Being a Chauffeur Just Fine in 2011 Bentley GTC Speed 80-11

Normally, when driving from my home in Connecticut to the Poconos for the annual International Motor Press Association Test Days I carpool with another journalist or two. Mostly it’s to keep awake because we hit the road early and the drive is fairly boring.

So, it was with no reservation that I welcomed the opportunity to make the drive recently with Cliff Atiyeh, auto channel guru at Boston.com. Then he dropped the bombshell that our ride would be a 2011 Bentley Continental GC Speed 80-11.

At first I feared my role would be as navigator (and even then I would be supplanted by an iPhone). Then when I found out the Bentley fleet specialist Robin March would be tagging along I was convinced it would be 240 miles of small talk while Cliff got all the fun.

Well, like any twenty-something, Cliff’s not a morning person. So, he asked the question I would always answer yes when it includes a Bentley: do you want to drive? A nanosecond later, after kissing my two-year old goodbye, I was behind the wheel and adjusting the mirrors. This was truly an opportunity I was not going to pass up.

What’s so special about this car? Besides the fact that it is a Bentley, with a price tag north of $200,000, the designation GC Speed 80-11 means it is only one of 80 limited Continental GT and GT Speeds that will be built. The very car I am driving was debuted at Pebble Beach (a mecca for top-end automobiles) and shipped cross country via truck. It is the only media vehicle of its kind in the world and I’m playing chauffeur for a morning.

But not that I’m complaining. The Speed 80-11 uses a twin-turbo 6-liter W12 powertain that produces 600 horsepower and 553 lb-ft. of torque and is mated to a six-speed transmission that can be left in two fully automatic modes (Drive and Sport) or used as a clutchless manual where the driver can change gears sequentially, via either the gearlever or paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. It also comes in all-wheel drive, which is perfect for my New England winters, but is really more of a handling feature.

It has a top speed of 195 miles per hour with the top down and a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds, which is even more impressive with its curb weight of 5478 lbs. It used to be the world’s fastest four-seat production convertible until the Bentley Supersports Convertible arrived that nips it to 60 mph by .3 seconds.

Of course I test those numbers out as soon as I hit I-84 west heading towards Scranton, Penn. With no sophisticated measuring devices available, I rely on the old-fashion seat of the pants estimate – the coffee spilling factor. As in, hold on to your coffee, we’re getting onto the highway. The 80-11 doesn’t disappoint in its acceleration as we effortlessly pass slow-moving trucks and the plebeian class driving Mazda5s and the such. I, of course, am a card-carrying member of the plebeian class.

Having a vehicle this fast means one of two things: a speeding ticket or construction. Fortunately it is the latter because Bentleys and police attention tend to go hand in hand. Plus, others have told me police officers don’t cut you slack when piloting a Bentley. As they hand you the ticket, officers are likely to ask, “How can I drive one of these?”

Normally, construction would nettle me but not so much this time because it allows me time to learn more about the Bentley, courtesy of Robin. The GTC Speed 80-11 we are driving is painted a new and unique color, Midnight, that has been commissioned for these high-performance convertibles. It has a sheen to it that has to be seen. It’s a color that was inspired by a Los Angeles Bentley owner who talked with officials at the Crewe headquarters of Bentley about it. Do you think Dodge would listen if I called up with a new paint idea for a Caliber?

Once we clear a miles-long construction slowdown (caused by a bridge inspection that doesn’t close any lanes – go figure), the 80-11 sprints to life. It crests hills with ease. Cliff has charted us a course that includes some country roads – a wise decision because it showcases the 80-11’s handling on some twisting curves. It also reveals the convertible to be a pleasant cruiser.

Our journey ends with the realization that we have come 238 of the 240 miles with the top up. We slow to 20 mph on a road with a 25 mph speed limit so we can lower the dark grey metallic soft top. Go above 20 mph and a light flashes on the dash and the top stops moving, which can be a bit disconcerting.

It is at journey’s end that I realize how comfortable this car has been. There is no driver fatigue, especially because I don’t need to pay for the gas. This $241,950 car is a bit thirsty. I confess to ignoring fuel economy numbers but it is EPA rated at 10 mpg city and 17 mpg highway. I’m fairly confident we’ve hit neither number.

VITAL STATISTICS

  • Wheelbase: 108.1 inches
  • Length: 189.1 inches
  • Width: 86.4 inches (incl. mirrors)
  • Height: 54.6 inches
  • Curb weight: 5478 lbs.
  • Engine: Twin turbo, 6-liter W-12
  • Horsepower: 600 horsepower
  • Torque: 553 lb. ft.
  • EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 10/17
  • Base price: $241,950
  • As-tested price: $241,950

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