"Simplicate and add lightness" may have been the path to glory for Colin Chapman's Lotus, but modern British luxury sports cars take a tack that's entirely the opposite. For an example, look no further than the new Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible, the new and most exclusive car built by the brand, which offers every luxury accoutrement in a chassis that can hit 202 mph and rocket to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. Sure it weighs as much as a full-size pickup, but given Bentley's U.S. sales rose by nearly a third in 2012, the formula seems guaranteed to succeed.
To power a 5,500-lb. car to race-track speeds, Bentley employs its largest available engine, the 6-liter W-12 paired with twin turbos good for 616 hp and 590 ft.-lbs. of torque, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel-drive. The same engine in the hardtop GT Speed produces slightly faster acceleration results, but Bentley hasn't survived decades by sacrificing comfort in the name of velocity. The extra 385 lbs. grafted on the GT Speed Convertible include a stiffer frame, a fabric top that can survive monsoons and sub-zero weather, and even neck warmers for those sunny winter days.
Bentley didn't release pricing for the GT Speed Convertible, but given that the GT Speed coupe carries a sticker of $213,000, going top-down in the similar machine will likely require about $250,000. We'll know more when Bentley unveils the world's fastest four-seat convertible at the Detroit auto show in two weeks. Maybe they'll even drive it outside.