2009 Bentley Continental GTC Speed

In a word, it’s Awesome

2009 Bentley Continental GTC Speed
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I almost never use the word awesome anymore. Unfortunately, young people have ruined that word by using it so cavalierly, that it has lost all meaning. They describe everything as awesome. To them a Slurpee is awesome, or a video game is awesome, or even a song from a band that sounds like amplified noise is awesome. I, however, reserve that word for describing the sight of the Grand Canyon, or gazing up at a star-filled night sky from the high desert where there isn’t any ambient light for a hundred miles in any direction, and the stars shine so brightly that you’d think you could reach out and touch one.

FAST FACTS

1. Outside, the Speed model differs from a standard GTC thanks dark tinted grilles, larger 20” wheels, a lower suspension, larger exhaust pipes and a subtle trunk spoiler.

2. The Speed gets 50 more horsepower and 74 more ft-lbs of torque from the twin-turbo 6.0-liter W12 engine for a total of 600hp and 553 ft-lbs.

3. The Bentley Continental GTC Speed starts at $231,400 but with all the add-ons our tester came to $270,795.

I especially don’t use the word awesome as it relates to a car or a motorcycle, regardless of its performance capabilities, and I’ve ridden or driven them all – from the top of the line Ducati motorcycle, to Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s, Mercedes, and even a NASCAR race car. But I am making an exception to my rule. After driving the Bentley Continental GTC Speed, I can with good conscience, describe it as an awesome motorcar.

I have experienced the luxury amenities of a Rolls-Royce Phantom. I’ve experience the superb ride quality of a Maybach. I’ve been thrilled by the performance of a NASCAR racer, and a Ferrari F-40 on a racetrack. I’ve been impressed with the sophisticated technological systems of the S-Class Mercedes, and have studied the hand-built coachwork of an Aston Martin. But to my mind, the Bentley GTC SPEED is one motorcar that combines the attributes of all the other cars into one package, and it makes for the most unique driving experience I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

PERFECTLY LUXURIOUS INTERIOR

Slip into the cabin of the GTC and be prepared to be coddled by the diamond quilted leather seats (heated, of course, and with optional massage feature) that seem to envelope you in luxury; supportive, without being overly bolstered. The massive door swings with a feather light touch, yet closes with the authority of a bank vault. Grasp the three-spoke leather steering wheel and gaze at the dials, gauges and controls, surrounded by mirrored patterns of the wood dash which has five coats of lacquer and has been polished to a high gloss sheen, and you know you’re in a special car.

12 CYLINDERS, TWO TURBOS AND 600 HORSEPOWER

The insulated 3 layer Alcantera fabric roof folds flat in 25 seconds and you’re ready to enjoy the unique open air driving experience. The GTC Speed is powered by Bentley’s 6.0-liter, W12 twin-turbo engine, which puts out 600 hp, and 553 ft-lbs of torque, which will power the 5,500 lb car to 60 miles per hour in a mere 4.5 seconds, hit 100 miles per hour in only 10.6 seconds, and reach a terminal velocity of 200 miles per hour with the top up. The extra drag of top-down driving will limit your top speed to a mere 195.

With performance numbers like these, when pressing hard on the gas pedal, you’d expect to feel and hear the violent cacophony of 12 pistons powering up and down, and a roar sounding out from the dual stainless steel exhaust ports to be loud enough to scare the local wildlife. But no – with the Speed, you immediately feel your shoulders pinned back against the leather seats, as the g-force of the torque spools up, and you see the tach needle silently fly around the dial to the right, and the speedometer surge almost as quickly, but only a low throaty growl can be heard from the exhaust, and just a faint hint that anything outside of the ordinary is going on beneath the bonnet. And in what seems like a heartbeat, you notice that you’re traveling at speeds high enough to get you thrown in jail if you’re unlucky enough to be seen by the local constabulary.

DYNAMIC YET COMFORTABLE CHAISSIS AND SUSPENSION

Dialing it back to below triple digits, you prepare for the approaching turn up ahead, and you feel like the speed-sensitive steering is directly connected to your brain, as the big Bentley tracks into the corner with just the slightest body roll, and no squeal from the huge 275/35//20 PZero Pirellis. As you accelerate out of the turn, the big 12-cylinder motor exhibits no flat spot, no turbo-lag, just smooth as butter strong acceleration forcing you forward to the next turn. That’s when you realize that you’ve been through this section of road several times earlier in the day in other cars, and you know that the stretch of pavement is pock-marked and broken up. You’ve had to make mid corner steering corrections and suffer some wheel hop on the other cars, but in the GTC Speed, you didn’t even notice that the tarmac was anything but glass smooth. That’s when the word awesome enters your mind. Flat cornering at speed, with a light, almost hovercraft feel from this amazing suspension, let you know that they’ve got the chassis balanced and sorted out just right.

Up front you’ve got four-link double wishbones, with a computer controlled self-leveling air suspension and an anti-roll bar. The rear features a trapezoidal multi-link set-up. The springs are computer controlled progressive air units, which altogether buffer the driver from any unnecessary road harshness, yet never wallow or feel spongy.

The ride over a rough railroad crossing at 50 mph, that caused considerable judder and cowl shake in a Mercedes SL550 or Aston Martin DB9, and you feel nothing of the sort in the Bentley. Oh, and did I mention that the Bentley features an advanced continuous all-wheel drive system, in case your maniacal driving tendencies don’t shut down when the weather is inclement?

If the Torsen differential detects a deviation in torque demand between the front and real axles, it will automatically send more power to the wheels with greater grip. And while the Bentley can’t totally overcome the laws of physics, the car can help to overcome an overly aggressive driver by utilizing a sophisticated electronic stability program that limits wheel slip at low speeds, yet still allows the driver exploit the full power of the motor.

And so you won’t get too bored while tearing up your favorite stretch of twisties, the Bentley’s ZF gearbox will allow you to switch gears yourself if you like, by either using the steering wheel column-mounted paddles, or the more traditional gear shift lever. If you can’t be bothered with changing your own gears, yet still want to drive more aggressively, you can set the automatic transmission to sport mode, so that the gears with automatically change at higher rpm.

SAFETY FEATURES INCLUDE MASSIVE 16.5-INCH FRONT BRAKES

With all that “go” available at your right foot, Bentley addressed the “whoa” portion of that equation with optional fade resistant carbon ceramic brakes, with cross-drilled 16.5-inch discs up front and 14-inch rear, clamped down by 8-piston calipers. The lightweight materials reduce unsprung weight, which also benefits steering response and handling. They offer race-car-like stopping power, and with excellent feel.

Another safety feature is Bentley’s sophisticated Adaptive Cruise Control, which uses a long-range radar sensor, mounted in the lower front grill, to monitor other vehicles on the road ahead. When a slower moving vehicle is detected, the system will automatically adjust the throttle, or apply the brakes to maintain a “time gap” that the driver selects.

Naturally, the GTC Speed has almost every luxury amenity you can think of from the Nav system, to integrated voice activated Bluetooth. There is a park assist system, so you won’t damage your rear bumper when parallel parking. Memory and heated seats, 6-CD changer, keyless entry with push button start, rain sensing wipers, Bi-Xenon headlamps with integrated washers, and more.

Rear seat room is acceptable for two adults and the trunk is spacious enough for two large golf bags on your way to the course, or plenty of luggage for those long weekend getaways when it’s just not necessary to take the Gulfstream.

WHAT MAKES THE “SPEED” SPECIAL?

The Speed model is visually distinguished from the standard GTC by a few subtle differences like the radiator and lower intake grills featuring a dark tinted matrix. The larger 20” wheels have a distinct multi spoke design, the suspensions sits lower, the twin exhaust pipes are wider, and there is a subtle spoiler on the boot (that’s British for trunk). Inside there is special badging on the doorsills, steering wheel, and a few other touches. And while the standard GTC is no slouch in the power department, having the extra 50 horsepower and 74 ft-lbs of torque is the difference that makes the Speed so special.

THE VERDICT

Now I know I’ve been uncharacteristically gushing like a schoolgirl who just met the Hudson Brothers (or Jonas Brothers for those younger readers) backstage at a concert, but I won’t apologize for it. The Bentley GTC Speed is the most unique and enjoyable motorcar I’ve ever driven. It combines everything I appreciate about a car… supercar speed, outstanding handling, luxury ride quality, sumptuous amenities, and elegant styling, into one package.

The Bentley GTC Speed begins at $231,400. Those Brembo brakes add a whopping $16,500 to the sticker, and add $6,900 for the Premium Audio System, $3,040 for the Adaptive cruise control, and also a few more line items, including the $3,700 Gas Guzzling Tax, (for only making 10 miles per gallon in the city and 17 highway) and the price as tested comes out to $270,795. And while it sounds crazy as I write this, compared to other high-end cars I’ve driven, it seems reasonably priced at that number. Bentley expects to sell about 750 GTC’s in the U.S. this year, with about half of them being the Speed model.

One thing I know for sure – If my Hip-Hop career takes off, or if my government TARP bailout funds come through, or if I win the lottery, this will definitely be the car I’d buy for my every day driver. And now, I’m off to the 7-Eleven in my Nissan. Do the numbers 6-15-29-31-43 and 53 sound lucky to you?

PLUS

Supercar speed Outstanding handling Luxury ride quality Sumptuous amenities Elegant styling

MINUS

My ability to afford one, even though I think it’s worth the price

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