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Twelve days ahead of its world debut at the Detroit auto show, Bentley has released full details of its new open-top performance flagship, the Continental GT Speed Convertible, which it claims is the world's fastest four-seat convertible - and, with a quoted top speed of 325km/h, not many people will contest that assertion.
Bentley's signature twin-turbo six-litre W12 has been tweaked to delivery an eye-watering 460kW and 800Nm, available from 2000-5000rpm, good enough to launch this 2495kg luxury locomotive from 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds - and on to 160km/h (100mph in the old language) in 9.7 seconds, while delivering a 15 percent improvement in fuel consumption.
According to the maker, it averages 14.9 litres per 100km in the combined cycle, thanks to an engine management system that's capable of performing 180 million individual calculations per second to deliver enhanced turbocharger control and torque management, a close-ratio, quick-shifting eight-speed transmission and an energy recuperation system.
However, when the driver switches the gear selector to 'Sport' mode, it delivers sharper throttle response, higher revs through the gears and faster 'block shifting' (eg eighth direct to fourth) for explosive acceleration, accompanied by a baritone snarl from the free-breathing exhaust.
The aluminium double-wishbone front suspension and trapezoidal multi-link rear set-up get revised air-suspension springs and dampers for improved agility and body control, riding 10mm lower than the 'ordinary' Continental GT Convertible, with stiffer suspension bushes, uprated anti-roll bars recalibrated Servotronic power steering.
The electronic stability control system retains the 'Dynamic Mode' setting that allows increased wheel slip at higher speeds, with engine torque reinstated more quickly, while the permanent all-wheel drive system has been set at a nominal 40:60 front to rear to reduce understeer.
THE DARK SIDE OF BENTLEY STYLING
The Continental GT Speed convertible has matrix radiator grille and bumper air intakes in a dark-tint chrome finish, with special 21" alloy rims and large, elliptical exhaust tailpipes with rifled inner surfaces.
As with its hard-top sibling, the winged 'B' badge is set on a black enamel background and there's a special black inlet manifold under the bonnet.
Despite the supercar performance, Bentley says additional spoilers are unnecessary - the gentle lip on the double-horseshoe bootlid generates all the downforce the GT Speed Convertible needs, even at more than 325 km/h.
The four-seat interior is finished to top-drawer Mulliner Driving Specification, with distinctive diamond-quilted hide upholstery and a special dark-tinted aluminium 'engine spin' finish, inspired by the dashboards of the Le Mans-winning Bentleys of the 1920s, matching the dark tint chromed radiator and bumper grilles.
The infotainment system features point of interest mapping, optional satellite landscape imagery, live traffic data and, where the infrastructure supports it, digital radio. There's 15 gigabytes of available music space onboard, as well as the facility to play music via an iPod, MP3 player, the car's own six-disc CD changer or an SD card.
YOU WANT ONE?
Bentley South Africa are expecting their first deliveries of the Continental GT Speed convertible in the thrid quarter of 2013 at an indicative price of about R3.8 million.