a new 8 speed ZF transmission.
Granted, your first choice of colour for a Bentley isn’t exactly hot pink (Bentley like to call it magenta) but boy, does it look good. The bright shade of pink matched with a dark grey metallic soft top makes sure you draw attention everywhere you go. And not in a loud, obnoxious way, but more like with an aura of royalty.
Styling & Design
Styling is typical Bentley and hasn’t changed much since its redesign in 2003. Changes are subtle. Distinguishing the Speed from the standard W12 are minor touches like a darkened grille, lowered suspension and unique 21 inch wheels shod in what is possibly the most comfortable, yet grippy rubber made on this planet.
Bentley prides itself in allowing you to customise their cars down to the last detail and this means there are countless number of combinations possible with the exterior paint finishes, roof colours, dash options and leather interiors. All hand crafted, of course. Our test model came in Magenta with a dark grey metallic soft top and an interior finished in a single tone off-white stitched leather. It looked fantastic.
For a 2 door, the Speed convertible is a massive car. Although sold as a 2+2 Grand Tourer, it really is only comfortable for 2 adults in the front and a couple of kids at the back. The rear seats look bloody damn good though! As you would expect from a Bentley, the front seats offer exceptional comfort while being snug enough to make sure you aren’t thrown around during spirited driving. Oh, and they double up as massage chairs too. Just so those long drives are a little more comfortable you see.
In the technology department, the Speed is up to date, offering all that we have come to expect of a premium car sold in 2014. Vented seats, dual zone air conditioning, LED daytime running lights, airbags all around, electric powered boot lid and a Volkswagen derived multimedia system that offers the usual navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, rear view camera, etc. What we found strange though was that in the little time we had the car, the multimedia system hung up on 3 different occasions forcing a complete restart of the car in order to restore normal operation. Also, the active cruise control (that automatically adjusts your speed based on the car in front of you) didn’t inspire confidence resulting in us slamming the brakes just in time to avoid a collision and take over the lethargic electronics on-board. Not something that is acceptable on a car that costs more than a million Dirhams! Considering the systems work fine on Volkswagens, we imagine this could have been a one-off. The sound system in our test car was the standard issue which wasn’t bad at all but you do have an option of the Naim audio which can impress even the discerning audiophile.
And then there is the soft top. Most soft top convertibles look great with the roof down. With the roof closed however, they tend to look a little funny, lacking structural rigidity, failing to maintain the lines on the rest of the car. Not the case with the Speed convertible. Sure, it takes so long to open and close we stopped counting the seconds and concentrated on finishing our cup of coffee. But this is no normal soft top, mind you. The folding roof has 4 layers of fabric and is engineered with so much precision that with the roof closed you may forget it is a soft top. Capable of handling 3 digit speeds and with more sound insulation than your average cinema hall, this has got to be the most well engineered soft top ever designed. And a gorgeous looking one too!
Performance, Ride & Handling
The badge Speed was associated with racing and needless to say that heritage can be seen on the 2014 Bentley GT Continental Speed. The hand built force fed W12 engine produces an absolutely mental 616 hp @ 6000 rpm and a hefty 590 lb ft of torque at a mere 1700 RPM. The ZF 8 speed transmission puts power to all 4 wheels with a 40:60 front to rear torque split. With a 0-100km/h time of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 325 km/h, this also happens to be the fastest 4 seat convertible in the world. No surprises there. The chassis is beautifully engineered, allowing you to throw this near 3 tonne beast into a corner like it were a Lotus. This however does not compromise ride comfort and the lowered air suspension does an excellent job at soaking up road imperfections in any of the 4 modes ranging from comfort to sport.
While cruising at highway speeds the Speed was calm and composed with a barely audible exhaust note while the suspension cosseted us in the hand stitched leather thrones truly making this an extremely comfortable Grand Tourer, with an aura befitting royalty. Engage sports mode and the first thing you are greeted with is a brutal exhaust note from the rifled twin exhausts that have the most beautiful sounding drone and love to burble and crackle as you switch gears and play with the loud pedal. Steering sensitivity is sharpened and more precise and completely defies the laws of physics as you throw this luxurious leviathan from one corner into another. It is hard to comprehend how a car that is this big and weighs this much can be pushed so hard and driven to its limit so easily.
Comfort & Practicality
Questioning the comfort in a Bentley is blasphemy. You could put a baby to sleep in the well insulated, extremely comfortable and lavish interiors of the Speed. Sure there isn’t much room for rear passengers, but who cares? For a car that offers this much performance wrapped in luxury it is as practical as it gets. It may be a little bigger than your average convertible, but whether you are cruising down Sheikh Zayed Road, driving along Jumeirah beach road with the countless number of speed breakers or head out towards Fujairah to conquer the twisties with the roof down, the Speed will do all of it with such comfort, gracefulness and sophistication that no other car possibly can.
Price & Verdict
At over a million Dirhams this is definitely not the cheapest 4 seater convertible on the market. There is a “cheaper” V8 version that looks identical, but lacks the extra oomph the Speed W12 guarantees. If you are in the market for a 4 seater convertible that looks gorgeous, is classy and is a complete brute when you want it to be, you can’t really go wrong with the Speed. Just don’t go with the standard boring white/black. The Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible looks absolutely fabulous in hot pink!