Bentley is releasing full technical details of its exciting new 205 mph (330 km/h) all-wheel drive performance flagship ahead of its official international show debut at the Moscow Motor Show on 29 August. The new Continental GT Speed is the fastest road-car Bentley has ever produced and orders are being taken now, with deliveries scheduled to start in October 2012.
Powered by Bentley’s iconic 6-litre twin-turbo W12 engine, the GT Speed develops 625 PS (616 bhp) at 6000 rev/min – up 50 PS versus the standard Continental GT - with 800 Nm (590 lb.ft) of torque available from 2000 to 5000 rev/min (up 100 Nm) for instantly accessible high performance. Coupled with a new ZF eight-speed close-ratio automatic transmission and state-of-the-art engine management software, the GT Speed despatches the zero-to-sixty sprint in 4.0 seconds (0-100 km/h in 4.2s), reaching 100 mph (160 km/h) from a standing start in just 9.0 seconds. In-gear acceleration is equally breath-taking.
In the Bentley Speed tradition, outstanding performance is matched by an enhanced chassis with up-rated springs, anti-roll bars and bushes, a lowered ride height (by 10mm front and rear) together with re-tuning of the electronically controlled damping and steering systems.
However, this newest, most powerful addition to the Continental stable still displays the refinement and suppleness that makes a Bentley unique. Even the exhaust note, deeper and more exhilarating under hard acceleration, remains civilised and refined during high-speed cruising.
Its all-wheel-drive system, biased 60:40 in favour of the rear, offers reassuring stability and the potential to access the prodigious performance all year round in virtually any weather conditions or road surface.
Subtle signature design cues distinguish the GT Speed from its stable-mates, including exclusive 21-inch, ten-spoke alloy wheels, dark-tint matrix to the radiator shell and lower bumper grilles and ‘rifled’ exhaust tailpipes. Inside the handcrafted cabin, the Speed models are specified exclusively with the Mulliner Driving Specification, featuring quilted, perforated leather and bright metal detailing plus a broader choice of optional technical finishes. This now includes the exclusive-to-Speed dark tint aluminium as well as carbon fibre. The result is a highly distinctive, contemporary, sporting, luxury coupe.
The 575 PS (567 bhp) W12 powertrain of the Continental GT coupe and GTC convertible models also benefits from enhancements made to the more powerful GT Speed. In addition to the new engine management system and eight-speed transmission, all W12 engines now feature an energy recuperation system. Together, these deliver a 12% improvement in fuel economy and CO2 emissions across the GT W12 range and a 10% improvement for the GTC W12.
As the fastest production Bentley ever, the new Continental GT Speed reaffirms the legendary W12’s status as an engine of extreme performance. Developing 625 PS (616 bhp) at 6000 rev/min and 800 Nm (590 lb ft) of torque from 2000 rev/min, the twin-turbo, 48-valve, 6.0-litre W12 is now fitted with the very latest ME17 engine management system. Capable of performing 180 million individual calculations per second, the new system delivers enhanced turbocharger control, outstanding torque management and improvements to driveability. In addition, a revised Sport mode provides a sharper throttle with faster response for effortless acceleration at all speeds.
The W12 engine is mated to a ZF eight-speed transmission for the first time. Designed to handle the extreme levels of torque generated by the W12, the transmission cuts acceleration times by ensuring that the engine is always at the ideal speed for peak torque delivery. This state-of-the-art transmission also features “Block Shifting” technology, capable of shifting directly from (for example) 8th gear to 4th gear for instantaneous response and thunderous acceleration.
The combination of the new transmission and the uprated engine results in breath-taking supercar performance. The sprint from 0-60 mph takes just 4.0 seconds (0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds) and the relentless acceleration continues to a top speed of 205 mph (330 km/h). 0-100 mph is dispatched in a mere 9.0 seconds – a level of performance akin to the previous generation Continental Supersports, and almost a full second quicker than the updated 575 PS Continental GT.
The exhaust system of the new GT Speed has been developed from the free-breathing, low back pressure design first used on the Continental Supersports Ice Speed Record car. The new exhaust produces a sportier, more intense baritone sound under hard acceleration without sacrificing a relaxed, refined and quiet tone during cruising conditions.
Powertrain developments have not been restricted to the pursuit of outright performance. Bentley’s engineering team has also focused on enhancing efficiency, and the power and torque increases for the new GT Speed are accompanied by an improvement of up to 12% in fuel economy, range and CO2 emissions across the two-door model range.
The new eight-speed transmission delivers six per cent of the total efficiency gain. The eight close-ratios ensure that the engine operates in its most efficient range during relaxed driving, while the very latest software developments ensure that gear changes are both fast and imperceptibly smooth.
The new transmission, together with the ME17 engine management system, is fitted to the standard Continental GT and GTC models from now.
The W12 engine features recuperation for the first time, delivering a 1.6 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions alone. Recuperation is a technology involving precise control of the vehicle’s electrical system and alternator to allow flexible generation of electricity. The output of the alternator is increased during low engine load conditions, for example when decelerating, with the excess electrical energy stored in the car’s battery. When the engine is then under load, the alternator output is reduced, increasing overall engine efficiency while the battery provides the previously stored energy to compensate.
Reflecting the improvements in efficiency, the Continental GT and GT Speed now feature a combined cycle fuel economy of 19.5 mpg (14.5 litres/100km) and CO2 emissions of 338 g/km (subject to certification) – outstanding figures for a 12-cylinder grand tourer. Meanwhile, the GTC has a combined cycle fuel economy of 19.0 mpg (14.9 litres/100km) and CO2 emissions of 347 g/km.
The efficiency improvements also benefit the performance of the standard GT and GTC models. The standard 575 PS GT now takes just 4.3 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph (0-100 km/h in 4.5s) with 100 mph (160 km/h) reached in 9.8 seconds from a standstill. The performance of the Continental GTC is equally exhilarating – 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds (0-100 km/h in 4.7s) and 0-100 mph (and 0-160 km/h) in 10.3 seconds.
The new Continental GT Speed features significant changes to both chassis hardware and software for a sporty, engaging drive that matches the formidable powertrain. Aluminium double wishbone front suspension and a trapezoidal multi-link rear setup are retained, but now feature revised air suspension springs and dampers for improved agility and body control, with roll, pitch and heave all reduced for a more agile driving experience.
The self-levelling system constantly monitors ride height and damping according to road conditions, and positions the car with a ride height 10mm lower than the standard Continental GT. Bentley’s chassis engineers have also fitted stiffer suspension bushes for sharp, communicative handling and uprated anti-roll bars to optimise the handling balance.
Software changes are also wide-ranging, combining to use the revised suspension hardware to deliver an exciting but refined experience. Steering and suspension control systems receive revised calibrations.
The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system has been optimised to work perfectly in tune with the new ME17 engine management system for outstanding driving performance. The ESC system retains the “Dynamic Mode” setting that allows increased wheel slip at higher speeds, with engine torque reinstated more quickly after a system intervention. Together, these systems give the spirited driver more opportunity to exploit the full potential of the new chassis setup and higher power output. Steering feel and feedback to the driver are both improved, while careful tuning of the Continuous Damping Control (CDC) system means minimal degradation in ride comfort despite the uprating of the suspension components.
In line with the standard Continental models, the new GT Speed is fitted with 405 mm diameter front and 335 mm rear ventilated, cast iron brake discs and eight-piston callipers as standard for outstanding stopping power. The boundaries of braking performance can be further extended by specifying 420 mm front / 356 mm rear cross-drilled Carbon Silicon-Carbide (CSiC) discs as a cost option. Providing a 20 kg weight saving over the standard brakes, the fade-free CSiC discs last the lifetime of the car under normal driving conditions, while brake pad life is doubled. ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Hydraulic Brake Assistance, Drag Torque Control and aquaplane detection are all fitted as standard.
For all Continental models, the new eight-speed transmission feeds the famous Bentley wave of torque to a permanent all-wheel-drive system which retains the 60% rear / 40% front torque split first introduced on the Supersports. Allowing the spirited driver to control the car’s line and balance using the throttle, the rear-biased torque split minimises understeer during hard cornering and varies torque between the front and rear axles for optimum grip. Meanwhile, the all-wheel drive system provides reassuring grip and traction in all road and weather conditions.
The iconic Continental GT has a form that expresses the same balance of power and elegance, exhilaration and endurance that is provided by its exceptional powertrain. The classic Bentley DNA is evident through the sensual powerline that runs the length of the car, meeting the sculpted rear haunch.
Advanced superforming technology uses high temperatures and pressurised air to shape the front fenders into exquisite, unbroken curves in extremely durable aerospace-grade 5083 aluminium alloy. The latest body construction techniques deliver crisply defined feature lines and form to every area of the exterior design. The flowing lines and curves – inspired by the original 1950s R-Type Continental – create highly distinct surfaces, bringing the feel of a truly coachbuilt car to the Continental family.
For the GT Speed, these elegant shapes are enhanced with a suite of signature design cues. A new 9.5J x 21” ten twin-spoke wheel design is exclusive to GT Speed, available in bright painted or dark tint finishes, and fitted with 275/35 ZR21 tyres. Dark tint radiator matrix and front bumper grilles enhance the air intakes that pay homage to the Le Mans winning Bentleys of the 1920s to give the front of the new GT Speed a more aggressive, sporting look.
At the rear of the car, new rifled exhaust tailpipes are fitted exclusively to GT Speed and are complemented by chrome rear lamp bezels that are also introduced on Continental GT and GTC models. Also fitted as standard to all 6.0 litre Continental models are new W12 badges located below the muscular power line on the front fenders. Beneath the bonnet, the twin turbocharged intake manifolds of the Speed model are uniquely powder-coated with a black finish. GT Speed treadplates complete the set of exterior design cues.
All two-door Continental models may also be specified with the striking Mulliner Styling Specification package option. Available as a dealer-fit accessory, the “Classic Pack” comprises a range of styling features finished in carbon fibre that accentuate the car’s iconic shape, including:
Complementary features include carbon fibre door mirror cowls, the finishing of the standard rear spoiler in carbon fibre and the fitment of the 21” “Elegant” wheels in a unique black finish.
As well as the 17 exterior paint finishes available as standard to the Continental models, a range of almost 100 additional paint options is available including solid, metallic, pearlescent and satin finishes. Further extending the art-of-the-possible, Bentley’s specialist paint team can also create bespoke exterior colours to precisely match customer requirements.
Despite the GT Speed’s sporting overtones, this grand tourer retains a hand-crafted interior created using only the finest natural materials. Soft, supple leathers, polished veneers and cool-touch metals combine with the meticulous craftsmanship for which Bentley is renowned to provide a cabin of exceptional quality.
As standard, the new GT Speed is specified with Bentley’s luxurious yet sporting Mulliner Driving Specification, which features diamond-quilted, perforated leather hides to all four seats, door trims and rear quarter panels. The cabin headlining is finished in indented leather hide, while optional embroidered Bentley emblems can be specified for the headrests.
The sports gear lever has a classic knurled finish, while the driver uses drilled alloy sports foot pedals. The unique Bentley “Jewel” filler cap is provided as standard, as are Dark Stained Burr Walnut or Piano Black veneers.
With its gleaming, geometrically precise overlapping circles, engine-turned aluminium – also known as ‘engine spin’ – has indelible associations with Bentley sporting success. The dashboard of ‘Old Number One’ – the Speed Six that won two Le Mans 24 Hour races – is crafted from the same material. With such a pedigree it’s natural that Bentley offers two engine spin options for the fascia and consoles – one in Bright Aluminium and the other, unique to the Continental GT Speed, in Dark Tint Aluminium. Its understated shade perfectly complements the dark tint chrome radiator and bumper grilles.
Alternatively, the more recent Bentley Le Mans success is reflected in choosing the Carbon Fibre option for fascia, roof and centre consoles, its satin finish specially developed to reduce unwelcome reflections.
Seventeen different hide colours are available and as with the rest of the Continental family, the interior of the GT Speed can be specified with duo-tone colour splits, including one split previously exclusive to GT V8. Contrast stitching throughout, including to the steering wheel, is also available.
A new feature of the advanced 8-inch touchscreen, 30GB on-board Infotainment system is the addition of satellite navigation “Personal Points of Interest”. This allows the user to save places of their choosing (e.g. a specific restaurant) into the system.
The touchscreen displays the car’s audio system, telephone, ride and comfort settings and navigation information, which uses both the hard-disc drive and a DVD player to access route data.
An eight-speaker sound system is offered as standard employing the latest Balanced Mode Radiator technology. These unique compact, flat-panel speakers provide exceptional clarity across the audible spectrum and a very wide frequency range. The 11-speaker Naim for Bentley system – created exclusively by British audiophiles Naim – is available across the Continental range.
Music can be played and controlled directly from an iPod® as well as from a six-disc CD changer, SD card reader or directly from the car’s hard-disc drive, which can store up to 15GB of music. DAB digital radio is also available in regions where the infrastructure supports it.