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Bentley Speed is back

Speed is good for Bentley. It was very good in the 1920s, when a Speed badge signalled everything special about the British brand's sportiest models.

Now the Speed badge is back, with the promise of even more performance in Bentley's Continental GT and extra sales to boost its success in the 21st century.

Bentley says the Continental GT Speed is the most powerful production model in the company's history and the first car capable of topping 322km/h, or 200 miles an hour.

The W12 engine has been tweaked for more power and torque, the body has been pumped and the cabin can be ordered with carbon-fibre trim in place of Bentley's traditional wood.

The bottom line is simple, 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and a top of 326km/h.

The price is not decided, but the waiting list has already formed, despite predictions of a 10 per cent increase over the $375,000 for a regular Continental GT in Australia.

And the reason for the car?

“The GT is very capable, but there is an audience that wants something a little quicker, more powerful and more sporty,” the spokesman for Bentley in the Asia-Pacific region, James Barclay, says from Singapore. “The car has the ability, and the opportunity to do this.”

The GT Speed has just been previewed in Europe and will be seen in Australia for the first time at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney next month, ahead of sales from early next year.

“The first cars will be in the first quarter. We've only just announced it and started taking orders,” Barclay says.

“To have the ultimate is always the attraction for a lot of people and that is why we have the Continental GT Speed.

“Many customers say they want a car with more of a performance edge.”

The edge in the new model comes with a 15 per cent torque boost and 9 per cent more power from the engine, lighter internal components and a tweaked engine-management system.

The suspension has been tightened and the 9.5x20 alloy rims fitted with high-speed tyres. Carbon-ceramic brakes are an option.

The suspension tweaking included lowering the body, fitting better springs and dampers, larger anti-roll bars and Pirelli P-Zero tyres.

The tweaked servotronic steering has been given a solid-mounted front subframe and stiffer rear bushes. Even the Bosch stability control has been fiddled to allow more room for the driver to play.

The look is still subtle, though it has a dark-tinted grille and large sports tailpipes.

Bentley says it is also updating the regular Continental GT, giving it less weight, a 3.5 per cent cut in fuel consumption and emissions, new low-friction dampers and slight changes to the front-end styling.

But the emphasis is on the Speed as a range of new rivals, including the coming Porsche Panamera, put pressure on contenders at the top of the sports and luxury-car business.

“There is a historical relevance for us with the naming of many cars from Bentley's history,” Barclay says.

“The 3.0-litre Speed model was the first car to use the name in 1923. We are talking a long time ago, but the Speed models are an important part of Bentley's heritage.

“The name has been dormant for a while so it's great to bring it back.”

But there is still one big question. Will Bentley show a need for Speed in other models in its line-up?

“At this stage it's only confirmed for the GT. Time will tell,” Barclay says.


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