Cars

I Drove A 2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed 189 MPH

I’ve driven past 150 mph once before.

It was in a very distant cousin of the Continental GT Speed—the Audi A3, a sprightly little beast that someone mistakenly allowed me to speed around the Autobahn outside of Munich. It remains one of the defining moments of my life. 

This, though. This was...different. 

I was invited (see me? In the background, left of the red one) by the top brass at Bentley to explore their factory and go on a bit of a grand tour in what is, to my understanding, the fastest production W12 car you can purchase today: the 206 mph-capable, 2015 Bentley Continental GT Speed.

If you’ve ever seen Top Gear—and you have—you’ll immediately know the scene: newly abandoned hangars and military bunkers, long stretches of asphalt runways with cryptic paint-jobs, and holes in the ground where emergency guide lights used to be. It’s an industrial wasteland that just so happens to be a 9-iron away from one of the most stunning coastlines on our fragile planet. (A parlor trick/fact for your next barbecue: inform people that Campbeltown Airport is home, for some reason, to the longest permanent runway in the world.)  

A quick side story: in the days leading up to the Bentley free-wheeling, I was pulled over twice for speeding by Scottish police. Neither times, though, was I given a ticket. Why not? I chalk it up to an American journalist driving a car worth a quarter of a million dollars, and the subsequent paperwork that’d be required by the policeman. Well, that or boyish charm/good-looks. 

The airstrip had a Le Mans-quality race paddock dropped on the far side, complete with binoculars and an observation deck assumedly for my fellow journalists to watch me peel out down the runway at exactly three times the area's speed limit. 

“When was the last time you went over 180 miles per hour?” 

Oh, crap. For some reason, it hadn’t sunk in until one of the boys from Bentley, sitting shotgun in the $250,000 car, spoke those words to me in a thick Northern accent. I’d soon be nearing a speed that only a handful of people in the world have ever touched. (There are, allegedly, more people to have reached Mount Everest’s summit than eclipsed 200 mph in a car.) He instructed me to preload the engine—floor the gas while remaining idle—until the rev hit 2,000 rpm. 

Then, BOOM! We were off. 

Banging into the first dogleg left leading down the runway, the GT Speed’s 12 cylinder engine licked through all eight gears in a matter of seconds. 
 
“One hundred,” he said, using an inside voice.
 
Three more seconds. 
 
“One-fifty,” he continued.
 
“And...180,” my instructor calmly said. It was only then that I realized I’d been driving this entire time with one hand, my left, on the wheel.
 
“You sure this is 180?” Doesn’t feel that way,” I said. 

It was kind of like a video game at that point; when you get that high, who’s counting? I could hardly tell the difference after 120 mph because of the car’s strength. Call it an airplane on four wheels—sure, you’re moving at ludicrous speeds, but had I been in the back seat and given a few more minutes, I coulda dozed off. I say this as a good thing. It's just how smooth the ride was.
 
“You sir, have just reached a very gentlemanly 189,” the instructor said politely. “Mind easing on the brakes a bit?”

I brought the haunchy GT Coupe down to 70 mph using its hilariously strong brakes—still just one hand on the wheel—head cocked to the side with a look of befuddlement at what was just the most anticlimactic speed run I’ve ever had.
 
“And that, my friend, is the magic of Bentley.”


Ted Gushue is the Executive Editor of Supercompressor, and while Bentley may not offer purple ostrich leather as a stock option, they assured him it can be procured for an additional fee. Read more about Ted's problems on Twitter @Tedgushue.