Full 2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed is a new higher-performance edition of the Continental GT coupe featuring a more powerful 12-cylinder engine, standard 20-inch wheels and different exterior and interior details.
Few things can compare in elegance to a stately Bentley. Maybe Cary Grant in a Brioni tuxedo emerging from a stately Bentley. Yet in the early days of Britain's second-most prestigious marque, Bentleys were also considered to be among the world's best high-performance machines. In fact, James Bond author Ian Fleming could think of no better car for his rugged secret agent to drive than a 1933 Bentley supercharged convertible.
The 2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed combines these two historical brand facets perfectly. It's certainly got the elegance thing down. Imposingly graceful styling brings together a modern shape with classical Bentley design cues like the dominant grille and squared-off rear fenders. The GT Speed sets itself apart with a larger, dark-finished grille and 20-inch 12-double-spoke wheels, while the sumptuous interior gains diamond stitching to its seats. The rest of the cabin is much the same, sharing the regular GT's old-meets-new-world design, graced by 17 available leather colors and multiple veneers. Buttons and switches are made of real metal, vent controls feature push-pull chrome knobs and the central clock is made by world-famous timepiece maker Breitling. The more sporting GT Speed looks particularly fetching with machine-turned metal trim in lieu of veneer.
The Continental's performance part is driven home further for 2008 with the addition of the GT Speed model. The regular model's 6.0-liter twin-turbo 12-cylinder that pulses from underneath the chiseled hood has been upgraded to 600 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque from 552 and 479, respectively. This upgrade wasn't accomplished by simply turning the turbo boost dial up to 11; rather, all engine internals were re-engineered to reduce mass, including the pistons, connecting rods and even the timing chain. The result is a transformation from "fast for a big car" to downright quick, with the GT Speed capable of reaching 60 mph in an estimated 4.3 seconds. However, that could be a conservative estimate on Bentley's part, as the last regular Continental GT we tested did the 0-60 sprint in 4.4 seconds.
There's more than just added muscle to the GT Speed as well. The steering was revised to feel noticeably lighter, yet offer more feedback through the new three-spoke sport steering wheel. This steering tweak, along with standard 20-inch wheels and a revised self-leveling air suspension, result in a Continental that's capable of overcoming the consequences of having so much weight slung over the front axle. The GT Speed is still too large to be considered a canyon carver, but its keen ability to thunder down a lightly winding country road with immense confidence is certainly in keeping with the historic Bentleys that so enticed Mr. Fleming.
Few vehicles live in the vaunted price stratosphere occupied by the 2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed. Fellow Brit Aston Martin DB9 is of particular note, offering stunning styling and a lighter, more tossable body, although it lacks the GT Speed's massive power. For that, Aston counters with the related (and more expensive) DBS coupe, which is the current ride of the cinematic Bond. The Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG is also worth noting, as are the more expensive Ferrari 612 Scaglietti and the upcoming Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. Yet vehicles like these are more about passion than spreadsheet comparisons. Because if rolling like Cary Grant or the original 007 is your cup of high-speed Darjeeling tea, then the Bentley Continental GT Speed is the one and only choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed is a premium luxury coupe available in one loaded trim. Standard equipment includes 20-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlamps, an automatic extending rear spoiler, keyless ignition/entry, power latching doors, power opening/closing trunk, a full leather interior available in 17 off-the-shelf colors, diamond-stitched seat upholstery, alloy foot pedals, multizone automatic climate control with rear-seat controls, 14-way power front seats with memory, Bluetooth, a navigation system and a 12-speaker stereo with satellite radio and a glovebox-mounted six-CD changer.
Options include carbon ceramic brakes, front seat massage, a heated steering wheel, rearview camera, upgraded veneers and special-order interior and exterior colors.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the 2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed is a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder formed in the unique W formation Volkswagen utilizes for several of its most prestigious products. Rated at a magnificent 600 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, the big 12-pot sends its thrust to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Bentley estimates a 0-60-mph time of 4.3 seconds.
This ultraluxury coupe offers standard safety features like stability control, traction control, antilock brakes, side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers and front and rear parking sensors.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Continental GT's interior has an old-world feel, with classy veneer, supple leather, push-pull vent controls, a Breitling timepiece and lots of switches and levers made of real metal. This being a Bentley, there is tremendous attention to detail. You'll find that even the car's exterior mirrors are circled with chrome bezel, and seatbacks are graced with sleek, brushed aluminum release levers.
Double-pane side glass blocks wind noise and helps keep the cabin as quiet as a reading room. Interior controls are relatively intuitive, and most drivers will be able to function within the cabin without cracking the owner's manual. There's room for two passengers in back. Don't expect an abundance of headroom, since the Continental GT's sloping rear deck and window results in some compromises in this area. There's ample room for groceries and cargo in the 13-cubic-foot trunk. Both trunk and rear-seat space are significantly greater than that of the Aston Martin DB9 and DBS.
The laws of physics were drawn up to prevent things as massive as the 2008 Bentley Continental GT Speed from traveling so quickly. With 600 hp being dropped onto the pavement through all four tires, this 5,200-pound Bentley manages to counteract gravity by accelerating with tremendous thrust. The brakes do a similar job -- just in the opposite direction. That weight and taut chassis makes it feel secure when tested on corners, a trait that also owes a debt of gratitude to the car's adjustable and automatic air suspension system. Unlike the regular Continental, the new GT Speed is a much more capable handler, with sharpened steering and better sorted suspension tuning. The result is a car that feels less nose-heavy, even if it didn't actually lose any weight, and one that's more capable of keeping up with more sporting GT cars.