An awe-inspiring sight greeted travelers in the Grand Canyon recently as Bentley unveiled its brand new Continental GT Speed Convertible to a group of key media during an epic 600-mile journey. Beginning in Scottsdale, Arizona and traveling to Las Vegas via historic Route 66, the phalanx of Bentleys in a rainbow of colors proved to be stiff competition for some of the world’s most famous scenery. With a turbocharged 6.0 liter, 616 hp W12 engine capable of a top speed of 202 mph and a 0–60 mph time of 4.1 seconds, the luxury vehicle now ranks as the world’s fastest four-seat convertible, a true grand tourer in the great Bentley tradition.
The Speed designation dates back to 1925 when the British marque’s founder W.O. Bentley introduced the 3-Liter Speed followed by the Le Mans 24 Hour Race — winning Speed Six and making his name synonymous with power backed by the very best bespoke craftsmanship. The new convertible features an eight-speed transmission, upgraded lowered suspension, and permanent all-wheel drive, equating to unrivaled performance and perfect handling in any conditions. Bentley’s ultra-luxe Mulliner Driving Specification, another nod to its longstanding history of rarefied interior finishes, is standard in the new model adding to its exclusive appeal.
With overnight stops at the stylish W Hotel in Scottsdale, the historic El Tovar Lodge on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, and the magnificent Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas, there was ample time to allow the GT Speed Convertible room to stretch its shapely legs on this road trip. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a Sport mode supplying sharper throttle response, and a deeper exhaust note underscore the convertible’s visceral capabilities, layered in glove-soft quilted leather set off by Bentley’s signature knurled detailing and a variety of bespoke options. In another nod to the marque’s racing prowess, a Dark Tint Aluminum “engine spin” finish that's inspired by the dashboards of the Le Mans-winning Bentley autos of the 1920s is available.
Other interior options include a full range of fine wood veneers, a satin-finish Carbon Fiber dashboard and center console, seventeen shades of leather, two-tone upholstery, and contrast stitching. Audiophiles can also opt for the Naim for Bentley sound system, featuring custom-built speakers and eight individual Digital Sounds Processing modes. If one of over a hundred exterior paint colors doesn’t suit your specifications, Bentley’s bespoke department will gladly help you create a custom hue. Carbon fiber door mirror cowls and a rear spoiler are complimentary while the optional Mulliner Styling Specification adds more carbon fiber detailing for supercar looks.
Beneath the car’s appealing surface lies some very serious machinery. The four-layer convertible top, deployed at the touch of a button, was exhaustively tested in conditions ranging from -20˚ to 120˚ Farenheit and is strong enough to withstand monsoon-force rain. Heated seats and steering wheel, as well as a neck warmer feature, ensure that drivers can enjoy top-down motoring even on cooler days, as demonstrated on some of the Grand Canyon’s snowy passes. The convertible top disappears completely when retracted, allowing for the sinuous lines of the GT Speed’s styling to assert themselves.
A Bentley is of course a sign of success but it is less about impressing other people as a reward in its own right. Even in bright red paintwork a Bentley doesn’t so much shout about its owner’s wealth as announce that the person driving it is secure enough to enjoy their prerogatives. From Keith Richards to the Queen of England, most Bentley owners are not striving to arrive but already occupy the pinnacle and are easily satisfied with the very best. They have nothing to prove and no need to please anyone but themselves, no time for anything less than perfection, no desire to attract attention for the sake of vanity, and no wish to make anyone envious of their position.
While it’s easy enough to call something “handcrafted”, the Bentley’s uncompromising quality comes through especially well on a lengthy journey. While some super-luxury cars never quite feel comfortable, disassociate the driver from the road or substitute less-than-luxurious materials wherever possible, the GT Speed Convertible passes all the tests with flying colors. The fact that Bentley was confident enough to send the car on a six hundred mile test drive is testament to its unstinting commitment to building the incomparable vehicles without cutting corners, trusting that discerning drivers around the world will make the effort worthwhile. Bentley’s double-digit growth in sales figures has proven them quite right.