Bentley Motors stand It dominates the ancient world and the modern age. For more than a century, the automaker has been at the forefront of luxury and performance cars, and while it has continually adapted to change over the years, making classic, tactile vehicles has always been its ethos.
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 anything Bentley has perfected, it’s in keeping with the times while sticking to the classic hits. The best example of this is the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed, a powerful two-door touring car unlike any other on the road today.
Nuts and bolts
The Bentley Continental GT is the two-door sister to the four-door Bentley Continental Flying Spur sedan. Although it shares many elements, the GT is more than a half version of the larger car, and differentiates itself in design and performance, among other factors.
The GT’s hub is the W12’s 6.0-liter twin-turbo, a massive power unit that’s a unique exception in the era of shrinking (or already vanishing) engines. This distinctive system produces 650 horsepower for the top speed, 24 horsepower from the standard Conti GT W12. It distributes an impressive 664 pound-feet of torque and is sent via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
Power is sent through all four wheels while the improved chassis system makes use of it all.
Mike Sayer, Head of Product Communications for Bentley Motors Ltd, told TechCrunch, “Our chassis engineers have an amazing array of technologies at their disposal, to give the vehicle a true duality of ride and handling, and is driver-controlled with Drive Dynamics Control.” . “To enable the chassis to be versatile, we use three-chamber pneumatic springs, which allow for three distinct rigid springs. In Sport mode, one chamber is used on each air spring, providing high stiffness for the spring. In Comfort mode, solenoid valves actuate all The three chambers, with reduced pressure, providing softer springs. To this we add next the Bentley Dynamic Ride – the 48V electric anti-roll control system.”
This iteration of speed brings some new technology to the GT for the first time, specifically the electronic rear differential and rear-wheel steering.
For the E-diff, this distributes torque across the rear corner to give it balance and control during cornering when driving in a sporty fashion. Rear-wheel steering was first applied to the Flying Spur to give the full-size four-door luxury sedan a narrower turning radius as well as enhanced stability at speed. In GT Speed, it’s meant to give the two-door car a sharper turn and be more active in this car than in a sedan.
Finally, the 5,000-pound GT can cruise at up to 208 mph, zipping off the line to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds, something that cruise ship-less luxury-equipment cars struggle with. order to achieve it.
Bentley manifests itself in technology
Inside the Continental GT Speed is a carefully crafted cabin that has been a hallmark of Bentley cars.
Much of the car is assembled by hand, and while there are some automated tasks, there are quite a few items that don’t get much attention from craftsmen. The interior is filled with luxurious leather and real wood surfaces that range from walnut to rare, naturally cut redwoods.
All elements of the seat and steering wheel are hand-stitched, and the massive metal switches are decorated with knurling with a diamond pattern.
“The knurling used on the rotary master controls took 18 months to develop, and involved creating an algorithm to accurately describe the method of knurling angles,” highlighting the degree of emphasis given to each detail, Sayer added. This ornate and meticulously built interior is the setting for a high degree of modern technology, yet perfectly integrated.
A 12.3-inch touch screen can be found in the center of the dashboard, as buyers of modern luxury cars expect, and it performs the usual functions. It is the source for navigation and entertainment, as well as an interface to many of the vehicle’s functions. Drivers can customize their preferred throttle and steering settings, raise the suspension for a few inches of extra clearance and access the full driver’s manual if needed.
This is coupled 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 to improve nighttime driving. This system also has a built-in pedestrian recognition system, so anyone encountered at night is marked by a red square.
The high-resolution screens feature graphics designed to mitigate their juxtaposition with all tactile craftsmanship.
“The graphics design for those scales was subject to the same attention to detail as the hardware,” Sayer said. “Moreover, our ethos includes retaining physical buttons and rotary controls rather than multi-touch screens.”
If too much technology continues to be unsustainable, the screen collapses away into the panel and is replaced by three analog gauges; Clock, compass and air temperature monitor. A touch of in-car gadget theater? Perhaps, but another way to look at it is to somehow protect the car’s interior in the future. Aesthetically, the rest of the cabin will age much better than the show, and having a way of keeping it out of sight matches the fitting nature of this luxury touring vehicle.
Sitting at the wheel of the GT Speed can be a little dazzling at first due to the bright chrome and polished veneer, but it’s easy to show how focused the driver is on it from the moment of ignition.
Assistance such as the head-up display and traffic sign recognition are available to improve situational awareness, and on long trips, Lane Keep Assist and adaptive cruise control lighten some of the burden. Comfortable, although the GT Speed is more useful when in full gear.
The W12 engine is noisy and raucous when its tunes roll in from the back of the exhaust. Stepping on the throttle feels like it’s accelerating in the single-engine fighter jets that the GT Speed shares pedigree with. That’s as far as the similarities go because everything else is far from outdated. The power delivery is smooth but powerful, and there are plenty of routes to take before encountering any drop, although getting to this point requires a length of unrestricted highway.
In this respect, the GT Speed mirrors the Flying Spur in terms of its sense of heft and grounding like a steam locomotive, and when it’s time to take a sharp turn, this results in a significant degree of hesitation. Gain some confidence and courage, and the speed of the GT will be surprisingly dynamic.
The car is at its best in those moments when a windy back road appears. Its size and weight are still evident, but the active-play technology allows the Bentley to turn around corners with confidence. The fun wanes as things get increasingly difficult, however, and not all physics rigging engineering can hide the car’s heft. It’s in those moments when you make a mental note to come back with something smaller and more vibrant.
Regardless of whether it’s sport or comfort, the speed at which the GT’s dual-clutch transmission zips through the gears is almost smooth, giving spirited drivers the power they need and adding a touch of calm to the drivers. On the highway or as a daily driver, the GT Speed doesn’t miss a foot, making the $274,000 price tag well worth it. One can hope, at least.
From the competitors’ point of view, GT Speed stands largely alone, not because of the lack of a luxury sports coupe, but because of the unique way it carries out the same task. BMW and Mercedes-Benz can’t properly match the level of opulence and exclusivity offered by Bentley, so anything equally dynamic would still be understated. In terms of handling and power, the AMG S63 Coupe comes close at a relatively lower price tag ($173,100), but even though it’s in the same weight class, the Continental GT Speed does it better.
For a real competitor, its not-so-distant cousin, the Rolls-Royce Wraith is the closest. In addition to the similarly stacked luxury and exclusive pedigree, the Wraith has its own massive power unit engine, 624 hp 6.6 liter V12. This big two-door Tourer has an equally impressive $300,000 price tag and can pull off similar tricks that the GT Speed can offer in terms of acceleration and smoothness.
As with anything, the future is uncertain as to how Bentley plans to continue this old and new union. As the past has proven, it plans for the future.
First, the range of products will be integrated – we have already launched hybrid versions of the Bentayga and the Flying Spur, and the Continental family will follow. We will then launch the first Bentley BEV in 2025, before Bentley becomes an all-electric brand by 2030,” Sayer said.
For now, we still have the Bentley Continental GT Speed, a semi-obsolete luxury powertrain that sets the standard in its class while cruising to the beat of its stunning 12-cylinder engine. It’s the culmination of Bentley’s tireless commitment to sticking to what it does best while still being resilient enough to bend in the winds of change.