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2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed First Drive Page 2

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Woolly bully

The GT Speed is one brute that knows how to dress for occasion. Its gains are marked with a new front bumper with mesh grilles covering the intakes, a composite splitter, and a small pair of winglets. A dark tint is applied to the light surrounds and wheels, and the brake calipers get a bright red finish. The Candy Red paint on this car? It's a 2015 Speed exclusive. In back and down below, the oval exhaust outlets are an inch and a half wider than those on the standard W-12 car, and 21-inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero tires are standard issue. Those carbon-ceramics that brought us back to the landosphere? They're a spendy $14,150 option.

It knows how to coddle, too. The GT Speed's cabin gets a color split all its own, with a dark interior theme dressed in a contrasting color applied to the doors, rear panels, fascia wings, inner console and  gear lever. As an option, the quilting on the door panels and seats can be stitched in the same contrasting color. A Speed badge on the dash is made from injection-molded stainless steel. The carpets are still woolly donations from Scotland's quiet majority.

Bodies and castings come from the Continent, but the GT Speed's interior is still handmade at Crewe. It's one of few car plants where Dutch elm could be a real veneer disease, where a solid copper wrench is used to avoid scarring engines during assembly, where bull hides are inspected for mosquito bite marks before they’re cut and sewn, where the embroidery on a single Bentley logo on a single headrest consists of five thousand, one hundred and three stitches.

The Continental GT Speed is more useful than it needs to be, what with a real back seat and all-weather all-wheel drive. It still has its foibles. It muddles through with the same infotainment system as other Bentleys. It just doesn’t have the finesse lavished over the rest of the cabin—and we’re not huge fans of the tune of the audio system, set up for lots of midrange but not the tight bass digitally recorded music prefers.

Then there’s the plush, thickly lined convertible top—it does a yeoman’s job blotting out road sounds when it’s up, but run up into a Scottish-grade rain squall (hard to imagine, but yes, it happens) and you have to slow down to 20 mph or stop and wait almost a half-minute before you’re protected. It’s simply a huge piece of canvas to fold and unfold.

The GT Speed is a bully on the road, stanced to inspire you to get the hell out of its way, in the most polite way possible. It’s positively a model of gentility in every other way—even when you’re urging it to supra-aeronautical speeds.

Priced from $227,600 for the coupe or $250,100—before destination and gas-guzzler taxes—the 2015 Bentley Continental GT Coupe and Speed go on sale in the third quarter of this year.

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