First Drive Review: 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed

 

Snap’s back with his impressions of the 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed he drove in Southern Germany recently. We all continue to hate him a little more.

Continental GT Speed

How a W12 twin-turbo engine can help you grow more testicles.

It took me a while to write this damned drive review frankly because the 2.320-kg/5,115-pound Bentley GT Speed with its 625-horsepower/616-bhp W12 twin-turbo wonder mill just flat out leaves me wordless. I also came down with a severe cold and flu, plus I’ve been a little backed-up work-wise lately. But in this case I really did legitimately have to sit on this story for a while.

The GT Speed is so heavy, the engine is not direct-injected yet, and the fuel needle for the 90-litre (23.8-gallon) tank moves toward Empty right before my eyes. The Continental GT family of twelve-cylinder models is pure old school work and this famous “EA683” engine and powertrain as a whole need upgrading to bring them into the 21st century. They can justify having no direct injection and/or cylinder-on-demand for this W12 all they like, but I ain’t buying it.

But, on the other hand, the GT Speed kicks pure ass in a 12-cylinder style unlike almost any other car on the market. An equally old-school Aston Martin V12 Vanquish comes close to this. This is the fastest Bentley ever put in production, cruising under proper conditions at 330 km/h (205 mph) without sweating it much, and rocketing to 100 km/h (62 mph) under hard acceleration in just 4.2 seconds. But it’s in the middle gears between 100 and 260 km/h (62 and 160 mph) where this bastard machine rips my heart out most.

And Bentley did the right thing and brought me to south-central Germany for sheer speed runs on no-limit autobahn. The company is owned and run fully by the Germans anyway, so it’s (happily) their prerogative to do this. And I say thank goodness Bentley is no longer a stuffy British company producing things that generally break real good. Otherwise this test would have been done through the dainty rolling hills of middle England where the speed radars, cameras, and indignant villagers are planted thicker than eff-ing trees.

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The new GT Speed is a goddamned train, in the sense that anything this awesomely upper class and wasteful is literally damned by all the gods. I’m travelling at something around 180 mph outside of Munich in off-peak hours. With the aluminum accelerator of the 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed buried to its neck in the high-pile carpet of the floorboard, the 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 is at full BorgWarner boost to the power of two. The 616 horses pumping under that long hood set the German countryside to blur, and with the sprawling sheetmetal of the coupe settled comfortably onto its haunches in eager anticipation of ever more thrust, it’s clear this machine is content to consume endless miles of autobahn and never share with others at the table.

Cows in nearby fields are mashing into a beef smoothie and all other cars are just sitting still in the two right lanes as the hands in the Breitling clock on the upper dash are moving backward in time. There’s no looking anywhere other than to the horizon, but even so, it’s clear that if something goes wrong at this velocity, I ain’t never goin’ this velocity – or any velocity – ever again.. And, sure as shit, an Opel Corsa strays into my lane for no other reason than to scare me straight in someone else’s $220,725 supercar.

I’ve been in this dilemma before and in right about this spot on Germany’s fine system of autobahns. All I can say is g’bless huge carbon ceramic brake discs and their initial bite; every yard of shorter braking distance was required here. The optional $13,600 units were on my tester and help shed 45 pounds of unsprung weight over all four corners. The 16.5-inch front carbon ceramic discs have the distinction of being the largest of their kind on any production vehicle in the world, and they’re pressed by eight-piston calipers. Out back, the 13.1-inch carbon rotors get squeezed by four piston clamps. As standard equipment, the GT Speed makes use of 15.9-inch cast iron rotors at the nose and 13.1-inch units in the tail.

I and my red redness of GT Speed were successfully stopped before my glorious white teeth became forcibly imbedded in the cranium of the Corsa driver. And I have once again mocked death and destruction for the benefit of writing a drive review that may not have been worth all this pursuit of death. When will I ever learn? Mwah-hah-hah-hah…

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It will take a perverse Bentley stalker to differentiate the 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed from the rest of the Continental family. Subtle exterior tweaks like a new dark-mesh grille, 10-spoke 21-inch wheels and rifled exhaust outlets are just about all that set this machine apart from its more common kin outside. The new GT Speed is nonetheless 7.5 percent more aerodynamically slippery than the last generation. But the quiet changes outside hide substantial alterations beneath. It took Bentley three years to create the new Continental GT Speed with substantial tweaks to the machine’s drivetrain, cooling system, aerodynamics, brakes and chassis. The result is the fastest production vehicle to ever wear the family name.

Indoors, I always prefer to see the company’s superb wood trim work at play in the cabin. It takes Bentley’s team of woodworkers 17-25 man hours to craft a matching set of wood veneer trim for Continental, and the finished product looks good enough to lick. Wood trim is a standard alternative to the aluminum gear.

Otherwise, the cabin remains the same sumptuous nest of the nouveau riche we’ve always known and loved. The full 9 to 10 matched bull hides are all in attendance from headliner to kick panel and everywhere in between, and the cockpit remains impressively quiet even well above the triple digit barrier.

The manufacturer’s engineers allowed the twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 engine wiggle room. The company scrapped the mill’s old engine management system for the new Bosch ME17 platform. Capable of dishing out up to 180 million calculations per second, this new tech allows the big grand tourer to more accurately manage the engine’s fuel system, turbochargers and spark for optimum power and efficiency. The machine’s full 590 pound-feet of torque piles on from just 2,000 rpm and plateaus all the way to just past 4,000 rpm, while the breadth of the 616 horsepower steps out at 6,000 rpm.

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Speaking of the transmission, Bentley took the popular eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF into a shift whore capable of ripping off gear changes in one tenth of a second. A typical dual-clutch unit can swap its cogs in around .2 of a second. Stick the shifter in manual mode, click through the awkwardly placed column-mounted paddles and the GT Speed will oblige with quicker-than-you-can-think swaps. The result is a gearbox that’s always ready to plant the full grunt of the big W12 on the machine’s all-wheel-drive system.

The drivetrain can hustle the 5,115-pound GT Speed to 62 mph in a scant four seconds flat, and according to Bentley, the 100-mph barrier falls in nine seconds even. Almost like a train, sure enough.

No escaping the fact that the new stud in the Bentley stable is a portly steed, but engineers managed to cut some 385 lbs from the standard Continental GT W12. That’s thanks in part to the use of copious amounts of aluminum, including in the hood and trunk lid, though there are other tricks at play as well. The new 21-inch wheels, for example, are 15-percent lighter than any other 10-spoke on the company’s option sheet while remaining 79-percent stiffer.

Bentley also paid special attention to firming up the vehicle’s suspension. The machine is now 45-percent stiffer up front and 33-percent firmer in the rear thanks to revised springs, dampers, bushings and a larger rear sway bar. In addition, the sporting Continental rides almost half an inch lower than the standard W12 model and the machine’s continuous damping control automatically firms up the ride further as the speed increases.

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Over 130 mph – YEAH, copper! – the GT Speed feels solid and poised, even as the speedometer reaches for the right side of the dash. A special hidden spoiler tucked just under the rear glass deploys at speeds over 87 mph to increase downforce. Likewise, a ZF steering rack delivers less and less assist as speeds increase, helping to give the GT Speed confident composure even during the very most overly confident and least composed human moments.

I was loving how the two-pipe exhaust was popping and percolating in tight two-lanes or in town, especially while in the beloved Sport mode. Great off-throttle orchestras careened off the walls and rock faces. But the shifting game when left in Sport also creates a rather yippy behaviour at lower speeds and rev counts. But, hell, it’s a GT Speed, Clyde. Get over that crap.

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