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Bentley builds ultimate drop-top


BENTLEY’S new open-top performance flagship will make its international début on 14 January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Christened the Continental GT Speed Convertible, it’s said to be the world’s fastest four-seat convertible.

As the ultimate expression of al fresco motoring, the GT Speed cabrio features a twin-turbocharged, 6.0-litre W12 engine mated to a close-ration eight-speed automatic transmission. It develops a monstrous 460kW and 800Nm (available from 2 000rpm) of torque. The run to 100km/h is despatched in 4.1 seconds and it only runs out of steam on the naughty side of 300km/h.

Bentley claims a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy and CO2 emissions compared to the first generation Speed. This impressive figure comes courtesy of an energy recuperation system and an advanced engine management system capable of performing 180 million individual calculations per second.

The aluminium double-wishbone front suspension and trapezoidal multi-link rear setup feature revised air suspension springs and dampers for improved agility and body control with little sacrifice in ride comfort.

This self-levelling system is set 10mm lower than the standard GT convertible. Bentley claims the stiffer suspension bushes ensure sharp, communicative handling, while up-rated anti-roll bars optimise the handling balance. The result is improved body control under hard cornering together with greater agility and, because steering plays an essential role in feeding response and grip back to the driver, the Servotronic steering has also been recalibrated for the Speed specification.

The Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system is optimised for the new engine management system to deliver both outstanding safety and greater driver involvement. The ESC system retains the Dynamic Mode setting that allows increased wheel slip at higher speeds, with engine torque reinstated more quickly after a system intervention.

From outside, the Continental GT Speed convertible is distinguished by a matrix radiator grille and bumper air intakes in a dark-tint chrome finish. The 21-inch Speed alloy wheels are unique to this model, and are available in silver or an optional dark tint. Large, elliptical exhaust tailpipes feature a rifled interior, while a further subtle design touch is revealed when the bonnet is opened – the black inlet manifold is unique to the Continental Speed models. As with the GT Speed coupé, the winged B badge which crowns the radiator shell is set upon a black enamel background.

Inside, exclusive tread-plates featuring the Speed legend welcome you to a four-seat cabin that features the handcraftsmanship of the Mulliner Driving Specification, with its distinctive diamond-quilted hide upholstery. For the Continental GT Speed models Bentley offers an exclusive Dark Tint Aluminium finish, inspired by the dashboards of the Le Mans winning Bentleys of the 1920s.

The infotainment system features Bentley’s latest software upgrades, which vary from region to region but include refinements such as point of interest mapping, optional satellite landscape imagery and live traffic data. The system features 15 gigabytes of available music space, as well as the facility to play music via an iPod, MP3 player, the car’s own six-disc CD changer or SD card.

The four-layer drop-down roof lowers at the touch of a button. Bentley claims high levels of refinement and acoustic insulation. Exhaustively tested in all conditions from, minus 30 degrees C to plus 50 degrees C or more, it resists even monsoon-force rain and maintains comfortable, draft-free warmth even on the coldest days.

The GT Speed convertible has not been confirmed for South Africa yet, but as the standard Speed is already available, we see no reason why the drop-top won’t find its way here.

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