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Driven: Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.

Driven: Bentley Continental GT V8 S
A few tweaks make the V8-engined Continental GT the pick of the line-up.

 



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| Test drive | Bentley Continental GT V8 S |

Overall rating: 5 5 5 5 5

Good points: beautiful inside and out, absolutely epic soundtrack, stunning ride/handling balance.
Not so good: the price...

Key Facts

Model tested: Bentley Continental GT V8 S
Pricing: £139,000 basic; £177,065 as tested
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbocharged petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: two-door coupé
Rivals: Ferrari California, Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG, Porsche 911 Turbo
CO2 emissions: 246g/km
Combined economy: 26.8mpg
Top speed: 192mph
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Power: 528hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 680Nm at 1,700rpm

Our view:

The Bentley Continental has been around in one form or another since 2003, with this second-generation version appearing in 2011. Say what you like about familiarity breeding contempt, but Bentley has done just the right amount of primping and tousling of the Continental's looks to ensure it is still an imposing, grandiose machine on first acquaintance. S-spec only helps matters, especially with the Mulliner Driving Specification and its 21-inch seven-spoke alloys thrown in (£6,325). The little V8 S tell-tales - such as the shaped tailpipes and discreet badges on the front wings - only heighten the anticipation.

The interior is wondrous. All right, look hard enough and - if you've been in plenty of Volkswagen Group products - you'll find the odd button that might be shared with something more commonplace. But the unswerving quality of it all is not in doubt, given the steering wheel is hand stitched, the brightwork is exquisitely knurled and the leather hide on the seats and dash is wondrously supple. There's really nothing to criticise in here; it is as opulent as you would demand of the Winged B.

Fire up the engine and the 4.0-litre V8 catches with an easy chunter. It's not the most vocal of units under light throttle applications but there's a pleasing burble to it as you waft about the place. Smallest engine you can get in the Continental it may be, but in S guise - 21hp and 20Nm more than the normal V8 - you couldn't possibly accuse it of being slow. It monsters past 60mph in a spine-compressing surge of twin-turbo shove and you'd be well advised to back off the throttle quickly, lest the authorities witness you doing antisocial speeds. Despite its two-tonne-plus mass, the Bentley is supercar quick from pretty much any point on the rev counter you care to launch it.

Option it up how you like, but you simply must order the sports exhaust (£1,860), which bestows possibly one of the finest automotive soundtracks we've heard from any car on the big Conti. The bellow it emits under full-bore acceleration is criminally good, especially if you're on a dual carriageway with those concrete barrier centre sections or in a tunnel - the noise reverberates back into the cabin in a glorious, mischievous cacophony of Super Unleaded being burnt at a ferocious rate. That it drops away to near silent on a trailing throttle is not surprising but is most welcome, meaning the Bentley only sings in its finest voice when you properly get the hammer down.

The idea for the V8 S is that it is the driver's choice, and it's a sharper proposition than a W12. Bentley toughens up and lowers the suspension over the V8, revises the steering set-up and alters the software in the eight-speed auto for the S. And it works - to a point (albeit a point that's hard to reach on public roads). Hunker the Continental down by setting the dampers to 'maximum attack' mode and get the car in its sportiest settings, and you'll be surprised just how capable something this big can be. It clamps onto even badly undulating surfaces and shifts ratios in quick-fire time, meaning it's a delight to hustle. Eventually, the car's sheer weight comes into play but you'll be thundering along illegally by the time it becomes ragged. The brakes on our car were epic - but then, they were £10,405 carbon ceramic jobs.

The long and short of the dynamic tale is that, if all other Contis are GTs before they're sports cars, the V8 S tips the balance the other way, rewarding rapid driving without turning cruising into a jittery nightmare. We covered almost 440 miles in the Bentley during our time with it and every single one was a total, unmitigated pleasure. Given the S is so crushingly capable, the recently revealed GT3R limited edition should be gobsmacking-ly good.

Sure, the V8 S will never do the 500 miles on a tank Bentley says it can, and we can criticise the price of ownership or say that if you buy a £139,000 car, it should be borderline illegal to be able to put another £38,065 worth of kit onto it as on the test car. But this is the way the market works these days - it's not simply Bentley profiteering. The truth is the Conti V8 S is actually something of a bargain, given the opulence, craftsmanship and performance stats it blends into one gorgeous package - and 'bargain' is not a word we lightly apportion to £177,065 of metal.

Cruising along a motorway, sun shining, all windows down, your favourite iPod playlist blaring out on the awesome Naim premium sound system (£5,475), adaptive cruise doing its thing and the Bentley's supreme ride quality easing away the miles, the V8 S feels worth every single pound of its asking price and plenty more besides. The W12 models might have the badge cachet among the super-rich who only want the biggest no matter what, but if you've got any sort of discernment at all, the V8 S is clearly the best Continental of a very, very good bunch. It's a truly sensational car that is practically faultless, and therefore is one of our favourite exotics out there.

Alternatives:

Ferrari California T: Ferrari's open-top has just gone forced induction, but it's still a more frenetic car than the Bentley, albeit a rarer sight on the roads.

Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG: cheaper and with a similarly epic engine, it's good but not as rounded as the Continental. There is, of course, the SL 65 AMG... which is over £168,000.

Porsche 911 Turbo: undercuts the Bentley on price and has a sharper drive, yet not as nice to cruise in and the interior is nothing like as special as the Continental's.


Matt Robinson - 14 Aug 2014









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2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.



2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.
 

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Image by Bentley.
 






 

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