Day one: The Bentley arrives covered in a film of M6 filth. It looks rather excellent as a result. One of the blokes from a passing recycling lorry certainly thinks so. ‘Sick car bruv,’ he says as I lock it and then he comes over and holds his arm up. I do the same and we bump forearms. I didn’t even know this was a thing. As the man who once made a hash of a fist bump by turning it into an inept handshake I’m quite pleased to get away with a minimum amount of embarrassment on this one.
Later I go out to run some errands and take the long way home via a bit of dual carriageway. Jesus Christ, this car is fast. It’s a hefty thing but when you clog it, it’s as if all air has been removed from its path allowing it to glide up to a much higher speed with no sense of resistance. Still quite pleased about getting the arm bump right.
Day two: I’ve got to stay home and work. The Bentley sits outside being sick, bruv. I find myself staring at it out of the window. It’s a handsome thing, probably the best the Conti GT has ever looked. Later, whilst out walking the dog, I spot a brand new Conti GT non-Speed in a vile shade of purple which doesn’t look even half as nice. I think this is because it’s a) on smaller wheels and b) purple.
My friend Chris comes over in the evening. He describes the Speed as ‘too big’ and then in so many words says it looks ridiculous outside because my street isn’t posh enough for it. I disagree about the size. It feels perfectly manageable when you’re driving it. He’s probably got a point about my street.
Day three: It’s the annual Pride of Longbridge event in Birmingham where nerdist men like me gather to trudge around a field looking at old BL tat. I like to call it The Rustival. The Bentley manages the M40 superbly. Of course, I can’t think of any cars that would make a mess of driving up the M40 but the Bentley does it particularly well. It’s quiet, comfortable and very, very fast. Also, it seems to make people get out of the way. At the end of the run to Brum the car’s computer reckons it’s done 24 miles per gallon which really isn’t bad, especially since I was driving like a bit of a bellend.
After an hour or so of wandering about saying things like ‘Oh look, another immaculate Triumph Acclaim’ it starts to rain and we bugger off to the pub for lunch.Later I drive down through Warwickshire and take in some nicely twisty roads. It’s still raining and this car is on winter tyres so it’s not the best time to assess the handling but I would say it seems to be a slow in/fast out sort of car. Sometimes you can feel the rear biased torque split of the four-wheel-drive system. Other times you can feel that the whole car really wants to understeer. Most of the time you can’t feel much at all. Even so, for a car of its bulk it appears capable of things that are simply not allowed under the laws of Great Britain and/or physics.
Day four: Someone told me last week that those massive nuclear missile transporters the Russians used to show off on May Day needed 20 litres of fuel just to get their engines started. Sadly, the same seems to be true of the Bentley. It was showing 25 miles of range and the gauge was just into the red when I got home last night. Clearly that’s not enough. This morning it won’t start. Before the computer will let the 6-litre W12 turn over I have to stand outside one of the neighbour’s houses glugging juice into a £180,000 car from a manky five quid plastic can. Which is embarrassing.
Go to meet some friends for lunch. My mate Zoe says the inside of the Bentley ‘smells of money’. It is potently leathery in there. The quilting effect on the seats is ace, as is the feel and action of the little organ stops that open and close the vents. Some of the other switches aren’t so impressive. They’re too shiny and plasticky, like something Honda would have used in the 1980s. The audio/sat-nav system isn’t great either. It’s laggy and it flat refuses to recognise my phone has music on it. Both giveaway that it’s last generation kit. You get better in a new Golf. What you don’t get in a new Golf is a 616 horsepower W12 so, you know, you takes your pick on these things.
Day five: When you grab the door handle of the Speed and let it keylessly unlock itself, things within the car start humming and whirring, like a whole building stirring itself into life. Then you press the starter button and the motor cranks for a good second or two before the W12 quietly thunders to life. I don’t know how much of this is deliberate but for a sense of occasion it’s all very excellent. The engine noise itself is good too. It’s not smooth like a normal V12. Instead it throbs like a V8. So much so that at idle you can feel it very gently shaking the car. Nice.
Day six: A day crawling around London. You can pretty much see the fuel gauge going down. Otherwise, the Speed is very good in the city. Put the dampers in comfort mode and you can feel bumps but you’re not annoyed by them. What you can’t do in town is use much of the Speed’s mighty performance. Mind you, there aren’t many places where you can. Full throttle is not something you apply very often for fear you’ll arrive somewhere sooner than your brain can comprehend such as at a wall or a tree or the reading room of Leicester Municipal Library.
Day seven: It’s the day of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. As they bury one of the most strident advocates of the self-made man, it’s appropriate to be driving a very self-made man’s car. Secretly, we’d like our Bentleys to be driven only by mad old toffs with simply enormous moustaches but the truth is most toffs are broke and the only people who can afford cars like these are those who got on their bikes and looked to set up a three branch carpet shop empire in the greater Batley area. Or footballers. Yet despite an image that brings out inverted snobbery, I haven’t felt any burning, seething hate from other motorists. Perhaps the colour helps. It’s not very show-offy in dark grey. You might assume dark grey was a very standard colour but no, it costs £3230 extra. Since we’re on comedy options prices, the contrast stitching on the seats is £1395 and to have it on the steering wheel is another £135 on top of that. Best of all, the carbon ceramic brakes are… ready for this? The carbon ceramic brakes are £10,200. They also make a funny noise that sounds a bit like the faint sound of running water and take a few moments to warm up in the morning. This is worth remembering before you get to the end of your street and almost T-bone a Golf.
Goodbye: The Bentley is going away. This makes me sad. There are a few things about it that could be better – some of the switches, the audio/nav unit, the truly ghastly W12 badge on the front wings – but these are all things that have been stuck on. All the mechanical parts, the very core of the car, are superb and work exceedingly well. It weighs 2.3 tons in old money and feels as reassuringly sturdy as you would hope yet it moves with an effortlessness that buggers belief, sort of like a heavy oak door on exceptionally good hinges. I don’t know how they’ve done this but they have and it’s bloody great.
The Bentley Continental GT Speed has a 6-litre twin-turbo W12 engine making 616bhp. As a result, Bentley say it can go from 0-60 in four seconds and on to 205mph. It costs £151,100 but this test car had some options on it and listed at £180,045.