Given the choice (in my dreams) would I choose Rolls-Royce or Bentley? That question was put to me a few weeks ago after I drove the lovely RR Dawn and the answer is that I have never seen these cars as like for like and so, even if I was super-rich, I wouldn’t ever be in a position of having to select one over the other.
Rolls-Royce is all about stately majesty while the Bentley inhabits a far more sporty world, based on a deep rooted racing heritage, which makes it more my kind of car.
Rolls-Royce has impeccable manners while the Bentley doesn’t mind ruffling a few feathers, particularly if it happens to be the new, slightly modified, Continental GT Speed. This is a car that is more than aptly named. To say it does what is says on the tin, or rather finely crafted flanks in the case of this superb machine, is an understatement of huge proportions.
It was built for speed and was the fastest two-door coupe in the Contintental stable when it was unleashed on the world in 2012.
Powered by a monstrous 6.0-litre twin turbo W12 engine, which is basically two V6s stuck together, it became a legend almost overnight and now Bentley have made it even faster.
The GT Speed is a heavyweight in every sense of the word. It weighs in at over two tons and yet now has a 0-100kmh time of 4.1 seconds thanks to that brute of an engine which has also been upgraded with a new management system and a small increase in horsepower which now stands at 633bhp with 840nm of torque.
The increase in performance comes more from a revised boost controller which allows maximum torque between 2000 and 5000 revs than the extra horses.
Refinements to the engine, transmission and turbo charger have, according to Bentley, resulted in a 13 per cent improvement in efficiency, which might make drivers of this machine feel a little more worthy, but I doubt it somehow.
Externally the car has been tweaked, rather than redesigned, with a reworked front and rear spoiler giving the GT Speed a sharper and more aggressive look, while the signature matrix grille and air intakes have a dark tint chrome finish with the same effect on the front and rear lamps.
The Speed logo on the flanks also adds a nice touch and the whole appearance is completed by gorgeous 21-inch Speed alloy wheels which are unique to this car.
The interior has also been revised and now looks much sharper with new instrument cluster dials and graphics and a leather sports steering wheel.
The car has the Mulliner interior specification which has also been slightly changed to provide smaller diamond leather quilting on the seats with colour-coded heavy stitching, which is obviously bespoke, and the Mulliner name embroidered onto the headrests.
You are basically surrounded by finest hand-crafted leathers and our test car had a superb carbon fibre and brushed metal trim, leaving you in no doubt that this is a very special car with an impressive motorsport heritage.
And it is that clearly defined link to its racing past which you can feel when you are driving this machine that makes the GT Speed so appealing.
As you would expect from a car that costs in excess of Dh1million the technology is cutting edge and the infotainment system is excellent. One interesting claim from Bentley is that there is so much storage space for your music – 15 gigabytes – that you could drive around the world without hearing the same track twice.
Push the ignition button and that awesome engine awakens with a deep baritone snarl that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and the tickover at idle speed is a gorgeous throaty rumble which wouldn’t be out of place in a top of the range American muscle car.
So this GT Speed has plenty of impressive figures which add up to the ultimate luxury performance car with unrelenting power and the way it handles is just as impressive.
It sits 10mm closer to the ground and the suspension system has been adapted to provide a more sporty, agile drive which it delivers in traditional Bentley style with the authority that only comes with a vehicle that has a top speed of 331kmh, not that you will be able to put that to the test unless you know a long stretch of straight road with no cameras and have the courage to keep you foot in.
The GT Speed has always been my favourite Bentley, although they are now producing a Black edition of the this car which adds even more speed, and this latest generation is amazing although I wonder why the changes are relatively minor when compared with the 2014 predecessor. That only suggests that the next edition is likely to be far more dramatic and if that is the case I can hardly wait.
I have always admired Infiniti, the luxury arm of Nissan, mainly because they are not afraid of innovative design that pushes the envelope to the maximum to create vehicles that truly stand out from the crowd.
This bold approach has made Infiniti one of the fastest growing premium brands in the Middle East and their rapid rise is not about to ease off with an aggressive product offensive planned for the coming year with more exciting new models to be unveiled.
Four years ago I actually bought an Infiniti FX50S a brilliantly styled SUV that was powered by a magnificent five-litre V8 engine and it served me well until I decided to downsize and sold it.
During the time I owned that car I also test drove the JX which was launched in 2013 as a luxury crossover aimed squarely at families and I guess for that reason, and having been used to driving the sportier FX50S, I found it a little dull.
Since then Infiniti have rebadged their fleet and the FX50 is now the QX70 and the JX has been reborn as the QX60 after a significant redesign which has given this vehicle a completely new look, particularly from the front. It was recently launched at a glittering ceremony in Dubai, along with the new QX50 and we will talk about that car another time.
The Crossover sector has proved to be particularly fashionable in the UAE and continues to grow with Infiniti selling a considerable number of them last year and are clearly intent on building on that success with the QX60.
It still resembles the JX, particularly from the side, but the front of the vehicle is now far more distinctive thanks for a major facelift which is a triumph of design.
Sitting on very nice 20-inch fivespoke aluminium alloy wheels, it now looks far more sporty with a sophisticated persona which will definitely appeal to those looking for a vehicle that can seat up to seven but doesn’t look like a glorified bus.
At the business end the QX60 has a redesigned double-arch grille, flanked by bi-xenon headlamps and there is much greater use of LED lights including new DRLs and front fogs. The side view remains streamlined and the rear has been upgraded to give it a more refined look. The result is an extremely distinctive and appealing vehicle that offers comfort, distinction and enough space inside to cater for a small tribe.
There is clearly an emphasis on creating a prestigious looking vehicle and the interior is no exception with fabulously comfortable leather seats, maple wood trims and thin-chrome accents. The vehicle is also fully loaded with the latest automotive technology with safety a priority.
It was already pretty impressive but it now has Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, to add to the existing driver assists like Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Backup Collision Intervention and a 3600 around view monitor which is really useful when it comes to parking.
There is also a new suspension system to ensure a more comfortable and agile performance.
The infotainment system is accessed through an eight-inch colour touch-screen which sits at the top of the centre-console which features a very cool maple-wood surround.
The interior is incredibly spacious with three rows of seats all easily accessible and the second row passengers have their own individual entertainment systems with screens in the back of the front seat headrests.
It all adds up to an interior that oozes class and versatility.