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2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed Preview

2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2007
Critical Knowledge:
  • The most powerful production Bentley ever sold

  • Inspired by Bentley's legendary �Speed' models of the 1920s

  • Powered by a 600 hp twin-turbo W12 engine

  • Chassis, suspension, and steering tuned for handling

  • Available carbon-ceramic braking system

  • "Dynamic" ESP mode allows increased driver control

  • Top speed in excess of 200 mph
One of the most coveted of all Bentley vehicles is the 3-litre "Speed Model" of the late 1920s. According to Bentley, the Speed Model was the "potent version" of the 3-litre classic "aimed at the enthusiast driver who demanded superior performance." Inspired by those legendary early Bentleys, British engineers applied equivalent design parameters to the Continental GT. The result is the most powerful production Bentley ever-the stunning 2008 Continental GT Speed.

Model Lineup
The Bentley Continental GT Speed joins the Continental GT coupe and Continental GTC convertible in Bentley's Grand Touring model range. While the GT and GTC share the same 12-cylinder engine rated at 552 hp, the GT Speed's 12-cylinder powerplant has been meticulously massaged to produce 600 hp.

Distinguishing itself in appearance from the standard Continental GT, the GT Speed features a wider and lower intake, plus a more upright grille to increase airflow to the powerful engine. The chassis and suspension have been tuned with a lower ride height, wheels have been upgraded to 20-inch diameters with specially developed Pirelli performance tires, and the exhaust pipes are enlarged to reinforce the sporting character of this unique Bentley.

Standard on the Continental GT Speed is the Mulliner Driving Specification. In addition to the larger and wider wheels, the interior has been enhanced with drilled alloy foot pedals and a knurled chrome/leather gearlever. The package also includes unique diamond-quilt patterned leather on the seat facings, doors, and rear panels. Special embroidering, a unique headliner, and a choice of optional interior veneers complete the package upgrades.

Customizing a Bentley is de rigueur for most owners, and the options list on the Continental GT Speed does not disappoint. The large list of personalization options includes a choice of exterior paint colors matched to the customer's specifications, as well as tailored choices of interior leather hides, stitching patterns, and lambswool rugs.

To procure an additional 48 hp over the standard GT, the Bentley Continental GT Speed's 6.0-liter twin-turbo W12 breathes through a larger air intake, uses lower friction (and lighter) internal components, and features a new engine management control system. The result is a massive 600-hp and 553 lb.-ft. of torque-enough to move the GT Speed to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, according to Bentley. Under acceleration, 100 mph is pushed aside in just 10.3 seconds as the Bentley moves towards its claimed top speed of 202 mph.

Befitting the Continental GT Speed's impressive powerplant is a set of what Bentley calls the largest disc brakes found on any production passenger car for sale today. For even more capable braking, the standard 16-inch front and 13.2-inch rear brake rotors can be replaced by an available carbon/silicon carbide brake package. Boasting 16.5-inch cross-drilled front rotors (14-inch rear) and eight-piston calipers, the upgraded brake system is more fade-resistant, longer lasting, and reduces unsprung weight to benefit steering response and handling.

A full-time all-wheel-drive system, connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission with a lock-up torque converter, is the standard drivetrain. The transmission can be shifted in a manual mode via the gearlever or steering wheel-mounted paddles. For improved steering response, the speed-sensitive Servotronic system has been retuned and is now mounted to the front subframe with solid mounts.

Sophistication is found throughout the Bentley Continental GT Speed. The suspension, with a ride height lower than the standard Continental GT, is self-leveling and constantly adjusting height and damping to road conditions. The braking system utilizes four different computer-controlled safety systems that include Hydraulic Braking Assistance (HBA), anti-lock braking (ABS), drag torque control (MSR), and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD).

The electronic stability control, a safety aid notorious for being too intrusive during spirited driving, is an upgraded "ESP 8.1" version with a special "Dynamic Mode" for a wider performance envelope. When engaged, the ESP allows increased wheel slip and improved throttle control and response-a setting that proves the 2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed is quite deliberately, in Bentley's words, "aimed at the enthusiast driver who demands superior performance."

View Ratings for the 2008 Bentley Continental GT
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