Used 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed
Edmunds' Expert Review
This high-powered Speed variant of the already potent 2013 Bentley Continental GT makes this ultra-fast and ultra-luxurious tourer even stronger and rarer.
Twelve-cylinder loyalists rejoice. The Continental's new V8 might be the more logical choice given its similar acceleration and better fuel economy, but sometimes only the "most" will do. For 2013, the "Speed" version of the Continental GT has arrived with an even more potent version of the car's W12 engine. The GT Speed boasts 616 horsepower, a rise of 49 hp compared to the regular GT with the W12 engine. To aid in that endeavor, Bentley has also given the car a new eight-speed transmission (rather than the six-speed in the standard 2013 Continental GT) plus revised suspension tuning and 21-inch wheels.
The expected levels of opulence and craftsmanship remain blissfully intact, from the GT's elegant design to its impeccable materials. The Continental is also one of the few exotic cars in this category that offers all-wheel drive. Unfortunately, most of the drawbacks associated with the regular Continental GT -- minuscule rear seats and astronomical option prices -- stay put as well.
In comparison to the GT Speed, the 2013 Aston Martin DB9 can't keep up in a drag race but it is a much more nimble-feeling car to drive. A 2013 Maserati GranTurismo still turns heads with its seductive styling, and its rear seat is a little roomier. Finally, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG matches the GT Speed's power, though it doesn't feel as exclusive as the Bentley. In the end, shopping for an exotic grand touring car like this can come down to emotion more than regular car-buying logic. And getting to happily claim you have a 616-hp Bentley in your garage seems mighty OK by us.
Trim levels & features
The 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed comes standard with 21-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive air suspension, keyless ignition/entry, automatic xenon headlights, heated and power-folding mirrors, a power trunk lid, front and rear parking sensors, quilted and perforated seating, heated and power front seats (14-way driver and 12-way passenger), front seat memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control. The standard eight-speaker audio system includes a CD player, satellite radio, an iPod interface, Bluetooth and voice-controlled features. A navigation system is also included.
An optional Convenience package adds adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera and valet key (also available individually). The Le Mans Specification package is offered with bespoke 21-inch wheels and "Le Mans" Edition plaque, clock face, headrest embroidery, exterior badging and sill plates. To that, contrasting stitching to seats, doors and steering wheel may be added at an additional charge.
Stand-alone options include a six-CD changer, an ultra-premium Naim audio system (includes CD changer), integrated garage door opener, ventilated and massaging front seats, a heated steering wheel and carbon-ceramic disc brakes.
And, as with all Bentleys, buyers can choose from a dizzying array of exterior and interior colors, wheels, embroidery, stitching, piping and wood or metallic trim. The truly discerning buyer can also specify customized "Personal Commission" items -- for a price, of course.
Performance & mpg
For 2013, the Bentley Continental GT Speed is equipped with an upgraded version of the standard twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W12 engine. It generates 616 hp and 590 pound-feet of torque. At our test track, the GT Speed accelerated from zero to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds. The EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 14 mpg combined (12 city/19 highway).
The 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed comes standard with stability control, traction control, antilock brakes, side airbags for all seats and a driver knee airbag. In Edmunds brake testing, a GT Speed (with optional carbon-ceramic brakes) came to a stop from 60 mph in 116 feet.
If you're looking for an exquisitely crafted grand touring automobile for your daily drive or weekend road trips, the 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed is for you. Its superior visibility, tomblike silence, buttoned-down ride and composed handling make driving incongruously effortless and involving. The Speed's ride quality could be seen as a little too firm depending on your priorities, however, as the 21-inch wheels and tires can bang off big pavement irregularities, and the stiff suspension can get jittery.
The star of the show, however, is truly the turbocharged W12. With 590 lb-ft of torque available almost immediately, stomping the gas pedal will result in awe-inducing acceleration. A torrent of propulsion is available anywhere in the rev range, and it pushes the car to extralegal speeds with ease. Through turns, the GT Speed is capable enough, but the car's uncommunicative steering and hefty, front-end biased weight are always there to remind you that this isn't a sports car.
As with any Bentley, the Continental GT Speed's cabin features only the finest available materials. From supple leather that covers most surfaces to the rich wood veneers crafted in Bentley's dedicated hand-crafted woodworking shop, and available carbon fiber, the interior pays homage to old-world craftsmanship that truly defines "world class."
High-tech convenience contrasts with old-world charm, however, keeping the Continental GT competitive with its contemporaries. The infotainment touchscreen interface is clear and its operation intuitive, and the instrument panel features a sharp digital display flanked by legible analog gauges. That said, some of the buttons and switches aren't as clear or easy to use as some competitors. The Speed's shift paddles seem an afterthought, and the controls on the steering wheel are awkward to use.
Front seat comfort is excellent, but rear-seat adult passengers are still right to criticize, as space is still quite tight. We guess these rear quarters will more often carry the overflow from the 13-cubic-foot trunk than passengers, though.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
By now you probably know that the 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed is powered by a 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W12. You may also know that this 5,115-pound head cracker is all-wheel drive. And it's probably safe to assume you're aware that the word "Speed" at the end of this car's name means it's a special model with both more power and better handling that the standard Continental GT.
What you don't know is that at 170 mph on the Autobahn, this car still accelerates with the swelling yank of a fission-powered locomotive. You see, 170 mph represents only — gulp — 83 percent of the GT Speed's 205-mph maximum velocity.
Other curious facts about this 205-mph GT Speed — the fastest ever, by the way — are abundant. At this velocity the car's radiator processes 1,057 gallons of air per second, its rear wing (deployed at a mere 90 mph) generates 275 pounds of downforce and its body sits 20mm lower thanks to air springs programmed to lower as speed increases. Also, its dampers automatically stiffen and, should the need arise, its Bosch engine controller can perform 180 million calculations per second.
In other words, this latest evolution of Bentley's grand tourer is a substantial one.
Just a Car
Calling the 2013 GT Speed the fastest Bentley ever is true, but it's hardly significant. The previous-generation Continental GT Supersports was capable of a claimed 204 mph, making the match between the two a matter of both bench-racing semantics and — given the many variables that determine such things — utterly meaningless. Still, this new GT Speed, built from the revised GT introduced last year, produces 616 horsepower — 49 more than the standard car. The power bump is largely a product of a 4.5 psi boost increase and revised ignition timing.
Torque is now 590 pound-feet at only 2,000 rpm. And it is largely the defining factor in the GT Speed's personality. Roll into the throttle in any gear, at virtually any speed, and there's meaningful acceleration. With the turbos huffing away just off idle, the big mill makes 500 lb-ft of twist at only 1,000 rpm. It also peaks 1,000 revs later and continues essentially flat until 5,000 rpm. There are farm tractors with less usable torque.
But having it in a car, we've decided, is a good thing. After all, it allows neat tricks like dropping a few gears and then attempting to snap your passenger's head clean off with the power plant's obtuse might. Yes, it's fair to say the 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed is eager. Smooth brake/throttle transitions are challenging when driving quickly and there's rarely a need to approach the engine's 6,250-rpm redline.
Power to the Ground
After the engine, the next most significant piece of the GT Speed's persona is the use of ZF's eight-speed automatic transmission (previous-generation Continentals utilized a six-speed automatic). Essentially the same unit used by both Chrysler and Audi, the new gearbox yields the ability to go very quickly without ever trying very hard — a trait we suspect its owners will appreciate.
The combination of huge grunt and many gears means acceleration follows throttle position in a near-linear relationship. It's most impressive in Sport mode, which ups the tranny's response without making it undrivably aggressive on the street.
There's also a full manual gate for the shifter and redundant wheel-mounted paddles. Shifts, according to Paul Jones, Continental product line director, require only 0.1 second — matching or exceeding the shift rate of most double-clutch transmissions. With the ability to take up to five gears in a single downshift, it's hard to find fault with this gearbox. It provides both control and response beyond what most drivers will demand and firmly establishes the evolution of the model.
Also, it helps produce a 0-60 time of 4.0 seconds according to Bentley — a claim we'll be glad to verify when the car hits the U.S. next month.
A True GT
Spring rates of the GT Speed's air springs are increased on both ends relative to the base car — 45 percent up front and 33 percent in the rear. The car also sits 10mm lower and has 15 percent more negative camber in its front wheels. Its rear stabilizer bar is 53 percent stiffer.
Even so, you'll not mistake this Bentley for a sports car — its weight and size ensure that. Don't bother trying to toss this big boy around or make transitions like a rally car. This is, most certainly, a capable and wildly rapid GT. Drive it on back roads at eight-tenths where you can relish in its strengths and it's still confidently quicker than its closest competitors. Pretend you're Juha Kankunnen, though, and you'll be immediately reminded that you are not. Even a rear-biased 40/60 torque split doesn't make us want to drive this car at maximum attack.
Damping rates are manually adjustable over multiple steps but automatically increase as speed climbs. Steering effort, too, increases with speed to the extent that, at 150 mph, lane changes require genuine intention.
Also, stopping a car as powerful and heavy as this Bentley requires a lot of brake force. Iron rotors are standard, but the truly indulgent will opt for the $13,600 carbon-ceramic option that offers 16.5-inch front rotors — the largest brake rotor on any production car in the world. Eight-piston front calipers and single-piston rear calipers do the stopping.
More Efficient, Conspicuous
Efficiency is a big deal for even the high-end luxury carmakers these days, and Bentley is no exception. On the GT Speed, eight gears allow the engine to stay in its sweet spot more often and alternator output is also reduced during low-load conditions. The Continental's more recent restyle, combined with a smooth underbody tray, reduces aerodynamic drag by 7.5 percent while increasing downforce by 8 percent vs. the standard Continental.
Altogether, the changes result in a 12 percent increase in fuel economy, which bumps the GT Speed's EPA combined rating to an estimated 15 mpg. So the GT is more efficient than before, but still not efficient.
Ten-spoke, 21-inch wheels unique to the GT Speed are 15 percent lighter and 79 percent torsionally stiffer than the wheels they replace. They don't really make it any more efficient, but damn if they don't look great on the road.
Classic British Luxury
Inside you'll find the hand-hewn quality you'd expect of such a machine. Leather is sourced from Spanish bulls raised in high-altitude enclosures lacking both barbed wire and insects. Each car requires nine or 10 hides to complete, according to Nigel Lofkin of the Bentley Experience. Each hide is reviewed and marked for blemishes. Rejects are sent away to be made into work gloves — really nice work gloves.
Five hours and 15 minutes are required to hand sew the leather on a Continental GT heated steering wheel. Double-stitching a set of front seats consumes 37 man-hours. Wood veneers are "book matched" such that they're patterned symmetrically on interior pieces.
Calling it gratuitous is a very British bit of understatement.
There's dark tint "engine-spin" finish on the console and dash, aluminum on the pedals, knurling on the aluminum knobs and a full array of technologies such a machine should offer: Bluetooth, navigation, an optional 11-speaker Naim audio system, an SD card reader and a 15GB hard drive for music storage.
You'll Pay Dearly for the Privilege
Bentley tells us this exercise in speed and luxury will cull $215,000 from its buyers' Swiss bank accounts — about $22,000 more than a standard Continental. And when you think about it, that sum seems perfectly reasonable for a car whose competitors need a Uranium-238 suppository to have any hope of keeping up on any road of consequence.
And trust us. When you're behind the wheel of the 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed on the Autobahn, it feels as close to invincible as a car gets. That's worth $215K in our books.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed Overview
The Used 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed is offered in the following submodels: Continental GT Speed Coupe. Available styles include 2dr Coupe AWD (6.0L 12cyl Turbo 8A).
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Should I lease or buy a 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.