THE Continental GT Speed Convertible, Bentley's new open-top performance flagship – and the world's fastest four-seat convertible – makes its international debut next week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The convertible shares its powertrain specification with its Bentley stablemate, the GT Speed coupé.
The 460kW twin-turbocharged, 48-valve, W12 engine powers the new convertible to 100km/h in 4.4 seconds and onto a top speed of 325km/h.
Nought to 160km/h is dispatched in only 9.7 seconds. Peak torque – an impressive 800Nm – is reached at just 2000rpm and maintains that level through to 5000rpm for effortless, refined performance.
That should be enough power to blow your hair back.
Bentley says the close-ratio eight-speed transmission, uprated and lowered suspension and retuned steering provide exhilarating acceleration and sharp, communicative handling without detriment to the renowned ride comfort of the convertible. Permanent all-wheel drive ensures optimum traction and power delivery.
Bentley says the latest ME17 engine management system, capable of performing 180 million individual calculations per second, provides enhanced turbocharger control and torque management, enhancing driveability.
In common with all W12-engined models, the GT Speed convertible features an energy recuperation system. Together with a close-ratio, quick-shifting eight-speed transmission, this has resulted in a 15% improvement in fuel economy and CO2emissions compared with the first generation Speed, with a commensurate increase in tank range. The tanks hold 90 litres. (Fuel consumption is not for the squeamish!)
Bentley quotes figures of 14.5 litres/100km with CO2emissions of 347g/km.
The new GT Speed Convertible's powertrain is even more tractable than its predecessor, and just as fuel-efficient as the new W12 Continental GT.
Switching the gear selector to "Sport'' mode demonstrates the dual personality of the new convertible, delivering a sharper throttle response, gear-shifting at higher engine speeds and faster "block shifting'' for instantly accessible acceleration.
The enhanced performance is accentuated by a glorious baritone snarl from the free-breathing exhaust, a thrilling soundtrack to the magnificent powerhouse under the bonnet.
The convertible offers the reassuring stability of permanent all-wheel drive, biased 60:40 in favour of the rear so the spirited driver can control the car's line with the throttle.
The rear-biased torque split also minimises understeer during hard cornering while the system varies torque between the front and rear axles for optimum grip in virtually all road and weather conditions.