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Bentley Continental GT Speed at Nardo test track (James Lipman/James Lipman)
Bentley Continental GT Speed at Nardo test track (James Lipman/James Lipman)

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New GT Speed is Bentley's fastest Add to ...

Bentley has unveiled full details week on its fastest production car, the suitably named 2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed, just ahead of its international auto show debut this week at the Moscow motor show.

With 616 hp and a 330 km/h top speed, it’s the latter figure that gives it Bentley’s fastest production car crown. The former GT’s top Super Sports models made it up to a slightly higher 621 ponies, but topped out at 202 mph, or 325 km/h. The massive 6.0-litre, twin-turbocharged, 12-cylinder engine – arranged in the shape of side-by-side V-6s, thus the W-12 designation – helps power the car to 100 km/h from rest in 4.2 seconds, a truly amazing achievement considering the coupe’s hefty 2,320 kg curb weight.

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That’s a worthy 175 kg weight savings over the more luxury-oriented Continental GT GTC, with the Speed’s engine also putting out 49 more ponies and 74 lb-ft more torque (590 versus 516) than the standard W-12. An upgraded eight-speed ZF automatic now offers block shifting, so that it can jump down as many as four gears when summoning rapid acceleration, while it also accounts for half of the new GT’s promised 12 per cent reduction in fuel consumption (10 per cent for the GTC).

How thirsty is this engine? Its European numbers have it at about 22.5 litres/100km in the city, and a rather more reasonable 10.4 L/100km on the highway. Those Bentley GT buyers more interested in fuel economy, if there are any, will still likely opt for the thriftier twin-turbo 4.0-litre V-8, which still makes a very respectable 500 hp, even if it does share this powerplant with relatively “down-market” brand sibling Audi, in its S8.

The GT Speed is set to go on sale in October, with Bentley promising a uniquely comfortable sporting experience, especially when cruising, a rare vow in any brand’s most performance-minded model.

Seven of 10 best-selling cars in Canada still compacts

Even with a slightly smaller piece of a growing Canadian car sales pie, seven of the top 10 best-selling cars in the country this year are compact-sized vehicles, according to a recently released industry report.

As of the end of July, the Honda Civic looks well on its way to becoming the best-selling car for the 15th year in a row, with the Hyundai Elantra its main rival this year. The Elantra almost matched the Civic’s sales in July, when there were actually eight compact vehicles among the top 10 best-selling cars list, according to the DesRosiers Automotive Consultants report. But Honda has stretched out a sizable lead to date over Hyundai’s impressive and increasingly mainstream compact sedan. The Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus compacts round out the top six.

The report noted that compact car sales (up 3.1 per cent) are not growing as quickly as the overall market (6.7 per cent up) this year, in part due to fast-paced sales of subcompact models like the Hyundai Accent (7th), and notably more fuel-efficient mid-size cars, such as the Toyota Camry (9th).

Trucks are another matter, where the top 10 in sales suggest the “bigger is better” mantra still holds sway. Not much movement on this list, with the full-size Ford F-150 still the runaway champ, followed by the similarly sized Ram pickup, the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan and the GMC Sierra.

Compact SUV/crossover offerings dominate the rest of this list, however. The retiring boxy Ford Escape and the all-new Kuga-based 2013 Escape replacement have combined surprisingly well to keep the compact crossover in fifth place. Following Chevy’s full-size pickup that’s a twin of the Sierra, the Honda CR-V, Dodge Journey, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Santa Fe compacts make up the rest of the best-selling trucks so far this year, in that order.

Nissan hires away Consumer Reports test chief

Nissan North America has lured away the long-time public face of Consumer Reports’ auto testing, David Champion, to be its new quality and internal customer advocate.

Champion was given the newly created title of executive adviser, competitive assessment and quality, and will be returning to Nissan where he worked as a quality assurance engineer from 1994 to 1997, where he was in charge of resolving customer complaints. Since 1997, he has been helping to raise the profile and automotive testing capabilities of Consumer Reports into the juggernaut it is now. Its large sampling of customer reliability data, purchased vehicles and ad-free publications are seen as a key source of independent vehicle assessments and dependability ratings for prospective new car buyers – even if they’re reviewed with as much passion as their toaster comparisons.

Champion will be based at Nissan’s hot-weather testing facility in Arizona, and will no doubt have to cross paths with colleagues who have received scathing quality and product assessments from CR, specifically when its large trucks and Quest minivan first moved to the then-new Canton, Mississippi, production plant, though recent CR ratings for the models have all improved remarkably.

Mitsubishi and Suzuki offer bare new-vehicle cupboards

Both Mitsubishi and especially Suzuki plan worryingly bare numbers of new models for North American showrooms by 2015, trade journal Automotive News reports this week.

Mitsubishi sources told the publication that a restyled Outlander will be out by the summer of 2013, while a plug-in version of the Outlander will likely arrive in early 2014. And that’s about it to 2015, though admittedly it did launch the RVR (Outlander Sport in the United States) in 2011, and the innovative but slow-selling i-MiEV fully electric car in early 2012.

Suzuki’s meagre automotive offerings pale in comparison to Mitsu’s efforts. Its newest product, the mid-size Kizashi, arrived in North American showrooms in late 2009. Its only other offerings in Canada are the SX4, a subcompact vehicle offered in sedan, hatchback and all-wheel drive variants, and the ancient Grand Vitara SUV, which will reportedly receive a facelift and revised body work for 2013.

Suzuki will debut an S-Cross concept at the Paris motor show this September that will reportedly replace the SX4, but there has been no official word on when – or if – this replacement will make it to North America.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

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