Two things you’ll instantly associate with Norway are the fjords and the North Sea oil industry. But few think of it as the land of the electric car. Norwegians buy more electrically-powered cars, per capita, than any other nation on earth. On five occasions in the space of 12 months, the best-selling car in Norway was either the Tesla Model S or the Nissan Leaf.
Of course, government subsidies are at play here; there’s no purchase tax, road tax, parking fees or road tolls on electric cars in Norway. You can even use the bus lanes, for heaven’s sake. It’s in this land of environmental enthusiasm that Bentley chose to launch its latest Continental GT Speed – a car not exactly lauded for its green credentials.
A Bentley that avoids the London congestion charge is still a pipe dream, unfortunately. The new engines are a touch cleaner and more powerful, although these changes exist in the rarefied atmosphere of 500-plus horsepower and 20mpg economy.
To add insult to injury, I had to catch two planes to test it out, the first from Heathrow to Oslo, then another to Alesund. Then, to round it off, I hopped in a helicopter to test drive it from the Storfjord Hotel. Too often, highfalutin media events overcompensate for less-than-impressive products. While much is being made of the Speed’s revised styling and technology package, what we have here is still the 2016 model year Bentley Continental GT, the same car you’ve known so well, for so long.
Admittedly, the figures are hard to sneer at. Bentley now sells 11,000 cars a year, half of them the two-door Continental GT. Back in 2003, it cleverly furrowed out a niche for a high performance four-seater coupe that, at £120,000, simply had no rivals.
The fact that it sells so strongly today is a testament to the soundness of the original concept and the subtle developments that have taken place over the past dozen years.
Today’s 2016 model has a redesigned front end, with a smaller radiator shell to sharpen up the appearance.
With an eye-watering 626bhp, this extreme Bentley will reach 60mph in 4.0 seconds and max out at 206mph. But we have to take this on trust as the roads we drive on in Norway have a 50mph speed limit.
Other new improvements include softer aniline leather hides, a new steering wheel with bigger paddle shifters, a fresh look to the instruments and on-board wi-fi.
Prices start at £140,300, rising by £14,000 for the Convertible to the top W12-engined GT Speed Convertible for £185,200. Anticipate adding £10,000 to £30,000 on “personalisation”, too.
The changes may not sound like much, but the undeniable quality of the original concept means the most affordable Bentley is still streets ahead of its rivals.