We take an Aston Martin DB9 and the Bentley Continental GT Speed, and head for the hills. Much fun follows.
It’s a good time for fans of fast British cars. Jaguar has just dropped the F-Type and Morgan is preparing to bring its own brand of wood-hewn horsepower to the Middle East. But if you’re after something more upmarket, more refined, then you’re also in luck.
Recently touched down in the Middle East is Bentley’s new Continental GT Speed, the fastest model of the new generation GT. With a starting price of $267,900, it’s not a huge amount more than the latest incarnation of Aston Martin’s DB9, which starts at $230,000. So, if you’re a well-heeled fan of velocity, and fancy tooling around in something British, which of these two is the car to go for?
To help you decide, we’ve got both cars together to take them across the UAE, to an epic stretch of road north of Khor Fakkan. The closing summer humidity won’t stop us giving them a workout.
It’ll be interesting to see how both cars approach their goals, as the theory makes for interesting reading. The Bentley uses a 616bhp, twin-turbo 6-litre W12 to drive all four wheels, giving it a 0-100kph time of 4.2 and a top speed of a stonking 330kph. In contrast, the Aston Martin uses the firm’s trusty naturally-aspirated 5.9-litre V12 with 510bhp to drive the rear wheels. Despite weighing in at 1785kg against the Bentley’s portly 2320kg, it hits 100kph in 4.6 seconds, and has a top speed of 295kph. When it comes to Top Trumps stats, the Bentley holds a distinct advantage.
It’s not off to a bad start with looks either. On the morning of the shoot we head to the respective dealers to pick the cars up, and Bentley’s Dubai Marina showroom is the first port of call. The GT Speed sits outside waiting for us, coned off and resplendent in its Apple Green paint. Customers have always been able to order a Bentley in any colour they desire, but it’s only recently that the firm has actively been marketing its more lurid hues. It works well though – the net effect is a machine that looks every inch the sum of its heritage, thanks to its sheer size and that famous front grille, but at the same time it looks contemporary and poised for action. Without putting them side by side, the casual observer would be hard pressed to tell the new generation of GT from the old, but in the flesh it looks more toned and stanced than the original coupe. With its luminous hue draped over sharp lines, it looks ready for business.
The interior is also little changed from the previous model, save for a welcome update of technology. The infotainment system is now up to date, sitting pretty in amongst a sea of brushed aluminium panels along the dash, and several heifers’ worth of leather. The seat moves to a low position and the wheel moves close enough to the chest to give a sporty driving position. Early signs are good.
A button on the transmission tunnel fires up the massive engine with a woof, which settles into a very well insulated hum. Under normal motoring, the Bentley is extremely quiet. Even at motorway speeds, it would be entirely possible to have a whispered conversation with the passenger. But when I put my foot down – just for a second – on the on-ramp, the transmission drops a couple of cogs and there’s a bass-filled growl from under the bonnet, followed by a delicious burble on lift-off.
The Aston Martin showroom is at the other end of town. On arrival, I hand the Bentley keys to my colleague James Gent, with whom I’m sharing driving duties today. Inside the very new and very stylish dealership, located within a stone’s throw of the Burj Khalifa, I’m handed a very stylish key fob, topped with a glass section engraved with the Aston logo. I’m warned not to drop it, as it’ll smash. Take that, generic plastic Bentley fob.
And then, I’m introduced to the car itself. Some – myself included – may opine that the Aston Martin shape is too relied upon when new models break cover, and that a bit of innovation would be nice, but there’s still no denying the beauty of the DB9. It is instantly familiar but so, so pretty, with hints of both the Vanquish and the late Virage to it. It’s not in perfect shape – this press car has more than 14,000km on it, and accumulated two kerbed alloys, a paint chip on the front wing and a scratched splitter. But it’s still gorgeous. It’ll be interesting to see which of these two get the most attention as we drive through town.
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