On the motorway I hadn’t really twigged just how heavy the Bentley is, as it hides it behind a veil of comfort and luxury. But after James and I swap places, it’s immediately obvious. Its immense power and all-wheel drive means it hauls itself quickly up to pace, and with the dampers set to sport mode it actually copes remarkably well with middling corners. But when things get tight, the front tyres start to howl their protests early. I keep pushing and find that the GT is very nicely balanced, however. There’s a gradual progression from understeer to oversteer, and I don’t feel like I’m about to get spat off the road. Although the big Bentley moves around, it’s predictable and relatively benign. But none of that hides the fact that it’s working a heck of a lot more than the Aston, and ahead of me James pulls a gap as soon as he starts to get on it.
After the earlier pyrotechnics I’m reluctant to get on the brakes too hard. They do work very well though, considering the established foibles of carbon-ceramic discs. There’s a vague squashy period in the pedal travel to start with, but after that the big callipers squeeze and get rid of the considerable velocity very quickly. 616bhp is a great deal of power, even in a car like this, and as soon as the squeals of rubber are fading and there’s a stretch of open road, the Bentley gains speed extremely quickly. Flicking through the gears isn’t really necessary – with all that torque it’ll do most of these bends in third. And anyway, the massive paddle-cum-levers behind the wheel are cumbersome compared to the more straightforward tools in the Aston.
They’re not the only annoyance either – lift off the throttle to try and get the nose tucked into a corner, and the revs don’t immediately die away, meaning it’s hard to control the car’s attitude on the throttle. I’d think it was a problem with this specific car, had I not also noticed it when driving the Speed in Germany last year. I was told then it was to keep the feeling of luxury, but here, now, it just makes an already large car that little bit more unwieldy.
Don’t get me wrong here; for a car that weighs 2320kg, the GT Speed accelerates, handles and stops extremely well. But it’s still a car that weighs 2320kg. You can’t win a fight with physics.
Before we leave, I take another run in the Aston. Straight away, it feels like a proper GT sports car, designed for roads like this. The V12 sings a rasping song, although the pauses from the gearchanges are slightly longer than I’d like. But only slightly. Ultimately, the Aston feels like a car designed for driving first, with luxury and accessories included almost as an afterthought. The Bentley, in contrast, feels like a luxury car tweaked for performance.
Which brings me to which one I like the best. With my evo-branded hat on, the Aston Martin is the best to drive, and almost $40,000 cheaper. If you live close to a great road, this is the car that’ll give you the most pleasure, both to drive and to look at.
However, donning my everyday-man-about-town headwear, I’d always pine for the Bentley. How often do you get to hit roads like this, compared to the amount of time spent trundling about in towns and on freeways? The Bentley is far better appointed inside, and much nicer to mile-munch in. Respect its bulk and it’s not bad to drive at all, and with wider corners it would be ridiculously quick across country and continent. The Aston gets my vote for times when petrolhead circumstances are perfect, but to live everyday with I suspect the Bentley would be well worth the extra money.
*ORIGINAL POST DATE: September 2013
|Engine:||V12 / 5935cc|
|Power:||510bhp @ 6500rpm|
|Torque:||457lb ft @ 5500rpm|
|Transmission:||Rear mid-mounted ‘Touchtronic 2’ six-speed transmission / electronic shift-by-wire control system / alloy torque tube with carbon fibre prop shaft / limited-slip differential|
|Front suspension:||Independent double wishbone incorporating anti-dive geometry / coil springs / anti-roll bar and monotube adaptive dampers / three-stage Adaptive Damping System (ADS)|
|Rear suspension:||Independent double wishbones with anti-squat and anti-lift geometry / dual-rate coil springs / anti-roll bar and monotube adaptive dampers / three-stage Adaptive Damping System (ADS)|
|Brakes:||Ventilated carbon ceramic discs / 398 mm with six-piston monobloc calipers (front) / 360 mm with four-piston monobloc calipers (rear) / dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Track mode / anti-lock braking system (ABS) / electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) / emergency Brake Assist (EBA) / Traction Control|
|Wheels:||8.5J x 20-inch (front) / 11J x 20-inch (rear) /|
|Tyres:||245/35 ZR20 (front) / 295/30 ZR20 (rear) / Pirelli P Zero|
|Bentley||Continental GT Speed|
|Engine:||W12 / twin-turbocharged / 5998cc|
|Power:||616bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Torque:||590lb ft @ 2000rpm|
|Transmission:||ZF 8HP90 AL951 eight-speed automatic with block shifting / automatic gearbox / torque converter / permanent all-wheel drive|
|Front suspension:||Four-link double wishbones / anti-roll bar|
|Rear suspension:||Trapezoidal multi-link / anti-roll bar|
|Brakes:||Cast Iron or optional Carbon-Silicon-Carbide (CSiC) / eight-piston calipers / 420mm cross-drilled CSiC (front) / 356mm cross-drilled CSiC (rear)|
|Wheels:||New unique 9.5J x 21-inch silver painted standard / dark tint optional|
|Tyres:||275/35 ZR21 front and rear|