2021 Bentley Continental GT Speed review – how does it cope at Silverstone?
We head to Silverstone for a go in Bentley's sharpest chassis yet
Yes, yes – we know that despite wearing the go-faster Speed badge, the new Continental GT Speed is unlikely to ever see a race track. But that's where we had our first chance to drive the new 650hp W12 monster from Crewe, and you know what? It didn't feel out of place.
Watch the short video below to see how we got on with the car (and how Tim flailed about with all the stability systems switched off), or read on for more track impressions.
What is it?
It's a tricked up 6.0-litre W12 Continental GT, with a power increase to 650hp and 900Nm of torque, sent to all four wheels as per. However, the Bentley boffins have gone out of their way to make this a car that handles a fair bit more sportily than the already not-shabby Conti GT.
The Speed's 650hp W12 feels absolutely epic – even on a wide circuit such as Silverstone
As such it's the first Continental GT to get a version of the Flying Spur's rear-wheel-steer system, and it's the first-ever Bentley to get an electronically controlled limited-slip differential on the back axle. It also has retuned stability control systems to give it more agility – and skids – than ever before.
What's it like?
First up, it carries that distinctive Bentley trait of being thunderously fast without ever terrifying you. And it also corners with impressively small amounts of body lean, thanks to the 1400Nm 48-volt active anti-roll bars resisting lean on each axle.
Through Silverstone's slower corners you quickly notice the four-wheel steering helping you turn the 2.2-tonne Speed's nose into the apex, and on the power you sense the rear-biased four-wheel-drive system sending more power than usual to the back axle. With a single press of the stability control button, you can get dainty little four-wheel skids out of the tighter corners.
Squint and you can see the carbon rear diffuser…
Otherwise, the GT Speed hammers out of bends with absolute traction, and through the intimidatingly fast Maggotts/Becketts complex it stays stuck to the Tarmac despite the high-speed direction changes. You still sense the mass at play, but Bentley's chassis engineers deserve medals for injecting a whole lot of fun into what should be a butt-clenching experience.
A long press of the stability control button completely disables the GT Speed's stability control. Initially you feel a little intimidated, but pretty quickly you find yourself getting hard on the power before the apex to exit the corner in a decently large drift. And yes, the safety net is completely off – one of our colleagues from a rival publication ended up facing the wrong way.
Subtle 'Speed' badges on the wings sit above the '12' hidden in the lower wing vent that tells the world how many cylinders your car has
But the Conti GT's always been unerringly good at telling you what its bulk is doing, so you never feel as if it's going to unexpectedly fire you into the gravel trap – and in all honestly, its default position is still to understeer gently if you drive like a bit of a spanner and enter corners too hot.
What else do I need to know?
The Pirelli P Zeros held up pretty well to repeated track sessions by ham-fisted journos
The optional 440mm carbon-ceramic brakes play a big part in giving you confidence to push the GT Speed hard on track, and they get a proper workout hauling down that mass from the huge speeds the W12 is capable of. The pedal feel is nice and natural, but we'll need to have a go on the road to see if Bentley's properly nailed them for use as a daily driver.
I forgot to take an interior photo so have this stock one – the cabin is very much standard beautiful Conti GT
In terms of looks, the GT Speed gets a few badges, trims and new wheels to mark it out from a regular GT – in our humble opinion it could do with being a bit shoutier. Even the Akrapovic-designed sports exhaust is a bit too quiet. But given it's pumping out a polar-bear-massacre of CO2, we're basically asking for the moon on a stick here.
Should I buy one?
Bentley promises that in search of agility and driftiness, it's not ruined the GT Speed's comfortable nature. We'll have to have a go on some British roads to find out – but we daresay the brand's got a reputation for always delivering on comfort ahead of all else.
We only drove the coupe, but there's a soft-top GT Speed coming soon
That said, if you want an amusingly dynamic take on the best Grand Tourer you can buy, give your local Bentley dealer a ring and stick a deposit down. Just promise us you'll take it on track at least once…