If your first name is something humdrum like Nick, the car industry has you pretty much covered. But what if your servants call you “Count” or “Beyonce”? Well, my wealthy friend, the British have just the vehicles for you.
Maybe it’s their aristocracy, or maybe it’s that there isn’t anything interesting to do in Britain – just look at all the trips Top Gear takes. Regardless, the British have always had a knack for luxury. Wealthy buyers need not look past luxury paragons like Rolls-Royce and Bentley. These members of car-making royalty are doing something new, with the help of some German money and engineers, that even us plebs can be interested in: speed and power.
Specifically, the biblically powerful Bentley Continental GT Speed, and glorious Rolls-Royce Wraith. But which one should you get if you’ve Romney money? Well, allow us to offer us our help, your highness.
When you think about driving a Roller, the word “wafting” comes to mind. Sure there is power and even speed, but that is hardly the point, like knowing your butler’s first name. The Wraith though is something different.
This two-door GT car has performance numbers that would put some supercars to shame. It has a 6.6-liter V12 that could have come from either a fighter plane or – given the massive weight of the Wraith – maybe a train. Don’t worry, it’s got the power to back up its size: specifically, 624 horsepower and a trouser-troubling 590 pound-feet of torque. This means that, despite weighing a cosmically heavy 5380 pounds, this mobile palace can make it 60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
As for handling, the Wraith is impressive, but still more of a GT car than a supercar. The car takes corners smoothly and confidently, but its bulk and luxury ride make this more astonishing than electrifying. Don’t get me wrong; it’s damn fast, but more in the fashion of a bullet train than a go-kart.
A perfect example of the Rolls Royce approach to performance comes in the form of the car’s satellite-guided transmission. The transmission talks to the car’s GPS and selects gears according to upcoming turns, hills, and even stop lights. This means the car’s automatic transmission is never caught off guard, and you can enjoy your speed with the cool smoothness of a well-mixed martini.
Despite weighing even more than the Roller, the Bentley GT Speed is something of a different story. Bentley’s engineers have managed to violate the laws of thermodynamics by making this 5,500-pound monster get to 60 in just 4.0 seconds. And they did it with less horsepower – at 616 hp from its 6.0-liter W12 – than the Wraith. I guess those Volkswagen horses are just more sprightly than Bimmer’s.
On top of that, the Bentley is fitted with advanced all-wheel drive, meaning you can enjoy all 616 of those ponies year-round, as we saw in our video review. And while the Continental GT Speed may not be a supercar in the same sense as a Ferrari, it is altogether more of a driver’s car than the Roller. Besides, with a top speed of 205 mph, the Bentley will sail pass the Rolls-Royce when it hits its limiters at 155 mph.
The Bentley Continental GT Speed is quite simply the complete package when it comes to the driving experience.
The checkered flag goes to the Bentley.
If you are buying a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce, chances are you are you expect a bit more than cloth seats and a tape player. With the Wraith and the Continental GT Speed, you won’t be disappointed. Every conceivable surface is covered in luxury.
In the Bentley, that luxury comes in the form of some of the finest leather that money can buy. The seats on our test model were dubbed “Portland Gray”, a subtle, almost buttery off-white, and the dash in beluga gray leather. Bentley assures us that this leather comes from cows rather than whales, but I have my suspicions that it might be dolphin.
The rest of the interior is everything you might expect from a $270,000 car. The seats are perfectly warmed, and can massage you as you drive. Every fitting feels like a quality product. In fact I am not sure I own anything as well made as one of the air vents in a Continental GT Speed.
The only downside of the Continental is its infotainment system. It does everything you need it to do, but it is a bit outdated and suffers by comparison to rest of the car’s stunning features.
The Rolls Royce Wraith on the other hand is truly stellar. Literally, in fact. The party-piece for the big Roller is the Starlight Headliner. This unique feature packs the headliner with 1,340 fiber optic cables, that bath the interior in a nearly perfect simulacrum of starlight. On paper this might sound like a cheesy gimmick, but trust me it’s not. This is one of the single most impressively cool features I have ever seen on a luxury car.
It’s not like the rest of the Wraith is a letdown either. From the suicide doors to the restrained tech, the Wraith represents a refined tasteful take on luxury. The car may have big presence, but it is never gaudy or over the top. Take the wood trim on the doors, for example. It is the largest single piece of wood trim on any car. And it looks and feels like something off of a Duke’s sailing yacht, not the nouveau riche emporium.
It’s not that the Bentley is bad – far from it. But the Rolls-Royce, fittingly, sets the standard for class and luxury.
The golden cup goes to the Rolls-Royce.
Bespoke … and bespokier
One of the big draws for a car at the top end of the market is how unique it is, how much it sets you apart. Both of these cars have a lot going for them in this regard.
If you lay down the $300,000 it costs to get a fully loaded Bentley Continental GT Speed, you don’t just drive one out the door of the showroom. No, Bentley assembles its team of craftspeople and builds it for you. You can choose from a broad array of trim, leather and options to ensure that your Continental is truly yours.
The only problem is that the Continental has been out now – in one form or another – for more than ten years. While it hasn’t exactly been a large volume car, there are a few of them out there. So if you really want to stand out, you might be better off with the Rolls-Royce.
Not only is it a lower volume car, and brand new, you can get it however you want it. You can get any type of leather you can imagine, as long as it lives up to the guidelines of the British government. Alligator? Sure. Buffalo? Why not? Secretariat? It’s your money! The same goes for the wood trim.
The individualized choices don’t end there. Rolls-Royce’s bespoke department will work with customers to make subtle – or not-so-subtle – changes to the car to reflect their style and taste. Because of this, it is almost impossible to imagine two Wraiths being sold the same way.
The price will reflect that, though. The Wraith tops the Bentley’s hefty price tag by a good $60,000, at $360,000 and up. This is a steep price to pay for uniqueness. If that’s what you want, though, there is no other way to go.
The prize ascot goes to the Rolls-Royce.
Choosing between these two cars is like trying to choose between my own legs, I would hate to give up either. That being said, there are some differences between these two cars.
The Continental GT Speed, in keeping with Bentley tradition, has a touch of lunacy too it. There is no way that such a big, powerful car should be so fast, light on its feet, and, most shocking of all, confident and capable in all weather conditions.
The Rolls-Royce, though, may not have quite the performance of the Bentley, and it might cost more, but it has more presence and style than ten $100,000 cars. So in that sense you can almost call it a bargain! But, truly the Wraith is something special.
And it is this indefinable quality that would make me seriously consider trading one of my legs to own a Rolls-Royce Wraith. I can’t say that I would do the same for the Bentley.