The V-12 engine is dead. Long live the V-12.
In the coming years, supercar companies like Lamborghini, Bentley and Rolls-Royce have all announced phase-outs of their V-12 engines as they roll into the age of hybrid and electric vehicles. In the meantime, they’re launching 12-cylinder masterpieces as odes to the ultimate in petrol power – and wealthy customers are snapping them up at a record clip.
In other words, at the very top of the car market, the 12-cylinder is dying, and demand has never been stronger.
With the king of combustion hitting the end of its road, Bentley has launched the Continental GTC Speed. It’s a “W-12” road burner, in which where three banks of four cylinders are arranged in a kind of “W” configuration. Its raw power is matched only by its refined interior.
Despite a price tag approaching $400,000, the GTC Speed is quickly selling out. Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmar, said there are “very few available” before Bentley rolls the last of its 12-cylinder engines off the line in April 2024.
“These models are already almost sold out,” Hallmark told CNBC. “It’s the end of a great era.”
So with the Continental GTC Speed, Bentley has decided to party like it’s 1999.
The model I drove carried a price tag of $384,000. Its color is called “Kingfisher,” a luminescent, shimmering blue that, like it’s namesake bird, was born to fly. It was loaded with some of Bentley’s most popular options, including 22″ black-painted “Speed Wheels,” a touring package for added comfort and generous helpings of carbon fiber.
Inside, the GTC Speed was dripping with luxury add-ons, from the contrast stitching on the seats (with “Kingfisher” and “Beluga” colored threads) to the Bang and Olufsen sound system, precision diamond quilting and the deep-pile overmats for added foot comfort.
My favorite options, also one of the most popular, is the “rotating display,” where a section of the carbon-fiber dashboard flips over when the car starts to reveal its digital display, kind of like the supercar version of the secret wall in a mansion library. It costs an extra $6,600 — but hey, when you’re spending $380,000 for a car, what’s an extra six grand? (About 70% of Bentley owners are including it.)
The most beautiful part of the Continental GTC Speed is the drive. As befits a car with multiple personalities, The GTC Speed has three driving modes: comfort, custom, Bentley and enhanced sport. Driving in comfort mode is like floating on a cloud, even on pot-hole ridden streets of New York and New Jersey. Bentley mode offers a balance between comfort and sport.
You could easily imagine comfort mode ferrying its well-heeled driver to the country clubs in Southern California and Southern Florida, two of Bentley’s biggest markets. All-wheel steering helps for those rare occasions when you have to park the car yourself instead of having a valet do it.
Switch to sport mode, however, and the W-12 roars like a dragon roused from sleep. The suspension tightens into a crouch and the GTC goes to 0-60 in 3.6 seconds. It can hit a top speed of 208 mph.
Even with an unladen weight of over 5,300 pounds, the Continental GTC Speed takes corners, stops and accelerations like a much nimbler supercar. Its special windscreen and aerodynamics allow top-down driving even at high speeds without a hair out of place.
Sure, there are better pure sports cars and better luxury comfort rides. But arguably no car puts the two together – with the screaming swan song of a W-12 – quite like the Continental GTC Speed.