Open-Top Driving at Its Finest

With a top speed of 206 mph, Bentley claims the new Continental GT Speed Convertible to be its fastest-ever four-door drop-top car on the market today

Adding the descriptor “speed” to Bentley’s Continental line has always been something of a mystery to most auto enthusiasts — it’s not as if any of the other variants are exactly deficient when it comes to delivering velocity. Even the entry-level V-8, the one you lend to the pool boy on his day off, can crack 60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds. This makes the new Continental GT Speed Convertible all the more special.

Bentley’s long-serving 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 has emerged from yet another massage on the dyno test bench with its output boosted to 626 horsepower and 607 lb-ft (increases of 10 horses and 17 lb-ft over the previous Speed). Together with some revised gearbox software, the dyno work has cut a few tenths of a second from the coupe’s zero-to-60-mph time (which is estimated to drop to 3.9 seconds) and added 1 mph to its top speed.

Honouring the historic “Speed” mark that dates back to the Le Mans 24-hour race-winning Speed Six, the new Continental GT Speed Convertible is a worthy successor already dubbed the fastest Bentley convertible around. The engine’s 720 Nm maximum torque at 1,800 rpm clearly makes it capable of a velocity to be reckoned with. What’s more, now with a redesigned cabin and a number of standard and optional Bentley features, the pursuit of performance is balanced by the quest for refinement.

More improvements in the new model are evident in the details: The Speed’s front splitter, side sills, and rear diffuser are now finished in body colour, while the 21-inch wheels and the head and tail lamps all gain what’s described as a dark tint. The brake callipers are now red, too. Inside, the cabin gets some unique colour accents to help distinguish it from other variants and, perhaps most importantly, there are now Speed badges on the front fenders to assert your top-dog status over any owners of the more plebeian Continentals you may encounter.

In a nutshell, Bentley gives a pleasant facelift to a distinct car with a decade-old reputation, adding to the line’s steady evolution over the years. It is actually amazing that despite the age and thanks to the newer V-8, which is empirically a better engine in every regard beyond raw output and a number of other enhancements, it has become impossible to deny the continuing appeal of the Bentley Continental GT Speed.

Yet for all its performance, the Speed Convertible is definitely a grand tourer rather than a sports car. The combination of well-damped air suspension and more than 2 1/2 tons of curb weight works pretty well over rougher roads, especially with the dampers switched to the comfort setting. In corners, however, the sheer forces involved in turning so much metal, glass and leather are always obvious, especially with the considerable weight of the W-12 engine carried over the front wheels. This is not to say this sexy convertible is lacking in the comfort department, another persistent feature in Bentley’s signature trademarks. The Continental GT Speed Convertibile is fitted with air springs with continuous damping control and a touring suspension set-up with an electronic height adjustment facility.

The feel of luxury and class continues on the wheels, where the 20-inch, six Tri-Spoke alloy design connects your Bentley to the open road as you cruise while manipulating the hide- and chrome-trimmed gear lever. When things get foggy, the two xenon headlights incorporated in the LED main beam support will make sure your course remains true.

Several optional upgrades to the Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible include carbon ceramic brakes for firmer grip, interior style specifications of contrasting stitches or cross-stitches, massage/ventilated seats, Naim audio systems or adaptive cruise control.

As a final word, Bentley’s prestigious Speed line continues to evolve as the Continental GT Speed Convertible embodies the spirit of fast touring packed in a sleek and stylish platform. When this new convertible comes to the region’s market in late 2015, fans will be thrilled to finally feel the epitome of luxury that has been decades in the making.