May 24, 2009
Tears welled up in our eyes after slipping behind the wheel of the Bentley GTC Speed.
Nope, not emotional. The smell of leather from the herd of Guernseys whose hides cover seats, doors and dash top was so strong the sinuses burst.
No problem, however, for the souls who spend in excess of $200,000 for a car. That's the target audience for the 2010 GTC Speed that goes on sale next month, folks for whom cotton won't do.
The GTC (C for convertible) Speed joins the GT and GT Speed coupes and GTC convertible in the Bentley lineup. A dark-tinted matrix grille and deck-lid spoiler set the two-door, 2 plus 2 Speed apart from the GTC.
But it's the word Speed that defines this GTC. No ordinary GT/GTC 6-liter, 552-horsepower, twin-turbo 12-cylinder will do. Speed explodes from the light with a 600-h.p., twin-turbo 12 boasting zero to 60 m.p.h. in 4.5 seconds; zero to 100 m.p.h. in 10.6. Top speed is 200 m.p.h. with top up, 195 m.p.h. with it down -- expect to get there in about 20 seconds.
We found a desolate road where we stood on the accelerator. The launch smacked the melon against the headrest, with neck and shoulders pinned against the top of the seat. Fasten your seat belts and return tray tables to the upright position.
No need to test the 10.6-second rule. Hitting 80 m.p.h. several times in a blink or two with no dancing along the pavement served us just fine, thank you.
The convertible is solid and stable. All-wheel drive and stability and traction control secure the GTC to the road with no wiggling. Though it tips the scales at 5,500 pounds, the car tackles turns and curves at speed as if a more petite sports model.
You won't experience that in a Toyota Prius, Honda Fit, Ford Fusion or Chevy Aveo.
Of course, they do a lot better in fuel economy than Speed's 10 m.p.g. city/17 highway, a rating that merits a $3,700 gas-guzzler tax.
Seats are firm, but not stiff. Driver/passenger seats come with a power extension for added thigh support and long-distance comfort. There's lumbar control for both seats, but it feels like a rock against your lower back. Power massagers make the rock vibrate. Avoid both.
A comfort suspension setting with special spring and damper rates keeps GTC Speed's ride quiet and comfortable. A firmer sport mode basically makes the muffled slap of the 20-inch performance radials over tar marks a bit louder.
Bentley insists a convertible should always be a soft top, so its fold-away cloth powers into a compartment behind the rear seat in 20 seconds. But there's still room in the trunk for a couple pieces of luggage.
But anyone sentenced to the rear seat should appeal. While front seats power forward to create an aisle to the back, legroom there is almost nonexistent. Use the seat for the golf clubs.
Nice touches include a backup camera (in the $2,820 convenience package), with a wide-angle view of what's behind displayed in the navi screen; parking lights that illuminate the side of the car when exiting at night; rear fog lamps -- the better to see you in foul weather; power tilt and telescoping steering column; a removable panel in the back seat that opens a ski pass to the trunk; Bluetooth phone connectivity; and a cupholder hidden under the center console armrests.
As for items befitting a $200,000-plus set of wheels, there are air/heat climate-control settings for driver/passenger. But to spare the driver having to reach to change the temp when the passenger leaves, a button in the dash switches both to the driver's liking.
The GTC Speed starts at $231,400. Limited options include a premium audio upgrade for $6,900, which on most cars would put the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the back seat; special carbon ceramic brakes to help a 200 m.p.h. car stop on a dime and leave change (you'll need it) that run $16,500; and adaptive cruise control for $3,040 that uses braking and fuel management to keep from running into a car ahead.
Bentley says buyers will be in their 40s-50s, with two or three other cars (not Prius, Fit, Fusion or Aveo), a net worth of about $5 million and a job.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Rides. Contact him at email@example.com.
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