The high-performance version of the GTC is the final addition to the Bentley Speed line, which is the high-performance part of the company’s models line-up.
“Ladies and gentlemen, 2009 is going to be a tough year for us all,” said Stuart McCullough, Bentley board member for sales and marketing. “However, if there is a clear lesson to be learnt regarding market demand, it is that the introduction of new 2-seater sports cars can buck the trend.”
The Continental GTC, the two-door 2+2 convertible version of the GT Coupe, debuted in 2006 and has brought many younger buyers to the marque.
The Speed version is propelled by a 447kW version of Bentley’s 12-cylinder twin-turbo engine, developing 9 per cent more power than the standard GTC’s engine, and 15 percent more torque, “which is actually responsible for the Bentley feel,” said McCullough.
The GTC Speed is Bentley’s most powerful convertible ever, with more horsepower than the company’s 2003 LeMans sportscar. The Speed accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds, zero to 160km/h in just 10.6 seconds, and has a top speed of 32km/h (with the top up).
The GTC Speed shows a freshened frontal appearance that is shared across the line. The grille is more upright, with a bolder lower air intake for more cooling, plus new chrome headlamp bezels.
The Speed is distinguished by a small rear spoiler for improved aerodynamics and top speed, as well as a dark-tinted radiator and air intake grilles, 20-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels with custom Pirelli ultra-high performance tires and twin tailpipes. The Speed name comes from the 1920 Bentley Speed models.
The GTC models also have a new optional Adaptive Cruise Control system, which features a long-range radar sensor that monitors traffic ahead and manages throttle and brakes to maintain a driver-selected time gap.
Also optional are lightweight, fade-resistant carbon-ceramic brakes that are the largest production passenger car brakes in the world, according to Bentley.
“The standard brakes are the second largest production brakes in the world,” said Ulrich Eichorn, Bentley’s board member for engineering.
The Speed will go on sale later this year. Sales worldwide for Bentley followed the market pattern. The high luxury segment dropped 25 percent in 2008, and Bentley dropped 24 percent, selling 7,604 models.
Sales in the U.S. were down 32 percent. Sales of the GT coupe, however, were up 11 per cent globally and 19 per cent in the US, with Speed variants composing two-thirds of sales, which is why McCullough sees sports cars as the one bright spot.
The company will also introduce its first biofuel compatible car later this year, as the company puts its toes into the fuel-efficiency waters.