Although it is best known for its huge sedans like the Mulsanne, Bentley insists it makes cars that are meant to be driven by their owners, not chauffeurs.
After spending a few days in the 2013 Continental GT Speed Convertible, we believe them. The GT Speed is a real driver’s car, with 616 horsepower coming from a W12 engine, permanent all-wheel drive, and a quite fun Sport mode.
But we’ve had just as much fun driving in cars that cost a tiny fraction of this one. The GT Speed has a $US238,700 MSRP; the well-equipped one we tested runs for $US272,220.
So what do you get for all that dough? Here’s a full breakdown of everything that comes standard (like the knurled gear knob and “seatbelt presenter”) and the often superfluous options (try carbon fibre panels in the backseat and a neck warmer for chilly nights).
First off, let's acknowledge it's a great looking car. Not the sexiest we've ever seen, but it does a better job than most convertibles of combining comfort with performance.
OK, standard features first. Hands down the best one: the W12 engine that produces 616 horsepower. (Enough to go from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds.)
There's trunk space for two people's bags. The car seats four, but the backseat is so small, no one will tolerate sitting in it for any kind of trip.
With the 'seat belt presenter,' you don't have to risk hurting your wealthy back by twisting back to grab the buckle.
And AM, FM, and satellite radio, along with all sorts of info about what's going on in the car, like tire pressure.
For reasons we can't fathom, the map function doesn't zoom in any further than this. (That may not be the case for the navigation system, which we didn't use. But either way, you should be able to see roads other than major interstates on the map.)
We're not sure what this thing, set between the rear seats, is for. Our best bet is that is has something to do with channeling sound from the trunk into the cabin.
Want to drive the convertible on a chilly evening? Drop $US1,035 on the option neck warmers. They blow hot air, and are the best thing to happen to wealthy necks since the double Windsor knot. They were nice to have for our September test drive.
Throw in an excellent sound system made by Naim, with a CD changer (useful, if you still own more than one CD). $US7,300.
The Bentley's engine will take you only 12 miles per gallon in the city (20 on the highway). That means you have to pay a $US2,600 gas guzzler tax.
Here's what you don't get: Any room in the backseat. The rear of this car may be great for small rich children, but it's not much use otherwise.
It feels like Bentley put the backseat in as an afterthought, and that's fine. The car is meant to be driven, and it's a lot of fun to be in the driver's seat.
But what really sets this car apart from other sporty, luxury options is the 'Bentley' name itself. That why even the air caps on the tires are marked with a 'B.'
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