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The new Bentley on steroids -- and Red Bull

The Continental GT Speed exceeds 200 mph, but watch out for those sudden stops: With these brakes, they can be doozies.

November 14, 2007|DAN NEIL

The thing about going 202 mph in the new Bentley Continental GT Speed is, sooner or later, you're going to want to slow down. Indeed, slowing down is vital to the continued enjoyment of the car; otherwise, you'll arc into outer space, where there are no hip, trendy restaurants.

And so, as a prudent compliment to the new car's 610 horsepower W12 engine -- 50 hp more than that sniveling runt of a car, the Continental GT -- the GT Speed is available with optional carbon/silicon cross-drilled front discs measuring 420 by 40mm. For the metrically impaired, that's 16.53-inch-diameter front rotors. The rear discs' diameter exceeds 14 inches, with eight-piston calipers at all four corners. These are the largest brakes on any series production car. Moreover, according to my calculations, that's more brakes than on all the cars I've ever owned, combined.

Much of the hardware on the performance-enhanced GT Speed -- which makes its North American debut this week at the L.A. Auto Show -- is devoted to going fast and quick. The suspension is stiffer, the ride height lower. The radiator grille is more upright, for better cooling. The twin-turbo 6.0-liter engine gets a number of mods to lighten and strengthen the four-cam valvetrain and reciprocating assembly. The technicians have adjusted the engine's electronic brain to the "insane" setting. Hence the 610 hp and 553 pound-feet of torque, channeled through a six-speed ZF transmission and Torsen center differential. The result, and the net performance gain over the GT, is a 0-60 mph pace of 4.3 seconds and a top speed of 202 mph (4 mph faster).

Some may regard these marginal increases in performance metrics not worth the GT Speed's price premium ($199, 990, $24,000 over the GT), but these people have tiny yachts you can't even land a helicopter on. A better measure is the GT Speed's astonishing, gag-on-your-tongue mid-range acceleration: 30-70 mph in 4 seconds flat. Which is to say, this 5,180-pound luxury car has overtaking acceleration like an Italian sport bike. Compared with the hyperkinesis of the GT Speed, others appear to be fueled with Clonidine.

A still better measure is the car's awesome stopping power. From nearly max speed, I went to the brakes almost full force. Many interesting things happened at once. First, my tongue came unraveled and smeared the windshield with saliva. Second, the W12 engine let out a monstrous molten burp of an overrun, and I wouldn't be surprised if gouts of flames spat from the quad exhaust. Third, the 9.5- by 20-inch Pirelli P-Zeros radials put their talons into the asphalt while the car's antilock brake and electronic brake-force distribution systems ciphered frantically to keep the wheels from locking up. Fourth, the car's integrated rear wing flipped up to create an air brake. Before I would have thought mechanically possible, the GT Speed was standing still on the tarmac as a cloud of dust swept up into its draft settling around us.

Consider my dumb thoroughly founded.

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