What is it?
The only way to convey you and three friends to over 200mph, Bentley billing its new Continental GT Speed Convertible as the ‘fastest four-seat convertible in the world’. With its quoted 202mph maximum they might be right, just don’t try it if you want to remain friends with those rear seat passengers.
Unsurprisingly the changes to the Speed Convertible echo those made to its coupe sibling. So Bentley’s 6-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine sees its output increased to 616bhp and 590lb ft, while the chassis engineers have busied themselves adding sharpness to the dynamic package.
The front/rear torque split remains at 40/60, while there’s a ride height drop of 10mm, stiffer springs front and rear, new suspension bushes, anti-roll bars and revisions to Bentley’s four-way adjustable damping system. Torsional stiffness inevitably drops slightly over its coupe sibling, while weight increases, that multi-layered, beautifully insulated folding fabric roof adding 175kg to the already ample 2320kg kerbweight of its coupe relation.
What’s it like to drive?
We weren’t given opportunity to aim for the double ton, so that 202mph top speed remains academic, though believable given the way the W12 muscles its bulk around. The coupe's 0-60mph time only climbs by 0.1sec to 4.1sec, the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox busy, but largely imperceptible, in its shifting. The Convertible’s additional weight only really punishes it at higher velocities where it trails the coupe by 0.7sec on the 0-100mph sprint.
What does manifest itself is the GT Speed Convertible’s loss of roof. Naturally it’s draughtier, and the W12’s rich notes are more accessible with the roof down, but it’s so snug with the roof up inside the GT Speed Convertible’s finely finished interior you really could forget its open-topped billing. All except for a slight patter through the steering, that is, an effect that’s exacerbated by the stiffer choices on the variable dampers - it not being so obvious when you set them to Comfort. Do so and it loses little of its agility, the infinitesimal loss of control worth it for the ride benefit.
Given its mass is great enough to produce a gravitational pull, the steering offers surprising delicacy once pushed through its initial weighty straight ahead - that heavy feeling underlining Bentley’s quest for rock-solid high speed stability. Indeed, at anything approaching law regarding velocities the Bentley feels utterly resolute everywhere, and even well into court-visiting cornering and highway speeds it remains crushingly effective.
How does it compare?
The Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible operates in a difficult category to find true rivals for. Aston Martin’s DB9 Volante is the sharper, more involving choice, but lacks the Bentley’s impeccable credentials as a big GT. Nothing at this price touches it for interior luxury either, even if the V8-engined non-Speed Continental GTC is the sharper, more interesting car to drive - if not as quick.
Anything else I need to know?
Not really, though if you want a faster-still Bentley Continental GT the people from Crewe have admitted the Supersports badge isn’t dead, while a GT3 model (likely based on the V8) to celebrate the firm’s return to racing will also expand the range soon.
Video of the Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible in action...