The new Bentley Continental Speed is a refreshingly real-world supercar

Rory FH Smith

15 September 2021

Despite being the most souped-up Bentley on offer, the 2021 Continental Speed has been engineered to deliver a highly accessible ride, in both GT and GTC form  

Its ability to switch between comfortable cross-continental cruiser and raucous B-road racer make the Speed a surprisingly practical choice for everyday driving

15 September 2021 | Rory FH Smith

T

he word ‘speed’ isn’t usually applied to things that weigh close to two-and-a-half metric tonnes. The combination sounds a little contradictory, don’t you think? But, in many ways, that’s the beauty of Bentleys – they’re wonderfully incongruous. As is the new flagship Bentley Continental Speed.

Available in both coupe (GT) and convertible (GTC) form, the Speed is the latest and most dynamic Bentley on offer. Weighing in at 2.4-tonnes (2.3 for the coupe), the grand tourer, handmade at the marque's factory in Crewe, sports all the trimmings – and more – that Continental buyers have become accustomed to. Only it has a particular penchant for, er, speed.

After first appearing in 2007, the Speed name has been reserved for only the fastest Bentleys and has since been applied to the Continental, Bentayga SUV and the late Mulsanne limousine, which ceased production in 2020. After the new Continental made its debut in 2018, the latest version of Bentley’s grand tourer was given the full Speed treatment earlier this year. 

On the outside, the Speed has been treated to carbon trim on the sills, front and rear bumpers (should you choose to spec it), a darker radiator grille up front and, of course, multiple Speed badges to set it apart from the regular Continental GT and GTC.

In each corner sit 22″ Speed wheels, which can be specced in bright silver, with the option of a dark tint or black gloss finish. Inside, the Continental's comfortable and cosseting interior makes a welcome return, albeit with new touches – such as obligatory Speed badging, quilted leather as standard and two-tone colours for the hide and Alcantara.

While the car's styling upgrades are subtle, its performance is anything but. Despite its weight, the Continental Speed does exactly what it says on the tin. From a standing start, both the coupe and convertible will top 60mph in 3.5 seconds with the help of launch control, and progress to a top speed of 208mph. Sporting the marque's revered 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged W12 engine, the Speed has an extra 24bhp over the regular W12-engined Continental, which increases the total available power to 650bhp.

Still, despite the performance upgrades, Bentley acknowledges the Speed isn't exactly a track-day car. Instead, the latest Continental was designed as the ultimate grand tourer, capable of taking on a variety of surfaces and conditions, all while maintaining Bentley-levels of refinement on the inside.

"The main objective was to not compromise on the comfort of this car, but to stretch the envelope of the charisma," says Florian Sprenger, Bentley's Head of Chassis Engineering. "We added an extra bit of agility and sportiness to the car, through the rear-wheel steering, the electronic limited slip differential and the optional carbon-ceramic brakes... the result is a fun-to-drive car, which is very adjustable, very controllable and very capable, not only on a track, but also on the public road," he adds.

Out on the open road, the enhancements are noticeable. While the standard GT is already a comfortable and capable grand tourer, the Speed adds another level of enjoyment on the B-road blast, with the rear-wheel steering and trick electronic differential (a first for Bentley) making the two-tonne cruiser feel impossibly nimble.

The optional 440mm diameter carbon-ceramic brakes are a valuable addition, scrubbing off speed and helping to keep the car in check through the corners. By switching between Bentley's four driving modes (Comfort, Sport, Bentley and Custom) via a rotary switch located on the centre console, the Speed can be dialled up or down on the go at a moment's notice. Flick it into Sport mode for a blast on a smooth stretch of road or into Comfort to soak up the potholes - the Speed handles a wide range of driving conditions and surfaces with aplomb.

Of course, all this extra engineering wizardry and refinement comes at a sizeable cost over the standard GT and GTC. Prices for the coupe Speed start at £208,900, while the topless option will set you back £230,900. Given the price of the standard GT starts from £160,000, the Speed treatment commands a £49,000 premium for the coupe and a whopping £71,000 more for the convertible. 

In view of the global shift towards electrification and Bentley's first all-electric car due to arrive in 2025, it's hard to shy away from the fact that cars like the Speed are a dying breed. While there are still a handful of 12-cylinder super tourers to choose from, the Speed is difficult to ignore as a practical, everyday driver for all occasions. Its ability to switch between comfortable cross-continental cruiser and raucous B-road racer make the Speed a practical choice for everyday driving.

While the latest and most dynamic Bentley comes at a premium over the standard model, the Speed is now the only way to access Bentley's revered W12 powerplant in the Continental range. While both the coupe GT and convertible GTC offer a hefty hit of old-school high-octane performance, the engineering makes the Speed a highly engaging, enjoyable and accessible drive. With an all-electric future not far away for Bentley, the Speed represents one of the last W12-engined blasts for the British marque. Grab one while you still can.

Read more: A first look at the Jaguar C-Type Continuation

Prices for the coupe Speed (GT) start from £208,900; prices for the topless GTC start from £230,900, bentleymotors.com