BENTLEY'S MOST POWERFUL convertible ever - the Continental GTC Speed - has arrived in Australian showrooms, bringing with it a thundering 448kW W12 engine and the ability to hit 312km/h... with the roof down.
It also carries a number of aesthetic revisions to mark it out as the company's quickest drop-top. With its reshaped grille, headlamp bezels, recontoured front air dam and subtle rear bootlip spoiler, the GTC Speed carries a distinctive air of class about it.
Drop the hammer though, and class takes a back seat. Under the bonnet is the same 6.o litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine as the Continental GT Speed and Flying Spur Speed - the most powerful production car engine Bentley has ever built.
The 0-100km/h sprint takes just 4.5 seconds, 0-160km/h is demolished in 10.5 seconds and top speed is 322km/h with the roof up. For something that weighs more than most off-roaders, this is one seriously quick machine.
The ZF six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system are carried over from the regular GTC, and drivers can elect to shift cogs using the steering column-mounted paddles, the gearlever or simply let it do its own thing in automatic mode.
A Torsen centre differential controls the amount of torque split between the front and rear wheels, and helps keep the GTC Speed's voluminous power output reined in. An advanced stability control program also does its part to keep the big convertible out of the weeds.
Enormous 420mm carbon-ceramic brake rotors are a cost option, and haul up the GTC Speed with nary a hint of fade. Lower and stiffer suspension hardware also features on the Speed, and Pirelli PZero UHP tyres measuring a sizable 275mm across are the standard rubber.
On the inside, "Speed" emblazoned sill plates and drilled alloy pedals signify this as the sports model, while a three-spoke leather-bound steering wheel and diamond quilted leather seats cosset the driver.
A special car then? You bet. And considering it sits at the top of the Continental tree (at least until the Continental Supersports arrives on the scene), it'll have a price tag that reflects that. Give your local Bentley dealer a call to find out how much.
Now, the introduction of the new GTC range builds on this success with a subtle evolution of its distinctive style and a range of technical and feature enhancements benefiting comfort and customer choice. The appeal of the GTC is further strengthened by the addition of the new 600bhp (610PS) GTC Speed model. It is Bentleyâ€™s most powerful convertible ever and inspired by Bentleyâ€™s legendary â€˜Speed Modelsâ€™ from the 1920s.
The new GTC models share a fresh frontal appearance. The radiator grille is more upright with a more pronounced square edge, accentuating the Bentley profile, and bolder lower air intake. These latest models are further distinguished by chrome headlamp bezels, the availability of two new exterior paints and a new colour hide.
For the standard GTC, new low-friction dampers provide improved ride comfort. In addition, two significant new options may be specified on both GTC models: lightweight, fade-resistant, carbon-ceramic brakes, the largest production passenger car brakes in the world, and a sophisticated follow-to-stop Adaptive Cruise Control system with long-range radar sensor that monitors traffic ahead and manages throttle and brakes to maintain a driver-selected time gap.
The GTCâ€™s chassis and exceptionally rigid steel body have proved more than capable of coping with the power of the 552bhp (560PS) 6-litre W12 engine. For the new Continental GTC Speed, Bentleyâ€™s twin-turbocharged W12 now develops 600bhp (610PS) that delivers true 200 mph (322 km/h) performance, with the roof up, with exhilarating, effortless acceleration. Even with the roof down the GTC Speed can reach 195 mph (312 km/h).
The Continental GTC Speed is visually distinguished by subtle design enhancements which emphasise its higher performance credentials. At the front, the radiator and lower air intake grilles feature a dark tinted matrix as standard. Larger diameter 9.5J x 20-inch, multi-spoke alloy wheels with Bentley-bespoke Pirelli PZero ultra-high performance (UHP) tyres, lowered and uprated suspension, wider twin-rifled exhaust tail pipes and a new boot-mounted lip spoiler that enhances high speed aerodynamics, reinforce the sporting character of the Speed model.
The GTC Speedâ€™s 600bhp (610PS) W12 engine develops 9 per cent more power than the standard GTC. However, it is the 15 per cent increase in torque that really distinguishes the Speed model, which now develops an impressive output of 750 Nm (553lb ft). This is achieved across virtually the complete rev range, from just 1700 to 5600 rev/min, delivering that characteristic Bentley wave of torque.
The 0-60 mph sprint is despatched in a mere 4.5 seconds (0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds) and 0-100 mph in 10.6 seconds (0-160 km/h in 10.5 seconds).
The GT Speed coupe, which debuted in 2007, has become the top selling GT model across the globe. This was followed in summer 2008 by the 4-door Continental Flying Spur Speed. Now, the Speed family is completed with the introduction of the GTC Speed, which is expected to account for up to two-thirds of GTC sales worldwide in its first year of production.
Bentley Chairman and Chief Executive, Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen explains the rationale behind the GTC Speed:
â€œThe Continental GTC is an elegant Grand Touring convertible in the Bentley tradition, exciting the emotions with its distinctive blend of performance, luxury, craftsmanship and modernity. The GTC Speed completes the family of Continental Speed models and broadens the appeal of the GTC to customers who demand a more focused, open-top driving experience.â€