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Review (2/2)

600 hp Continental GT Speed Extends the Worldwide Appeal of Bentley's Iconic GT coupe

Source: Bentley | Published: Mon Aug 16, 2010

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A Truly Inspirational Bentley Coupe

The Continental GT Speed is one of the most powerful production Bentleys ever and the first to top 200 mph. A potent addition to the company's highly successful Continental series, the GT Speed extends the appeal of the Continental GT coupe to driving enthusiasts who place a high value on outright performance and agile handling.

The exterior style of the Continental GT and GT Speed models is defined by their wide, lower air intake and upright radiator grille that also provide increased airflow to the more powerful GT Speed's engine. Its 600 hp W12 engine develops 15 percent more torque and nine percent more power than the standard Continental GT, while engine efficiency is optimized by the use of lower friction, lighter-weight components and a new engine management system. The resultant performance is exceptional, with a top speed of 202 mph, a zero to 60 mph sprint time of just 4.3 seconds and effortless overtaking capability.

Complementing the Continental GT Speed's high performance is its unique chassis tune that delivers tauter handling and improved agility, with new, wider 9.5J 20-inch wheels and bespoke performance tires as standard fitment. Fade-resistant carbon ceramic brakes are available as an option. Subtle design touches, including a dark-tinted front grille and larger sports tailpipes, reinforce the sporting character of the Continental GT Speed.

Inspiration for the GT Speed came from the legendary 'Speed' models that first appeared in 1923. The standard Bentley 3-liter had already established Bentley's engineering superiority in terms of roadholding, handling and braking, but W.O. Bentley, the company's founder, recognized the market potential for a more potent versionaimed at the enthusiast driver who demanded superior performance. His response, the 3-litre 'Speed Model', complete with twin SU carburetors and a higher compression ratio engine, became one of the most coveted of all Bentleys.

Both the GT Speed and the 552 hp Continental GT benefit from internal efficiency improvements to the engine that deliver reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The Continental GT remains outstandingly quick - its top speed is unchanged at 198 mph, with a 0-60 mph sprint time of 4.6 seconds.

The all-wheel drive Continental GT changed the face of the luxury coupe market in 2003 and attracted a wider audience to the Bentley marque. It also represented the first step in Bentley's renaissance, positioning the company at the pinnacle of both technology and consumer aspiration. Since its launch, demand for a sportier version of the Continental GT was met by the successful introduction of the 2005 GT Mulliner Driving Specification and the limited edition GT Diamond Series in 2006, to celebrate 60 years of Bentley at Crewe. With the launch of the Continental GT Speed, customers can enjoy even greater choice.

Engine Improvements for All Continental GT Models

At the heart of both Continental GT models is the Bentley 6-liter, twin turbocharged W12 engine, the most compact 12-cylinder engine in production. The 48-valve cylinder head employs four camshafts and continually variable valve-timing. Power is transmitted via a ZF six-speed automatic transmission.

A host of engine and transmission enhancements have been introduced on the 552 hp Continental GT to enhance both the refinement and efficiency of this high technology powertrain. These include:

  • New crankcase design to reduce internal losses.
  • More efficient catalyst and exhaust system for improved emissions.
  •  Lighter weight single chain drive for camshaft.
  • New engine management system and faster response cam sensor.

For the Continental GT, the engine continues to produce 552 hp at 6100 rev/min and a maximum torque of 479 lb-ft from 1600 rev/min. The twin, low-inertia turbochargers are a key factor in producing the flat torque curve, characteristic of every Bentley.

A higher output of the W12 engine is specified for the GT Speed, sharing engine efficiency improvements with the GT model. New lighter weight con rods enhance engine response, while new pistons, with anodized compression ring grooves, are designed to withstand increased cylinder pressures. Together with a recalibrated version of the new engine management system, the GT Speed develops nine percent more power than the GT - 600 hp at 6000 rev/min. The maximum torque of 553 lb-ft at 1750 rev/min represents an increase of over 15 percent versus the standard engine. As a result, the GT Speed becomes the first production Bentley to top 200 mph, with a V-max of 202 mph.

Both the Continental GT Speed and GT models now produce lower CO2 emissions of 396 g/km, down from 410 g/km, an improvement of 3.5 percent. Fuel consumption is improved by a similar amount.

The advanced ZF 6HP26 six-speed automatic gearbox has the ability to lock up its torque converter during normal driving conditions replicating the immediacy of a manual transmission while maintaining the smoothness of an automatic. A manual override function allows clutchless manual sequential changes via the gearlever or steering wheel paddles.

Providing huge levels of grip and stability in all weather conditions, the all-wheel drive system harnesses the prodigious power and torque of both the Continental GT and GT Speed coupes. The system uses a central Torsen differential and a differential on both the front and rear axles providing a standard 50:50 torque split. This front to rear ratio is variable depending on the available grip and the system can sense slip of less than one percent and react by apportioning the engine's torque to either the front or rear axle.

The advanced electronic stability program (ESP) has been uprated to ESP 8.1 for both models. The 'Sport Traction' mode moderates ESP intervention at low speeds, providing a greater degree of driver interaction and control. This is particularly beneficial from standing starts, for example when pulling away uphill on low traction surfaces.

The Continental GT Speed offers a new 'Dynamic Mode' that allows increased wheel slip at higher speeds than the 'Sport Traction' mode on the standard chassis. Torque is reinstated more quickly after the traction control system is triggered, giving the spirited driver a greater sense of control and the ability to exploit the full potential of the new engine.

Highly Tuned Suspension for Outstanding Handling

Chassis, suspension and steering modifications for both the Continental GT and GT Speed models ensure they have the handling to match their formidable powertrains. Both are suspended on double wishbones at the front and a trapezoidal multi-link system at the rear. Much of the suspension is made from lightweight aluminum. The GT Speed model also benefits from a solid-mounted front subframe, while high-stiffness aluminum front uprights are common to both models. Together with stiffer rear suspension bushes, these changes deliver even sharper handling characteristics. The GT Speed also features modified front and rear anti-roll bars to minimize understeer and optimize handling balance.

Self-leveling air suspension that constantly monitors and adjusts the ride height and damping according to road conditions is common to both models, although the GT Speed is engineered to sit 10 mm lower at the front and 15 mm lower at the rear to improve handling dynamics. Uprated springs and dampers, together with revised software control, further improve the agility and body control of the GT Speed.

All-new 9.5Jx20-inch alloy wheels with bespoke Pirelli P-Zero 275/35 tires have a major effect on the GT Speed's steering and grip levels. The wider wheel and reduced tire wall profile improve the tire's lateral stiffness giving noticeably sharper steering response and feel. The new Pirelli performance tires are developed specifically for the GT Speed and benefit from a unique construction and rubber compound for enhanced levels of grip.

Both the Continental GT and GT Speed benefit from changes to the rack and pinion steering. Revisions to the system's hydraulics reduce friction and improve steering feel, while a new version of the speed-sensitive Servotronic system also increases levels of feedback to the driver.

Secondary ride levels - the response of the car to poor road surfaces, pot holes or cats' eyes, for example - have been improved on the 552 hp Continental GT model with the addition of low friction dampers. And even though the new GT Speed has stiffer, lowered suspension its ride quality is on a par with the 2007 Continental GT.

The Continental GT and GT Speed are both equipped with the largest brakes of any production passenger car on sale today. The ventilated front discs have a 405 mm diameter and are 36 mm thick. Ventilated discs are also used at the back, with a diameter of 335 mm and a thickness of 22 mm.

For both models, the performance boundaries can be further extended by Bentley's optional carbon/silicon carbide brake system. Boasting 420 x 40 mm carbon-silicon carbide, cross-drilled front discs and 356 x 28 mm rears, with eight-piston calipers, the new brakes are even larger than the standard system. The system provides a 20 kg reduction in rotating and unsprung mass, benefiting steering response and handling.

The lightweight, fade-resistant braking system minimizes disc distortion under high thermal conditions. Under normal driving conditions the brake discs will last the lifetime of the car. Furthermore, brake pad life is doubled compared with the standard braking system.

Complementing the braking systems of both Continental GT models are sophisticated safety systems, including Hydraulic Braking Assistance (HBA), anti-lock braking (ABS), drag torque control (MSR) and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). The latter monitors the level of grip available to each tire and apportions braking force accordingly. This not only helps reduce stopping distances but also greatly enhances the control enjoyed by the driver under heavy braking.

Enhanced Cabin Comfort

The 2010 Continental GT and Continental GT Speed can both be ordered with the 'Naim for Bentley' premium audio system to create the world's best in-car sound stage.

Designed exclusively for Bentley by Naim, the renowned British hi-fi manufacturer, the system features an 1100 Watt amplifier - the world's most powerful production unit fitted in a car - and 15 speakers. The speaker drive units are specifically tailored by Naim to the cabin of each model in the Bentley range to provide a unique and personalized audio experience.

Bentley is also the first car manufacturer to use a next-generation Digital Signal Processor (DSP) in its audio system, enhancing the listening experience still further.

A new optional iPod, MP3 and USB interface is located in the glovebox, enabling customers to connect personal music to the in-car Infotainment system. When an iPod is connected, the tracks are displayed on the Infotainment screen.

A further driver convenience feature introduced as standard for 2010 is the new graphics for the Park Distance Control which are displayed on the Infotainment screen. Areas to the front and rear of the car are divided into nine zones and within these zones orange bars indicate the distance to obstacles. As the car moves closer to an obstacle, the corresponding bar will move closer to the car image on the screen.

Subtle Changes to Acclaimed Coupe Design

The Continental GT has received many accolades for its distinctive, muscular and elegant style. It has redefined the concept of the contemporary Grand Touring coupe: forward looking yet faithful to Bentley's design heritage. Classic sculpted coupe design cues such as curvaceous rear haunches, short front overhang, prominent front grille and longer rear overhang echo the look and feel of some of the great Bentleys of yesteryear. The style of the GT has stimulated customer interest like no other Bentley to create a modern-day design icon.

The principal changes to the frontal appearance are common to both the GT and the new GT Speed. The subtly revised front grille, now more vertical, has a more pronounced square edge accentuating the GT's distinctive Bentley profile. Beneath the grille, the all-new lower bumper design features a wider central air intake that emphasizes the sporting stance of the new models. Chromed bezels around the headlamps complement the new frontal design.

The Continental GT Speed is distinguished from the Continental GT by its dark-tinted chrome matrix grille to the main and lower air intakes. Bright chromed grilles may be specified at no extra cost. At the rear, a black lower bumper valance and wider, rifled exhaust tailpipes emphasize the GT Speed's sporting character, reinforced by new multi-spoke 20-inch sports alloy wheels. As an option, these may be specified with a dark chromed finish.

The GT Speed's cabin is based on that of the Mulliner Driving Specification (a cost option on the standard GT). It includes a choice of veneers (Burr Walnut, Dark Stained Burr Walnut and Piano Black), Diamond-quilted hide seats with embroidered Bentley emblem, indented hide headlining, a sports alloy gearlever, three-spoke multi-function sports steering wheel, drilled alloy foot-pedals as well as 'Speed' logos to the treadplates.

A range of Mulliner options provide further opportunities for personalization including fascia panels, header and centre console in bright aluminum or, unique to the GT Speed, dark tint aluminum (compatible only with Dark Stained Burr Walnut veneer or Piano Black veneer and single tone interior color scheme). The Continental GT also benefits from a new Bentley 'B' brake pedal.

Continental GT and GT Speed customers have a choice of 16 'standard' paint colors and 17 premium grade leather hide colors, including three new exterior paint colors (Havana, White Sand and Onyx) and two new interior leather hide colors (Linen and Imperial Blue) . Customers also have the option to select from the Arnage color palette or choose Bentley's color-matching program to produce a bespoke color of their choice.

Rear View Camera Aid

A new option on both Continental GT and GT speed models is the rear view camera, which assists a driver when reversing into a parking space. The camera is activated automatically when reverse gear is selected, and an image is displayed on the Infotainment system.

The system also incorporates a parking assist function, in which the camera image is overlaid with two guidelines that show the path that the car will take when reversing. These guidelines curve as the steering wheel is turned to show how the steering will affect the path of the car. The system can be programmed for either reversing into a parking bay or parallel parking, depending on the driver's requirements.

Enhanced Cruise Control System

Standard on both Continental GT and GT Speed is an additional cruise control function, which uses the new instrument panel display to show the driver's set cruising speed. For the first time, this speed can be adjusted in either 1 mph or 5 mph (1 km/h or 10 km/h) increments using the controls on either the three- or four-spoke steering wheel, (depending on model), the revised target speed being shown on the display.

Bentley Continental GT Speed: Photo Gallery, Review (1/2) and Specifications

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