Pros: Dizzying performance; surprisingly quiet top-up motoring; tank-like composure for fatigue-free touring
Cons: Dizzying price; unsophisticated multimedia interface doesn't live up to stellar interior materials quality; fated to be trumped by the inevitable Supersports variant
What's New: The 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible is a meaner, more glued-down and, in fact, greener version of its former self, and serves as the reigning horsepower king of open-air offerings from the British manufacturer. Its 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine has enjoyed a power boost to 616 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, enabling a sprint to 60 mph in only 4.1 seconds. Top speed has been upped to a stratospheric 202 miles per hour, and thanks in part to a new 8-speed transmission and revised turbocharger settings, the GT Speed Convertible also sees a 12 percent improvement in fuel economy.
It takes tons of thrust to overcome the Bentley Continental GT Speed's ponderous 5,501-lb curb weight, but with its potent twin-turbocharged W12, all-wheel drive and torque that peaks at a mere 1,700 rpm, this stately ragtop feels more like a magic carpet ride than a big, heavy convertible. Part of the credit goes to the generally seamless operation of the 8-speed transmission, while the powerplant itself earns praise for its buttery smooth roll-on power, effortlessly low revs and deep bass exhaust note, which becomes more pronounced when the knurled shifter is clicked into the "S" position -- or likewise, when the soft-top is lowered.
Overall, the Continental GT Speed's interior earns high marks for its gorgeous use of quilted leather, furniture-like wood veneers and real metal applied to features such as the air conditioning vents and traditional Bentley organ pull controls. But demerit points are in order for some details, such as the gate for the shifter and some of the plastic buttons on the center stack, which recall lesser cars from the Volkswagen/Audi family.
Nitpicks aside, the GT Speed Convertible drives with regal ease and thrilling responsiveness, especially considering its nearly 3-ton weight displacement. Sure, the V8 version handles better thanks to its lighter front end and, subsequently, more centralized mass, but the Speed's more aggressively tuned suspension does impart a surprising amount of feedback when addressing a twisty road at speed. While its handling capabilities are strong, what's particularly thrilling is the Speed's ability to live up to its name by lurching forward with seemingly unstoppable force -- all the while, the exhaust burbles and hums with a low-pitched song that suggests the engine's prodigious output doesn't involve breaking much of a sweat.
As grand as the latest Bentley convertible may be, buyers will pay dearly for the right to travel in such fashion: The 2014 GT Speed Convertible starts at $238,700, and features such as a $7,300 Naim audio system and $13,875 carbon ceramic brakes quickly draw the price close enough to $300,000, suggesting that investing in Southern California real estate might be a smarter investment. But for sun-seeking sybarites looking for a slice of 4-wheeled nirvana, it's hard to beat the posh power of the 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible.