Bentley's revised GT Speed makes light work of hilly Scottish roads
King of the mull The tweaked Bentley Continental GT Speed certainly lives up to its name with a top speed of 331kmh and a century sprint of 4.2 seconds. -- PHOTO: EDRIC PAN

For rich folks in a real hurry, Bentley has just tweaked the 6-litre W12 engine in the range-topping Speed version of its Continental GT coupe to help the car live up to its name.

Not that the car needed any help. Since the outgoing version already boasted 616bhp and 800Nm of torque, the additional 10bhp and 20Nm are hardly going to make a massive difference.

Its 0-100kmh sprint time is shaved by a tenth to 4.2 seconds, while top speed creeps up by 2kmh to a mind-boggling 331kmh.

More crucially, the upsized outputs give this car bragging rights as the most powerful production Bentley ever. Its 626bhp now overshadows the 621bhp of the 2009 Continental Supersports.

Bentley's "make-up" department has also had a hand in this 2014 update. The car now wears a bodykit comprising a discreet front splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser. The same items are fitted to the Continental GT V8S but while the kit on the lesser sibling is in Beluga black, the one on the Speed is the colour of the body.

The car's 20-spoke, 21-inch rims, unique to the Speed, now sport a smoked finish, as do the headlamps and tail lamps. There is a small "Speed" badge on each front wing (instead of the "W12" badge of last year's model) and the brake callipers are now painted red.

Inside, there are swathes of contrasting-coloured inserts on the leather-wrapped door trim, centre console and fascia, and there is lovely contrast stitching on the seats to match. The headrests are embroidered with "Speed" logos, just to remind you what you are riding in.

It is an incredibly opulent, feel-good cabin where you would be happy just to sit and chill. But the Speed is the fastest production Bentley, and with some of Scotland's most flowing and scenic roads ahead of us at the launch event, it would be remiss not to stretch the Bentley's long, muscular legs.

And it is devastatingly fast, blasting away from a standstill and giving a massive, relentless shove whenever you boot the throttle, even well into three- figure speeds. Whole lines of traffic are dispatched at a go, and so storming is the car's pace that you sometimes need to slow down to overtake, just to appear less anti-social.

Can you detect that extra 10bhp? Frankly no, at least not without a dragstrip at your disposal and a stopwatch in hand. The revised Speed is obscenely quick but then, so was last year's version.

The hurtling acceleration is accompanied by an exhilarating bellow from the 12 cylinders up front, and a thrillingly percussive soundtrack played by the fat tailpipes behind. If you need a reason to justify choosing the Speed over its junior V8S stablemate, this noise is it.

The autobox has eight speeds but the engine is so monstrously torquey throughout its whole rev range that on most roads, you could probably just leave it in one of the middle gears.

Which is probably just as well because the gearshift paddles, sprouting from the steering column on long stalks, are too much of a stretch away and do not turn with the wheel, making them awkward to operate mid-bend. Bentley would have done better adopting the smaller, more ergonomic wheel-mounted shifters from its VW parent brand.

Just as relevant to the Speed's ground-covering pace as its acceleration is how it handles. At over 2.3 tonnes, you would expect it to loll about like a hippo with a dram of whisky too many, but the Speed does nothing of the sort. It benefits from several small but significant chassis tweaks over the "ordinary" Continental GT - 10mm lower ride height, tauter springs and rear anti-roll bar, stiffer suspension bushes and 15 per cent more front camber - all of which contribute to an agility that defies belief.

Given its sheer size and height, it is clearly no purpose-built sportscar but the Speed still responds very sharply to steering inputs, diving keenly and cleanly into bends.

The helm action itself is beautifully- calibrated - perfectly weighted and linear, with a surprisingly nice degree of feel.

Body roll is well-contained and grip from the fat, bespoke Pirelli P Zero tyres is immense. The adjustable dampers offer four levels of firmness, with the third highest level offering the best balance. You get excellent body control even on the most demanding backroad, while the car still soaks up bumps beautifully.

The all-wheel-drive system has a 40:60 rear bias which allows you to unleash the power well before the exit of a bend, loading up the rear tyres and priming the car to hurtle out onto the next straight stretch.

The carbon-ceramic brakes - the biggest of any production car - are as immense as the engine, tirelessly wiping off speed again and again as we charge along the winding, undulating coastal road of the Kintyre peninsula in south-west Scotland.

You could certainly describe the 6-litre, 626bhp Speed as expensive, excessive and indulgent. But given how this 2.3-tonne, luxury-laden four-seat grand tourer is also able to deliver such a mind-blowing adrenaline buzz, perhaps the best word for it is extraordinary.