Bentley - On Speed in Scotland

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It was the proverbial offer too good to refuse: Travel to Scotland for a scenic tour of Speyside, the historic region made famous by the many whisky distilleries situated nearby. During said visit, our small group would stay in a cottage situated at the Macallan Estate, the hallowed grounds where one of the world’s most prestigious single malts is produced. But this was just the start.

The icing on what promised to be a very tasty cake: The entire tour would be powered by three high-performance Bentley models, the Bentley Continental GT Speed, GTC Speed and Flying Spur Speed. More resolute men than I, those with a stronger will or those with something better to do perhaps—could there be anything better to do?—might have been able to turn this offer down. Me, I was counting the minutes until I arrived in the land of plaid and haggis.

The ride from Aberdeen airport set the stage beautifully: Still reeling from jet lag, I slid into the back seat of the Continental Flying Spur Speed and transitioned in and out of consciousness as the lush landscape of the Scottish Highlands rocketed past. Do I mean to imply that this particular Bentley is a dream ride? Well, let’s consider the facts.

The Flying Spur Speed is the most powerful sedan ever produced by the legendary British carmaker and the fastest production sedan in the world. Armed with a twin-turbocharged, 6.0-litre, 12-cylinder engine that generates 600 horsepower, this Bentley can sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in a scant 4.8 seconds. While that’s very impressive for a large 4-door, even more noteworthy is the car’s top speed: a jaw-dropping 322 km/h.

As one would expect from Bentley, all this performance is accomplished with complete ease and comfort. The Flying Spur Speed is equipped with all-wheel drive and 20-inch Pirelli PZero tires that combine to give the car supreme grip. And although this model is lowered and tuned for a sportier ride than the standard Flying Spur, passengers are still isolated from the road courtesy of sound-proof glass, thick carpeting and cushy leather seats with exclusive diamond-quilted pattern.

Of course, this trip was about more than just taking a passive approach to enjoying the latest offerings from Bentley; there was some serious driving involved as well. From the Macallan Estate in Craigellachie, we journeyed towards the Cairngorm Mountains, collectively the loftiest range in Britain and home to five of the six highest peaks in the nation.

For the opening stretch, a collection of tiny country roads that wound along the banks of the River Spey, I took the reins of the Bentley Continental GT Speed, my personal favourite of the three models. I wouldn’t classify the GT Speed as an outright super-sports car in the tradition of Ferrari or Lamborghini, but it’s not far off the pace either.

The same W12 engine found in the Flying Spur Speed is nestled under the coupe’s muscular hood and, in this application, both power (600 hp) and torque (553 lb-ft) are identical as well. But given that the GT Speed is smaller and lighter than the sedan, performance is even more eye-opening: 100 km/h arrives three-tenths of a second faster and terminal velocity is a truly astounding 326 km/h—the most ever for a production Bentley.

The GT Speed not only benefits from impressive off-the-line performance, it also handles incredibly well for a big grand touring coupe and offers dynamite braking performance to boot. As compared to the base Continental GT, there are many key differences: the self-levelling suspension ensures that ride height automatically lowers at speed (10mm in the front, 15 mm in the back), the suspension system itself is tuned for more dynamic handling and optional carbon-silicon carbide brakes have been fitted.

Sitting at the controls of the Bentley is a very reassuring place to be. The 2+2 layout gives the driver plenty of room to stretch out (although there’s little space for anyone in the back), the seats are infinitely adjustable and the Speed-exclusive three-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters places everything important within relatively easy reach.

This final aspect of the GT Speed was very much appreciated as I roared along the narrow Scottish roads, encountering more than one extra-wide opponent (tractor, delivery van, service vehicle, you name it) taking up more than his fair share of the tarmac, an especially tricky situation when also navigating a blind turn. Steering: good. Brakes: better. Bentley: intact.

For the final stretch of the day, I moved into the Bentley GTC Speed, the convertible version of the GT Speed. This stunning drop-top shares the same components as the coupe, but gives away a bit in performance. The W12 engine has the same output here and acceleration is the same, but due to aerodynamics, top speed for the GTC is slightly lower—322 km/h with the top up, 312 km/h with the top down.

Nevertheless, what I learned from my drive of the GTC Speed is that the road is equally as important as the car. While the stretch from the Cairngorms to Nairn also consisted of largely narrow rural roads, traffic was much less of a factor. One section, the B9007 from Carrbridge to Furness, was like a lunar landscape: We were driving atop a rocky plateau with an expansive vista—and we were practically alone out there.

This is where the performance of the GTC Speed came into sharp focus. Top down despite a mild drizzle, the car roared out of slow corners at a rate of knots that belied its size, sport exhaust rumbling. The steering was precise, the all-wheel drive system showed no signs of giving up traction despite the damp surface, and the 6-speed automatic transmission kept pace the whole time. Meanwhile, the cabin remained a serene environment; the wind was buffeting all around us, but ensconced in the front seat, my navigator and I were completely unperturbed.

Although I failed to come close to the top speed on any of the three Bentleys on any of the roads, this quick trip to the Scottish Highlands proved endlessly entertaining nonetheless. The scenery was breathtaking, the experiences were unforgettable and the cars were dynamic: What more could one ask?

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