Roadtest: Bentley Continental GT V8 S

20 Jul 2015 | 02.21 pm

Roadtest: Bentley Continental GT V8 S

Nothing but class

20 Jul 2015 | 02.21 pm

Heading down to the Cote d’Azur for the holidays? You’ll arrive in style behind the wheel of a Bentley Continental GT V8 S, writes Mark Gallivan

 

Any invitation to drive the 2015 Bentley Continental GT S – even one fitted with a V8 instead of a W12 – suggests a fuller life: gluttonous luxury, aristocratic Bentley Boys, wagers to beat the Blue Train and tall tales of chocks away, derring-do.

Yes, the Dirk Van Braeckel designed Continental is hardly new. Launched back in 2003, the Continental has gone through two iterations and managed to look virtually unchanged. Back then the pink-paper reading class were faced with stark choices of a stately Arnage or Azure models in which to escape to the country pile of a weekend. However, once under Volkswagen’s grasp, the opportunity arose to launch an entry-level Coupe (a euphemism if ever there was one) and make money by sharing much of the car’s its mechanicals with the Volkswagen Phaeton.

But a V8? Before anyone gets sniffy about shoehorning a lighter V8 into the Continental (shared with Audi, mind) Bentley claims 40% better fuel consumption with a stomach sickening 521 bhp @ 6,000rpm, 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds with a top speed of 309 kilometres per hour. The big improvement, apart from subtle body styling, uprated chassis and revised stability, is how better the air-suspensioned GT V8 S feels to drive. Far more fun. Nothing of the Toad of Toad Hall here.

Let’s decamp inside. The aroma from the leather induces light-headedness as you settle back. Suddenly life behind the double-paned glass slows as you marvel at the exquisiteness of the controls. If it looks metal or aluminium, one swift caress assures you it is. Many criticise the Continental for having traditional instrumentation rendering, but we love it. If your bag is the Mercedes S-class glitzy interior, this GT’s not for you.

The Continental is still made in Crewe, where engines were manufactured for the Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane WW2 aeroplanes. It takes a full eleven hours and five coats to paint every car; twelve bull hides to create the interior; and one single piece of leather is used to upholster every steering wheel by hand. All an anathema to grubby mass production.

With a lighter V8 S engine, weight is pushed to the back wheels giving a more involving, less blunt drive. Add an optional sports exhaust that sounds like Godzilla gargling and the GT V8 S is transformed from a luxury liner into a brutal, mellifluous companion. Corners and apexes are attacked with a vengeance you’d never contemplate in the bigger W12. A GT for the straights and bends with a walloping freight train surge.

Party Piece

Caress the leather wheel and floor it and too quickly and you’ll need to brush off speed fast. Enter the GT V8 S’s party piece: enormous ventilated disc brakes that potentially cause belted-up passenger to groan and exhale if you stamp on them in anger. They’re utterly astounding in how they bring proceedings to a big halt.

In summary, the V8 S variant of the Continental GT is better to drive, better looking and more economical. Accepted, it’s expensive even before you’ve commissioned any options (one never orders a Bentley). A basic Continental GT V8 S starts at £139,915 even before Irish VRT. If you must ask, you know the answer – make yours a V8 S. Now the best Continental ever.

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