Driving a beautiful Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible over a weekend was a dream come true for Gina Baksa
Dragon Red. Deliciously sexy. I’ve wanted to drive this car since I could walk. Catching sight of the incomparable Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible on my driveway was electrifying. So where to take my ultimate dream machine?
The Cotswolds have always held a special place in my heart. With its golden-hued stone houses and undulating landscapes, it was the perfect backdrop to test-drive one of the most coveted motorcars on the planet.
This sleek, sophisticated Bentley Grand Tourer 6.0-litre W12 took my breath away before I’d even opened her door. Those of you with equal Bentley bias will understand my visceral reaction to such an iconic British marque. It was lust at first sight for this beautiful 4-seater that will cost you a basic £185,200. The model I tested had every option imaginable, taking the price tag up to an eye-watering £223,795.
At this price point, you’d expect a lot of bang for your buck and Bentley provides it. Exterior aesthetics have been streamlined in this latest GT Speed Convertible: a new front bumper with smaller radiator shell, combined with slightly more pronounced fenders (replete with a metallic B on the vent) make for a smoother more aerodynamic line as it sweeps to its more muscular haunches and sculpted boot lid with wider rear bumper. A sexed up revision that gives the GT Speed a more assertive stance, especially with its full-width brightware and twin oval exhaust tailpipes for added Va Va Voom.
She’s a sturdy but sexy beast – that steel monocoque and aluminium front fenders giving a very definitive look. I especially love the classic Bentley lattice grille and coveted Bentley badge. Wheels are eye-catching sporty 21-inch, 5-spoke directional alloys with a dark tint, while the rubber is pure Pirelli.
Sliding into this Beluga leather-bound two-door haven of 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged luxury was orgasmic. The GT Speed oozes class and sophistication. Ergonomically improved front and rear leather seats – with their diamond quilted pattern in contrast red stitching – are easy to adjust and feel snug and comfortable. All the interior seats are stitched, shaped and finished entirely by hand, as is the (heated) sports steering wheel. Complete bespoke luxury and incredibly sexy. Noting the small but perfectly formed analogue Breitling clock on the dash it was time to start the engines.
The exquisite sound of those twelve cylinders bursting into life is one of life’s greatest pleasures (yes, I do need to get out more). The way this purring lioness begs you to notch up the revs and take her on an open road is breath-taking. A few hundred miles of autobahn would have provided the perfect location to test her top speed of 203mph. Alas, that will have to wait for now it was the more sedate M1, M40 and a multitude of Cotswold A-roads and country lanes that were calling this marvel of British engineering.
All controls are within easy reach and I loved the racing cabin feel and retro round speedo and rev counter dials. The circular theme is echoed in the air vents, which are all individually controlled and delightfully cooling. Temperature and fuel gauges are also round. New additions include an interior illuminated by bright LEDs, while the centre console features a new black gear lever surround. Alloy pedals, plush carpet – the kind of luxury you’d expect from Bentley – it’s all here. All-round visibility is excellent, aided by the rear camera.
There aren’t sufficient superlatives to describe the feeling of euphoria as I accelerated onto the M1 that sunny afternoon. This red GT Speed rocket launches from 0 to 60 in just 4.1 seconds. I took her from 20 to 70 on the motorway with a mighty G-Force oomph that gave my rear passengers an instant Croydon facelift. The thrill was visceral and so incredibly life-affirming (yes, I definitely need to get out more). Overtaking and moving lanes is a dream when you know you have this kind of power under the bonnet. I have never enjoyed cruise control but it’s here for you when you need it, handily situated on the steering column.
The suspension is amazing, thanks to the cars air springs with continuous damping control. Alarmingly, though, such is the GT Speed’s grace and carriage you can easily feel like you’re cruising at 70 mph, when in fact you’re nudging the ton. Something to be aware of in cop-and-camera infested British motorways.
The middle 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is clear and easy to operate, and there’s a mini-digital info display between the speedo and rev counter to help keep your eyes forward. The Bentley GT Speed has an 8-speed automatic gearbox (with paddles behind the steering wheel for semi-automatic drive) with permanent all-wheel drive. A great safety feature is that it will never automatically gear change when you’re on a roundabout.
While looking for the seat lever on my right-hand side, I accidentally turned on the heater and massage option – a most heavenly interruption that was better than some spa massages I’ve experienced. Fortunately this soothing option comes to a natural halt after 10 minutes, otherwise, I’d have lost concentration completely – not ideal at high speed. I also found the neck heater what a genius design!
Massages were on the agenda again that evening as we arrived at Champneys health spa near Tring. I’m not practised at driving on country lanes at dusk or after dark, so the GT Speed’s Bi-Xenon projector headlamps made the Bentley very visible and I felt very safe. The car has LED signature daylight running lamps and the rear lamps, as well as main beam are also LED.
We’d loaded the Bentley (aka Bertie) with two medium-sized suitcases, which meant leaving the windbreaker behind. At 260 litres, the boot space isn’t huge, but the GT Speed is hardly a family vehicle. After a little tussle to retrieve the tightly packed suitcases (advice: pack light) we made our way to reception and dinner.
Our treatment the next day was a wonderful Champneys sea and mineral treatment detox using the natural qualities of seawater, algae and marine minerals. Sheer heaven and a perfectly relaxing way to start Day Two of our Bentley Continental adventure.
Playing with the GT’s bells and whistles on the way to our next port of call – the delightful Manor hotel at Weston on the Green – my companion found a phone handset in the centre console armrest and also discovered a TV digital tuner, iPod and CD changer, onboard Wi-Fi and even a 30GB onboard hard drive. You’ll also find a DVD playback and SD card readers. All potential distractions for the driver, but perfect for passengers who have succumbed to scenery ennui, or as with my front-seat friend, forced to endure regular cries of “I love this car!”
The Naim music system provided a great aural accompaniment (bass is superb) for our fast drive along the M40. Once we’d left the motorway, I slid Bertie into Sports mode and instantly felt the harder, more responsive ride. The sound of the exciting, throatier engine growl is perfect for impressing car-loving bystanders as you cruise by at 20 or 30mph. Admittedly this did feel somewhat childish, but the sound of the engines is thrilling; I simply couldn’t resist.