Reliving the glory days

Reliving the glory days

Daring to go topless in the midst of winter, Philip Murray, commercial director of accountants Harlands, takes Bentley’s GT Speed Convertible for a spin
Usually when people think of Bentley, they think of the passengers pampered in the backseat, whilst a hired chauffeur takes the wheel.

But now Bentley wants to bring back the glory days of the late 1920s, when its cars conquered the 24 Hours of Le Mans race and it has decided to build the Continental GT Speed Convertible. I was lucky enough to be the one to test drive it for 24 hours across the North East of England and it was simply epic.

With a starting price of £160K this is still a luxurious car: it has massage seats and even neck warmers. But don’t be fooled as it’s also fantastically built for performance, and the driver’s seat is far better than the back. Whoever’s in control gets to play with more than 600 horsepower and a sport mode that makes it a so much fun to use!

So if you want the performance along with the luxury and you have the cash, open your wallet and put on your driving shoes.

First things first: the stats for all those that are interested. A twin-turbo 6.0-litre engine sits under the bonnet sending 616 Horse Power to all four wheels. The top speed is 202 mph (I didn’t know how fast I was going officer), and despite the weight, the GT Speed Convertible will hit 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. It is formidable and the noise it makes is enough to send you weak at the knees. I found myself trying to find tunnels so I could hear the engine one last time.

It is of course a fuel guzzler with an average of 15 mpg. But who cares about that if you can afford a car upwards of £160K?

What none of this tells you is how exceptional the Continental GT Speed Convertible is in the real world. Where roads can be wide-open and straight, curvy and potholed, or even treacherously snowy and icy, the GT Speed Convertible is simply unflustered. You don’t just feel like you command the road and the environment behind the wheel of this machine – you actually do.

Amazing foul-weather capability
Being from the North East it is important we can get around in all types of weather. With Bentley’s windscreen in place over the rear seats, the seat heating vents wide open, and the seat heaters turned on, even freezing temperatures are tolerable with the top down, at speed. Imagine the looks I got driving through rural Derwentside on a cold January day.

I did decide to pack some gloves though in the afternoon, as the steering wheel wasn’t heated (Yep, I am being that picky because it’s such an amazing car). For most of the time and when driving with my wife, we decided to skip the cold-weather preparation, however, and just enjoyed the quiet and comfort of the coupe.

I was also made aware of the Bentley’s fantastic ability to brave the County Durham snow thanks to a YouTube video and how I wish it had snowed to try out the all-wheel drive system. By all accounts the proven all-wheel drive system and a sensible use of the throttle and brake can master any of the treacherous weather that can be found on a sunny day in Consett and that was a big surprise and tick of the box.

Fair-weather fun
The minute I left the showroom, all I really wanted to do was line up the wheel, slam the accelerator down, and let the eight-speed automatic gearbox do the rest. The GT Speed Convertible has been described as “an actual land-bound rocket ship” in America and I don’t disagree with that statement.

You can imagine the smile on my face as I was held back into the drivers’ seat whilst the GT took control. It was simply stunning. But why let the eight-speed automatic handle the gear changes? There are paddles like many sports cars but they’re a bit distant from the wheel, mounted on the steering column, and they’re not very engaging or instantaneous even when you do find them.

Better to click up a couple of notches of the variable sport mode and let the electronics do the work in my opinion.

Everyday companion
Unlike the vast majority of the high range sports cars I have been lucky enough to watch on Top Gear or be a passenger of, the GT Speed Convertible is actually, well, very useful and is ultimately, a very, very fast daily driver. The interior, though beautifully turned out and phenomenally well-made, is functional and straightforward, for the most part.

Epic in the truest, least-overused sense of the word
After 175 plus miles and one epic day of travel behind the wheel of the Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible, I found myself surprised that it’s not just lavish, capable, and gorgeous, but truly functional. The combination is inebriating.

It’s enough to make even a mere mortal consider trading a home mortgage for a garage space and a sleeping bag. Anyone have a spare sleeping bag?

The car Philip drove was the GT Speed Convertible. It is finished in Onyx with Linen Main hide with Beluga secondary hide, 21 dark tint speed alloys, two-tone leather hide with two-tone, three-spoke steering wheel, rear camera, power boot opening and closing and red brake callipers.

It costs £181,850 OTR. Bentley Newcastle, Silverlink, Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, NE28 9ND.