2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed First Drive Review: A W12 Hoon-Missile in a Grand-Touring Suit

So, uh, this thing can get up to shenanigans a lot more easily than one would think.

byKristen Lee|
Bentley Continental GT photo

When one thinks of Bentley and its Continental models, one thinks of refinement, coachbuilt interiors, and probably a few other stuffy ideals. While these things are certainly not untrue, they also don’t tell the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed’s whole story. Don’t let all the open-pore wood and quilted leather fool you. There’s a tail-happy driving machine hiding under these layers of politeness. 

Plenty of luxury automakers build grand-tourers. They entail powerful engines, a great ride, and usually a resplendent interior. They are the solution for those looking for livability blended with superlative power. But among them, the new GT Speed stands above in its ability to fold fun in with that luxury. Think of driving it as going paintballing in a really nice suit.

Kristen Lee

2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed Coupe: By the Numbers

  • Base Continental GT price (GT Speed as tested): $220,525 (£209,900 or $290,869)
  • Powertrain: 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 | 8-speed dual-clutch | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 650 @ 5,000 to 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 664 lb-ft @ 1,500 to 5,000 rpm
  • 0-60: 3.5 seconds (est.)
  • Top speed: 208 mph
  • Curb weight: 5,011 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 4
  • Cargo volume: 12.6 cubic feet
  • EPA fuel economy: TBA
  • Quick take: Refined and quiet, the GT Speed cruises like a private jet on wheels. Turn off that traction control and put it in Sport mode, though...

2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible: By the Numbers

  • Base Continental GT price (GT Speed Convertible as tested): $220,525 (£230,900 or $319,970)
  • Powertrain: 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12 | 8-speed dual-clutch | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 650 @ 5,000 to 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 664 lb-ft @ 1,500 to 5,000 rpm
  • 0-60: 3.6 seconds (est.)
  • Top speed: 208 mph
  • Curb weight: 5,388 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 4
  • Cargo volume: 12.6 cubic feet
  • EPA fuel economy: TBA
  • Quick take: Same deal as the Coupe, just with the wind in your hair and steering with slightly less feedback.

12 Cylinders, Two Turbochargers

Building upon the current and third-generation Bentley Continental GT—the first-gen was originally introduced in 2003 as the more "affordable" Bentley—the new Continental GT Speed is the performance crown of the Bentley Continental GT lineup. Design-wise, it looks largely the same as the original model, with quad-headlights and a big, squared-off grille. What sets the GT Speed model apart is a dark radiator grill, Speed badges on the front fenders, and 22-inch Speed wheels. The whole thing rides on Volkswagen Group's MSB platform, which you'll also find in the Porsche Panamera and Bentley Flying Spur.

The biggest differences are underneath the sheet metal. Using an updated version of Bentley's familiar 6.0-liter, twin-turbocharged W12 engine, the GT Speed makes 650 horsepower (just a smidge more power than the existing GT W12 model) and 664 pound-feet of torque. That's sent to all four wheels via a ZF-sourced, eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Stopping power can come from an optional set of 17.3-inch carbon-ceramic rotors and 10-piston front calipers up front—a brake package that Bentley calls "the largest car brakes in the world" and whose hardware matches those on the Lamborghini Urus. Parts binning isn't a bad thing when said parts are cool.

There's also a three-chamber air suspension system with adaptive damping and an electronic limited-slip differential. And! There's all-wheel steering—something I believe should be globally mandated on all big cars. The system can turn the rear wheels up to four degrees opposite to the direction of the front wheels during low and medium speeds and it'll turn them in the same direction as the fronts during higher speeds.

Seating up to four passengers, the interior of the GT Speed comes with Bentley's "Diamond in Diamond" quilted leather. Piano black trim is standard, but you can option it out for a variety of wood trims. On the Convertible models, the electronically powered soft-top roof comes in seven different colors.

Wrecking Ball

If you wanted to climb into a GT Speed and send yourself across the country, you’d be able to do it wrapped in soft leathers and tactilely satisfying switchgear, borne by a quiet but mighty engine, all on a chassis that offers a truly incredible ride quality. Bumps that would have made regular cars cry merely tickled the Bentley’s air suspension. 

Yet there's far more to it than comfort—as one of the Bentley engineers who worked on the car told me, dialing in the just-right steering feel was a top priority for the team. Seeing as I was about to drive a luxurious GT car to end all luxurious GT cars, I expect light steering—basically, something that encouraged as little effort as possible. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Despite it being an EPAS system, there was still plenty of response and surprisingly good communication. Initial turn-in was sharp as hell, however, I found the convertible GT Speed did offer a bit less overall feedback than the hardtop version. On the tight and winding roads of Sicily, that acute steering proved especially necessary for guiding the car around blind, sharp turns and oncoming Italian drivers with an aggressively different definition of where and when it is appropriate to pass slower traffic. 

Then there was the all-wheel steering. With it, I was able to complete turns in one go that should have taken multiple points. Combined, these two systems do their best to reduce how big the GT Speed feels—but your acknowledgment of the car's size and weight won't ever really go away. That's never more obvious when the engine and brakes enter the fray.

It's not much to listen to, but that W12 is a bullish brute of a thing. It's big and powerful and slams the GT Speed forward with the force of a wrecking ball. With the engine's bassy rumble keeping pace, you'll be able to gap most anything on the road. The redline is low, but the dual-clutch snaps up gears so quickly you'll sooner run out of courage and road than the car will run out of grunt. Fancy a stop? Hit the brakes and that engine and the heavy body have more than met their match. They're brakes that feel like they can stop a plane.

And here's the big secret no one will tell you about the GT Speed: It does the good drifts. To prove it (and that it has, y'know, a lot of money), Bentley set up a closed-course track in an abandoned military complex in Sicily as part of the media preview last week. That meant overgrown brush and a lot of unused and unloved pavement. In sport mode and with the traction control turned off, the car ate it up. 

Throwing a 5,000-plus pound grand-tourer riding on 22-inch wheels sideways through turns and listening to the tires screech brings some wonderfully masochistic pleasure, lemme tell ya. In these situations, the monstrous weight was even more apparent. So was the car's habit of leaning in corners. But its long, 112.2-inch wheelbase and all-wheel-drive system cleaned up the worst of my mistakes so that the 650 available hp wasn't scary at all. In fact, the entire car was forgiving and progressive enough that it almost felt like it welcomed the hooning. 

That was the whole point, another on-site Bentley engineer explained. They wanted to build a car that was powerful and fast but whose limits were approachable to just about anyone. Later on, they took me out in a hot lap around the course, and while I marveled at the GT Speed's ability to remain comfortable and feel like it was still floating over the road even while being hammered on, I couldn't stop thinking about how tail-happy it could be. Much like the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, the GT Speed was big power packaged in a big body but tuned to the point of being a gentle giant.

It's definitely not within the current "Bentley image" but if someone were to start a Bentley factory drift team, I'd be for it. Throw on an angle kit, some livery, a big-ass wing. Full send.

When Power Meets Comfort

A base, V8-powered Continental GT starts at $220,525. Base GT Speeds and GT Speed Convertibles start at $277,625 and $305,125, respectively. 

The Verdant green Coupe test car I drove had the optional carbon-ceramic brakes, a rotating display, the Mulliner Driving Specification (quilted seats, a jeweled fuel filler cap, a jeweled oil cap, and embroidered Bentley emblems), and the Front Seat Comfort Specification (adjustable headrests, seat ventilation, and massage functions). Total vehicle price came to £209,900 or $290,869. The Orange Flame Convertible test car was optioned similarly. Total vehicle price of that came to £230,900 or $319,970. And so, while the GT Speed's performance is approachable, its price sure isn't. 

Competitively, the GT Speed goes up against the McLaren GT, Rolls-Royce Wraith, Aston Martin DBS, and Ferrari 812 Superfast. Of the bunch, the Bentley offers the only W12 motor, leans more in the direction of sporty than the Rolls, and is certainly more comfort-oriented than the Aston or the Ferrari. It's more practical than the McLaren, too. It really is a do-everythinger.

A Disguise

Save for the Rolls, though, the Bentley's image is rather one of a stiff upper lip as compared to the others. You think of Bentley in the same way you think of dark, oak-paneled rooms, cigars, and smoking jackets. In this sense, the GT Speed is predictably Bentley. Long, serious road trips blended in with serious passing power that fades away into quiet, deluxe cruising as you ease off the gas pedal.

You don't think of a Bentley as something to let down your hair and have fun in, much less hoon. But that, for me, was the biggest surprise of all. I didn't go into this drive expecting fun. I expected an absurdly smooth ride (which I got) and utter cabin serenity (which I also got). But now, nearly a week later, I'm still thinking about how great it was to throw the massive thing around a corner, feel the rear end dance free of the front in a half-pirouette, and then for the whole thing to snap back together again onto the correct racing line. It felt so easy to do it.

Obviously, sliding through corners isn't what you ought to always do while behind the wheel of a W12 heavyweight. And despite being able to do the sliding, you are also always extremely aware you're hurling around a lot of car (keep it up and a new set of tires will soon be in your future). Yet, the fact that the Bentley can do these things at all—and do them in a non-terrifying, progressive way—means a hell of a lot to me. Bentley's own marketing may not reflect it, but the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed is fun-haver in disguise.

Got a tip? Email me at kristen@thedrive.com.

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