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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bentley to Introduce Contintental GTC Speed at Detroit Auto Show

CREWE, England — Bentley will introduce new GTC and GTC Speed versions of its popular Continental GT next week at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. A new look, and modifications bringing up to 600 horsepower from the W12 engine, add to Bentley's most power convertible ever.

The Bentley Continental GT has been on the market since 2006 and has been the best-selling Bentley in North America, the company says.

The new GTC has Bentley's 552-hp 6.0-liter W12 engine mated to a six-speed ZF automatic transmission. The transmission can be treated as fully automatic, with a choice of Drive and Sport modes, or used as a clutchless manual transmission.

The GTC Speed, which the company says is inspired by the company's 1920s Speed models, joins Bentley's currently available GT Speed and Continental Flying Spur Speed models. It makes 600 hp from the 6.0-liter W12 and can reach 200 mph with the top up — and a hair-ruffling 195 mph with the roof down. Torque is an impressive 15 percent greater than the standard Continental GTC at 553 pound-feet across a range from 1,700-5,600 rpm. The 0-60-mph time is 4.5 seconds, and the GTC Speed can get to 100 mph in 10.6 seconds.

To help cope with that amount of power, Bentley offers a pair of options: fade-resistant carbon-ceramic brakes and Adaptive Cruise Control with a long-range radar sensor that manages the throttle and brakes to cope with traffic ahead.

Both GTC and GTC Speed models have continuous all-wheel drive and advanced electronic stability control. Visually, they are differentiated by a more vertical grille and a new lower bumper design with a widened air intake, which improves airflow by 14 percent, Bentley says.

Exclusive features on the Speed model are a dark-tinted matrix on the radiator and lower air intake grilles in front — with bright chrome as a no-cost option — a set of 20-inch multispoke alloy wheels with P Zero tires designed especially for Bentley, a revised and lowered suspension, wider tailpipes and a rear lip spoiler. Inside, there are "Speed" logo plates on the door sills, a sport leather steering wheel and drilled alloy foot pedals.

Both the GTC and GTC Speed can benefit from interiors graced by Bentley's Mulliner Driving Specification package, which is standard on the Speed and optional on the regular GTC model. The package is notable for multiple leather and wood veneer choices. A "comprehensive infotainment system" includes DVD satellite navigation, computerized suspension control, six-CD changer located in the glovebox, and Bluetooth connectivity as well as an optional Naim 1,100-watt audio system with 14 speakers.

Inside Line says: Lighthearted but seriously competent luxury item that brings to mind the timeless tune from the Depression, "Happy Days Are Here Again." — Laura Sky Brown, Correspondent