Bentley Motors displays combine elements of the ancient world with those present day. Since its inception over a century ago, the manufacturer has been at the vanguard of automotive elegance and performance. While the company has continuously evolved to meet the demands of the times, traditional, tactile coachbuilding has remained at the heart of its philosophy.
This romanticized picture of automobile manufacture seems to be at odds with our present level of technical innovation and the expectations of today’s luxury customers.
If there’s one thing Bentley has perfected, it’s keeping up with the times while remaining true to his vintage songs. For example, the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed, a powerful two-door grand tourer unlike any other vehicle on the road today, is perhaps the most acceptable illustration.
Nuts and bolts
The Bentley Continental GT is the two-door counterpart of the Bentley Continental Flying Spur sedan, which has four doors. Aside from certain standard features, the GT is much more than a scaled-down version of the bigger vehicle. It differentiates itself in terms of design and performance, among other aspects.
The GT’s centerpiece is a 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 engine, a gigantic power unit that stands out in an age when engines are diminishing (or perhaps disappearing) in size and power. The Speed is powered by this unique technology, which generates 650 horsepower, a 24 horsepower increase over the basic Conti GT W12. It produces an astounding 664 pound-feet of torque, sent via an eight-speed automatic transmission with twin clutches.
Power is distributed to all four wheels, and an improved chassis system puts it all to good use.
For Bentley Motors Ltd., Mike Sayer is the head of product communications. “Our chassis engineers have an incredible array of technology at their disposal, which allows them to give the car genuine duality in ride and handling, which can be controlled by the driver using Drive Dynamics Control,” Sayer said in an interview with TechCrunch. Three-chamber air springs with three different spring stiffnesses are used to allow for the chassis to be modified to meet specific requirements.” In Sport mode, a single chamber is used in each air spring, resulting in a high spring stiffness and a low ride height. When the Comfort setting is selected, solenoid valves bring all three chambers into action at low pressure, resulting in a softer spring. “We then add Bentley Dynamic Ride, which is our 48V electric anti-roll control,” says the company.
This Speed generation introduces new technology to the GT for the first time, especially an electronic rear differential and rear-wheel steering, which were previously unavailable.
When driven dynamically, the E-diff distributes torque over the rear angle, allowing the vehicle to maintain balance and control during turn-in and cornering. The Flying Spur was the first vehicle equipped with rear-wheel steering, which allowed the full-sized luxury four-door to turn with more precision and maintain more excellent stability at high speeds. Its purpose on the GT Speed is to offer the two-door a tighter turning radius, and it is far more active on this vehicle than it is on the sedan.
All in all, the more than 5,000-pound GT is capable of sailing at speeds of up to 208 mph, rocketing off the line to reach 60 mph in only 3.5 seconds, something that most automobiles without the luxurious amenities of a cruise liner struggle to manage.
Bentley sprinkles in tech
Bentley automobiles are distinguished by their distinctive design.
A significant portion of the car’s assembly is done by hand. Although certain activities are mechanized, only a few components do not get the attention of a master craftsperson throughout the process. The inside is lavishly decorated with fine leather and genuine wood surfaces that vary from burr walnut to rare, organically fallen redwood in various shades.
Every part of the interior, including the seats and steering wheel, is hand-stitched, and the weighty metal switches are knurled in a diamond-pattern design.
In addition, Sayer noted that the knurling used on the central rotary controls took 18 months to develop. It required the development of an algorithm to accurately describe the angle at which each of the facets of the knurling is angled. “This demonstrates the level of attention that was paid to every detail,” he said. This opulent, precisely constructed interior is the backdrop for a high degree of contemporary technology, seamlessly interwoven into the overall design.
As one would expect from a contemporary luxury automobile buyer, a 12.3-inch touchscreen is located in the middle of the dashboard, and it is capable of performing everyday activities. It serves as a navigation and entertainment hub and a control interface for various vehicle-related operations. Drivers may personalize their favorite throttle and steering settings, increase the suspension for a few inches of more clearance, and consult the whole driver’s handbook if necessary, among other options.
In conjunction with the touchscreen, an all-digital gauge cluster can be modified to show much of the same information as the touchscreen. There’s also a heat-based night vision option that illuminates the area in front of the vehicle for safer nighttime operation. This system also has integrated pedestrian recognition, which means that any people observed in the dark are marked with a red box.
The high-resolution panels include visuals that have been tailored to make them less noticeable when compared to all of the honest artistry on display.
As Sayer said, “the design of the visuals for those gauges was subjected to the same level of attention to detail as the actual components.” “In addition to that, our approach involves the retention of tactile, haptic buttons, and rotary controls in place of many touchscreens.”
If the screen is still too much for you, the screen may be tucked away within the panel and replaced with three analog gauges: a clock, a compass, and an air temperature sensor. A smidgeon of in-car gadgetry theater, perhaps? Perhaps, but another way of looking at it is that it is, in a sense, future-proofing the inside of the car. If we look at it aesthetically, the remainder of the cabin will age much more gracefully than the display, and having a way to tuck it away fits with the accommodating attitude of this premium grand tourer.
It’s easy to be dazzled when first getting behind the wheel of the GT Speed, thanks to the glittering chrome and glossy exterior, but the car quickly demonstrates how driver-focused it is right from the start of the engine.
To boost situational awareness, drivers may use features such as a head-up display and traffic sign recognition. At the same time, lane keeps assisting, and adaptive cruise control eases the stress on lengthy drives. Although convenient, the GT Speed is most satisfying when used to its maximum potential.
When the W12 engine’s tone rumbles out the rear of the exhaust, it’s blustery and thunderous in its delivery. It feels and sounds like speeding in one of the single-engine fighter jets that the GT Speed shares a heritage with when you step on the pedal. That is the extent of the parallels since everything else is far from being out of date. The engine’s power delivery is smooth but powerful, and there’s a long way to go before encountering any drop-off in performance, albeit getting there demands a stretch of open highway.
For example, the GT Speed is similar to the Flying Spur in that it feels heavy and grounded, much like a steam locomotive, and when it comes time to take a tight bend, this causes a significant amount of reluctance. However, if you can muster up some confidence and daring, the GT Speed is an exhilarating vehicle.
When a winding back road reveals itself, the automobile performs at its peak. Although Bentley’s size and weight are still noticeable, the active technology at work allows it to negotiate curves with confidence. But the delight lessens as the challenges increase in difficulty, and no amount of physics-bending innovation can mask the car’s massive weight. These are the occasions when you make a mental note to return with something smaller and more agile in the future.
Regardless of whether the GT is in sport or comfort mode, the pace at which the dual-clutch gearbox shifts between ratios is almost smooth, providing enthusiastic drivers with the power they want while delivering cruising drivers with a little more tranquility and comfort. The GT Speed does not make a single mistake on the highway or as a daily driver, making the almost $274,000 price tag seem justified. At the very least, one would hope.
From the perspective of its competitors, the GT Speed does stand out, not because there aren’t enough sporty luxury coupes on the market, but because it does the same task in a distinctively different way. Because segment heavyweights BMW and Mercedes-Benz cannot match the degree of extravagance and exclusivity provided by the Bentley, anything comparably dynamic would still be considered inferior. The AMG S63 Coupe comes close in handling and power, and it has a lower starting price ($173,100), even though it is in the same weight class as the Continental GT Speed. Continental GT Speed outperforms it on every level.
The Rolls-Royce Wraith, its not-too-distant relative, is the closest counterpart to a genuine challenger. Aside from its equally loaded luxury heritage and exclusivity, the Wraith is equipped with its whopper of a power unit, a 6.6-liter V12 that produces 624 horsepower. This two-door grand tourer has a price tag of $300,000, which is comparable to the GT Speed’s, and it can do similar tricks to the GT Speed in terms of acceleration and cruising comfort.
Like everything else in life, the future is unpredictable regarding how Bentley intends to sustain this combination of old and modern. As history has shown, the key is to plan.
“First and foremost, the product line will be hybridized – we’ve already introduced hybrid versions of the Bentayga and Flying Spur, and the Continental family will follow suit shortly after. “We’ll next introduce the first Bentley BEV in 2025, to make Bentley an all-electric brand by 2030,” Sayer said.
The Bentley Continental GT Speed, a near-anachronistic luxury behemoth that sets the benchmark in its sector while marching to its own thunderous 12 cylinder engine, is still available for purchase for now. The pinnacle of Bentley’s tenacious commitment to keeping to what they do best while being adaptable enough to evolve with the times.