Nobody in their right mind pays $200k for a car. Yes, I’ve seen the Producers (when you got it flaunt it baby!) And I know some people have enough “it” to drop a couple of hundred grand on a car without asking for their change in GTIs. But even if copious lottery winnings could overcome my ethnic aversion to pissing away large amounts of money, I would still think twice about spending that kind of money on the Bentley Continental GT Speed.
Even before we take a hit of Speed, it should be remembered that Bentley returned from the grave by sexing-up the stillborn VW Phaeton to appeal to wealthy buyers in the financial sweet spot: $150k. The Continental GT was/is more exclusive than a top-line Porsche or Mercedes, for not a lot more money. By jumping the $200k barrier, Bentley’s playing a whole new ballgame.
A new, “entry-level” Ferrari F430 clocks-in at $173k. In theory. If practice you have to either pay a premium for a used one or wheedle your way onto a dealer’s waiting list (buying a new Maserati or older Ferrari helps) and dig in for a couple of seasons or four. Iridium Amex or no, Modena’s famous aim remains: make one fewer car than demand requires. They’ve got the $200k market by the family jewels.
And why not? Ferraris look, smell and drive like Ferraris. They have genuine character. Same goes for other cars in this price bracket. An Aston Martin is head swivellingly gorgeous; a four-wheeled Monica Bellucci. Lamborghinis are twisted and evil and haughty. They make me angry, which is why I love them. The interior of the Maserati Quattroporte makes me want to dress better. In a Porsche 911 Turbo even you, whoever you are, can drive 175 miles an hour. Me too.
And that brings us, finally, to the Bentley Continental GT Speed.
On one hand, the big Bentley does what a $200k car with the name “Speed” must: go fast. With a gargantuan twelve cylinder engine displacing 6.0-liters with twin turbochargers, the Speed version of the Conti in GT trim cranks out 600 horsepower. That’s a lot of ponies, even for a two-plus-two that weighs some 5k pounds. Enough gas-gargling go to propel the Anglo-German monster from zero to sixty in 4.5 seconds.
And then there’s the Speed’s party trick: the leather-lined leviathan can pass 200 miles an hour, as no doubt verified via a shaky-cam documentary by some very wealthy, very stupid Russian oligarch on YouTube. By the same token, American Speed owners can talk about going 200 miles per hour while cruising to the country club for tee time.
On the other hand, so what? Yes, the Speed’s forward pace is a rush– though any real sports car at 30 percent of the cost (and half the weight) would shame you at a stoplight. But that’s so… jejune. More importantly, and disappointingly, Bentley’s beast handles no more than competently, as a trillion dollar suspension and all wheel-drive go into battle against 5200 lbs and something called “gravity.”
The steering is vague, and the transmission is stupid. It gets away with being so dumb-witted because the engine is such a circus. Sure, Tiptronic control of the transmission is available. But if you cared, you wouldn’t buy this car. I’d go on, but there’s no reason. It’s too boring. The Bentley Continental GT Speed drives like a Ford Flex.
The Speed gets away with being so dim-witted simply because of the badge and the engine. But it’s not enough, because the Bentley’s a badly executed car.
The Speed’s full leather interior with cross contrasting stitching (a $3300 option) felt coarse and looked putrid in my test car. The Speed has as many electronics as Captain Mike’s AWACS plane. But the gadgets are all several years out of date, anchored by an all-in-one LCD screen for operating the radio, HVAC, and navigation system that was objectively rotten. The grand touring promise that should be inherent in such a titanic coupe is broken by back seats that are too small for adults.
The Bentley Continental GT and its variants are this car era’s Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan: popular, famous and desirable because they are considered popular, famous and desirable. At the up-close level, a point-of-view most of us will never see, the car, like the tabloid celebrities, is bland and poorly finished. Shallow and average.
Bentley has rich history, but rather than follow BMW’s lead with Rolls-Royce and fashion something truly bespoke, original and remarkable, Volkswagen has guided Bentley into making as much money as quickly as possible. At some point in the next few years, just like Paris or Lindsay, even latter day fans of the resurrected brand are going to tire of Bentley and its Continental GT and move on.