The GT Speed has not lost any of the Conti's refinements. It's still a benchmark for luxury and comes with the Mulliner package as standard, whereas the standard GT offers it as a cost option. Externally, the car differs by having a more upright (to help with the cooling) dark-tinted chrome grille and new meshing covering both the main and lower air intakes. At the rear, there's a black lower bumper valance and new exhaust pipes. But the biggest difference is the fitting of new, multi-spoke, 20-inch wheels, which suit the lines of the car by adding a sense of menace, particularly as the ride height has also been lowered.
Both the Continental GT and GT Speed have benefited from tweaks to the nose section, with a more clearly defined lower valance that sharpens up the whole face. The GT Speed doesn't replace the Continental GT, but complements it as a more focused, harder-edged driving machine.
The extra punch is immediately apparent. Which is impressive, as the standard model is certainly no slouch. It sounds gruffer and there's a distinct whoom at idle, which always turns heads. Where the original GT tends to succumb too easily to understeer when cornering hard, the GT Speed comes alive. Although it still feels heavy, it's more sprightly, more responsive to inputs and definitely more fun to drive. No longer does it feel nose-heavy. Instead, it's poised, well balanced and impeccably behaved.
Acceleration is never anything other than a slingshot and, with the windows down, you get a real audio hit. Using the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles to override the automatic gearbox is the best method to provide the feeling of being totally in charge.
The Continental GT has always cosseted its occupants, which is nice up to a point. That point being when you realize you're doing 140 mph when you thought you were behaving yourself at 70. Never has such performance been achievable with so little effort. In the GT Speed, you're always aware that you're travelling very, very quickly. And this does nothing whatsoever to detract from the Continental's raison d'etre. It's just that with 600 hp and sharpened dynamics, you know exactly what the GT Speed is up to.
Another big improvement is the optional ceramic-disc braking system. It costs more to order than most small cars are to buy-an eye-watering $20,000. But colossal levels of speed are wiped off without a hint of bother. Internal organs will shift forward, but it's nice to know this beast can be brought to a standstill with such devastating effectiveness.
As is the way with Bentley, the GT Speed isn't blighted by badges or decals. That would be vulgar. But the educated eye will notice the details: the new wheels, the new exhaust pipes, the revised grille, the lower ride height and the biggest brake rotors one is ever likely to see. These all combine to tell the discerning observer that is the greatest driver's car Bentley has ever built.