Bentley Motors stands straddle the old world and the modern era. For more than a century, the automaker has been at the forefront of luxury and automotive performance, and although it has constantly adapted to change over the years, the classic and tactile bodywork has always remained. his philosophy.
This romantic view of automobile manufacturing seems almost at odds with our current level of technological advancement and the demands of the modern luxury consumer.
If Bentley has mastered anything, it is with the times while remaining faithful to the classics. The best example of this is the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed, a powerful two-door grand touring car unlike any other car on the road today.
Nuts and bolts
The Bentley Continental GT is the two-door sister of the four-door Bentley Continental Flying Spur sedan. Although they share many elements, the GT is much more than a halved version of the bigger car and stands out for its design and performance, among other factors.
The centerpiece of the GT is a 6.0-liter biturbo W12 engine, a massive power unit that is a unique outlier in this era of shrinking (or disappearing) engines. This signature system produces 650 horsepower for the Speed, a bump of 24 horsepower over the standard Conti GT W12. It delivers an impressive 664 pound-feet of torque and is transmitted to an eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Power is transmitted to all four wheels while an improved chassis system does everything.
“Our chassis engineers have an incredible range of technologies at their disposal, to give the car a true dual ride and handling, and controlled by the driver using Drive Dynamics Control,” Mike Sayer told TechCrunch. , Head of Product Communications at Bentley Motors Ltd. . “To allow the chassis to vary, we use three-chamber air springs, which allow three distinct spring stiffnesses. In Sport mode, a single chamber in each air spring is used, providing high spring stiffness. In Comfort, the solenoid valves bring into play the three chambers, at low pressure, offering a more flexible spring. To that, we then add Bentley Dynamic Ride, our 48V electric anti-roll control.
This iteration of the Speed brings new technology to the GT for the first time, in particular an electronic rear differential and rear wheel steering.
For the E-diff, this distributes the torque over the rear angle to give it balance and control when cornering during sporty driving. Rear-wheel steering was first applied in the Flying Spur to give the full-size luxury four-door a tighter turning radius as well as improved stability at high speeds. On the GT Speed it is intended to give a sharper turn to both doors and is much more active on this car than on the sedan.
In total, the 5,000-plus-pound GT can cruise up to 208 mph, skyrocketing to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds, which cars without the luxury equipment of a cruise ship have. hard to achieve.
Bentley sprinkles with technology
Inside the Continental GT Speed is a carefully designed interior which has been a signature element of Bentley vehicles.
A substantial amount of the car’s assembly is done by hand, and while there are some automated tasks, there are very few items that don’t get the attention of a master craftsman. The interior is filled with premium leather and real wood surfaces ranging from burl walnut to rare naturally felled redwood.
The seat elements and steering wheel are all hand-sewn, and the large metal switches are marked with diamond-shaped knurling.
“The knurling used on the main rotary controls took 18 months to develop and involved the creation of an algorithm to accurately describe how the facets of the knurl are tilted,” Sayer added, noting the degree of focus given to every detail. This ornate and meticulously constructed interior is the setting for a high degree of modern technology, and yet everything is very well integrated.
A 12.3-inch touchscreen sits in the center of the dashboard, as a buyer of modern luxury cars would expect, and it performs the usual functions. It is the source of navigation and entertainment, as well as the interface to several vehicle functions. Drivers can customize their preferred throttle and steering settings, increase the suspension by a few inches of extra space, and access the full owner’s manual if needed.
This is paired with a fully digital gauge cluster that can also be customized to reflect much of the same information displayed on the touchscreen. There’s even a heat-based night vision option that highlights the area in front of the car for enhanced nighttime driving. This system has also integrated pedestrian recognition, so that anyone encountered at night is marked with a red frame.
The high-resolution displays feature graphics designed to tone down their juxtaposition with all tangible craftsmanship.
“The graphics design of these gauges has received the same attention to detail as the physical components,” said Sayer. “Beyond that, our philosophy includes retaining physical and haptic buttons and rotary controls instead of multiple touchscreens.”
In case it is still too technical to tolerate, the screen falls into the panel and is replaced by three analog gauges; a clock, a compass and an air temperature monitor. A touch of theater of on-board gadgets? Maybe, but another way of looking at it is to make the interior of a vehicle more durable in some way. Aesthetically speaking, the rest of the cabin will age much better than the screen, and having a method to hide it out of sight matches the accommodating nature of this grand touring luxury.
Sitting behind the wheel of the GT Speed can be a bit dazzling at first due to the shiny chrome and polished plating, but it’s quick to demonstrate just how focused the driver is right from the start.
Aids such as a heads-up display and traffic sign recognition are available to improve situational awareness, and on long journeys, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control take some of the stress out of the way. burden. Handy, although the GT Speed is more rewarding when fully engaged.
The W12 engine is rowdy and sonorous as its note rumbles through the rear of the exhaust. Pressing the accelerator feels like accelerating in the single-engine fighter jets with which the GT Speed shares a lineage. This is as far as the similarities go because everything else beyond is far from run down. Power delivery is smooth but powerful, and there’s quite a long way to go before you experience a dip, although to get to that point it takes unrestricted highway length.
In this regard, the GT Speed mirrors the Flying Spur in that it is heavy and on the ground like a steam locomotive, and when it is time to take a sharp turn, this leads to a great degree of reluctance. . Bring together a little confidence and bravery, however, and the GT Speed is surprisingly dynamic.
The car is at its best when there is a windy side road. Its size and weight are still palpable, but the active technology in play allows the Bentley to turn corners with confidence. However, the fun diminishes when the going gets harder, and not all the physical deformation engineering can hide the weight of the car. It’s those times when you make a mental note to come back with something smaller and more lively.
Whether it’s sport or comfort, the speed at which the GT’s dual-clutch transmission kicks in through the gears is nearly seamless, giving spirited drivers the power they need and those cruising a touches more serenity. On the highway or as a daily driver, the GT Speed doesn’t go wrong a foot, making the price tag of over $ 274,000 worth it. We could hope, at least.
From a competitor’s perspective, the GT Speed is largely self-sufficient, not because of a lack of sporty luxury coupes, but because of the unique way it performs the same mission. The mainstays of the BMW and Mercedes-Benz segment cannot rightly match the level of luxury and exclusivity that the Bentley offers, so anything that is also dynamic would always be less. In terms of handling and power, the AMG S63 Coupe comes close and comes at a relatively lower starting price ($ 173,100), but despite being in the same weight class, the Continental GT Speed Just does it better.
For a true competitor, its not too distant cousin, the Rolls-Royce Wraith is the closest match. Beyond its similar pedigree and luxury exclusivity, the Wraith sports its own power unit, a 6.6-liter V12 putting out 624 horsepower. This two-door grand tourer comes at an equally astounding price tag of $ 300,000 and can perform GT Speed-like laps in terms of acceleration and cruising smoothness.
As with everything, the future is uncertain as to how Bentley plans to continue this union of the old and the new. As the past has proven, it’s about planning ahead.
“First, the product line will be hybridized – we have already launched hybrid versions of the Bentayga and the Flying Spur, and the Continental family will follow suit. We will then launch the first Bentley BEV in 2025, before Bentley is an all-electric brand by 2030, ”said Sayer.
For now, we still have the Bentley Continental GT Speed, an almost anachronistic luxury powerhouse that sets the standard in its segment while running to the beat of its own 12-cylinder engine. It’s the culmination of Bentley’s stubborn dedication to sticking to what they do best while being flexible enough to bend in the winds of change.