Growing up, there was literally nothing more quintessentially British to me than the BBC. Piped into our houses daily via cathode ray tube TV, the announcers spoke in the Queens English, the comedy was uniquely British (complete with canned laughter) and even world disasters felt somehow comforting when delivered by a newsreader with a polished British accent. Competitions held by children’s programs would require ‘sending your answers on a postcard’ to an address that ended in the postcode London W12 – White city, the then home of the BBC. But W12 is an area that is famous for a much more than the good old BBC. To the south is Shepherds Bush a mixture of style and modernism with a heritage that’s all rock and roll. Bands such as The Who, Sex Pistols and the Clash all lay claim to having some form of roots here (even The Beatles recorded their first TV broadcast in W12) oh, and let’s not forget that HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs home of some very notorious criminals hangs menacingly to the north. W12 is a postcode with a mixture of desirable styles, is filled with heritage and has a gruff powerful underbelly – much like the Bentley Continental GT Speed!
The Bentley’s muscular body with its flowing lines and wide rear shoulders has an immediate look of speed and justifiably so. Under its bonnet sits a 6 Litre W12 Twin Turbo charged Goliath of an engine. It’s an engine that produces 467kW’s of Power and 820Nm of torque; more than enough to move W12 to a whole new suburb. But although this may sound all ferocious and animalistic despite having an engine that is capable of hitting a top speed of 327kph and can move its near 2500kgs frame from 0-100kph in 4.2 seconds, this W12 engine has an environmental conscious too. Using a variable displacement system (at part throttle) the engine un-noticeably and automatically runs on only six of its twelve cylinders, reducing the fuel consumption without sacrificing refined drive.
My ride for the day was dressed in Marlin blue, a new colour addition to the range and its rich metallic paint suited the car well. The smaller front radiator shell blended in smoothly under the bonnet and beside the more pronounced front fenders while the Beluga gloss lower body styling came up from below to meet it. A flowing ‘B’ adornment emphasizes the Bentley’s powerline and leads your eye toward its muscular rear end. The boot has a pronounced aerodynamic edge and there is a retractable spoiler that sits just below the rear window that once raised looks like a bow tie on a bulldog. Below the boots full length brightware are the sport exhausts two rifled tailpipes and when you add in the elliptical lights the resulting view of the back is visually impressive.
The entire frame sits low on the Bentley’s near caricature 21” Directional sport alloy wheels and behind them lays the very necessary Carbon ceramic brakes – it’s a reasonably heavy car that goes very fast so being able to stop has a lot of merit!
From top to bottom the interior of the GT Speed is the antithesis of mediocrity. I ran my hand over the Alcantara headlining to get a sense of the quality and it was sumptuous. Seats are of course made of fine Hide but with Beluga and Fireglow speed accents and they a small diamond quilt pattern akin to the design on a British Gentleman’s jacket. Semi Analine leather inserts (purportedly the highest quality of leather available in the automotive industry) have also been added to the seats and door panels to underline the cabins luxury while contrast stitching throughout completes the picture. The dashboard has dark tint aluminium fascia panels while piano black veneer adorns the centre consoles – front to back. The Infotainment screen that among other functions houses a Naim audio system and a TV receiver is simple to navigate around (I couldn’t find the BBC channel) – but to be honest I spent most of my time concentrating on the car itself rather than the entertainment system. The instrument cluster (seems crass to use that word) continues with a Bentley ‘upper’ class theme and the driver controls all seem to be little more accessible. A particular point of interest was a button on the door panel beside the electric windows, it Power open and closes the boot; evidently owners of this fine vehicle are in way too much of a hurry to load their own trunk.
With ‘speed’ on my mind I thought the best place to take the Bentley was to the Fram Autolite raceway in Meremere, they had kindly offered me exclusive access to their drag strip – a quarter mile of un-policed tarmac and a Bentley Continental GT speed – deliver me from temptation!
Pulling up at the starting blocks of the track the Bentley, a car who’s normally habitat would be the likes of 5 Star hotels and million dollar residences, seemed surprisingly at home. Its powerful stance, widened rear end of course that W12 engine gave off the distinct impression that it was here to play – so play we did. For some inexplicable reason our photographer needed a lot of pictures of me going up and down the lanes at a certain velocity – he wanted to get the right shot and this evidently took time.
As I drove back from the drag strip I engaged the adaptive cruise control set my vented seat to cool and put on the Massage feature, I relaxed back in the comfortable leather simply enjoying the ride. The GT Speed is a versatile machine, adapting effortlessly to Town, Open roads and the hint of Track time. As the base notes of the engine calmly reverberated from somewhere deep inside the car my mind began to wander a little; and back to the West London suburb, as if W12 didn’t have enough of a reason to be ingrained in my brain, Bentley have now given me one other to dwell on.