The new Bentley Continental GT V8

This is the all-new Continental GT V8. It might look the same as the W12 but if you take a proper poke around you’ll notice the differences. I’ll come onto these later.

The main reason you need to read on is to find out all there is to know about this all-new, twin-turbo V8. Co-developed with Audi, it’s packed with technology that Bentley hasn’t been accustomed to before. Cylinder deactivation is one that, on light loads, turns the V8 into a V4. Hydraulic engine mounts flip between the two completely unnoticeably.

Bentley has also been busy in the sound booth tweaking the noise it makes. This for me is the best part. Unlike the low-end, burbling frequency of the W12, this V8 sounds like no other Bentley.

Now back to the looks. Visually, the differences are pretty hard to find. The GT-remix amounts to a more aggressive front bumper with black mesh grills, and a dark lower rear valence. A prominent black radiator grill and the neat ‘8’ shaped exhaust tailpipes and red enamel while Bentley ‘B’ badges show off what’s on offer. Subtle but a really sleek and a much understated touch.

With prices 10 per cent less than the W12 (now around £130k) it’s finally going to push its way into the path of the competitors. So, has Bentley suddenly come up with a challenger to unseat them? Having driven it, it’s a definite, yes.

This is still a true Bentley though, rather than being over-influenced and becoming an Audi V8 with twist. It’s a creamy, effortless driving experience at cruising speeds that is fused with properly fast, muscular, laddishness behaviour when you turn up the volume. It’s a great mix that no other car I can think of feels like. The engine feels much larger than its 4.0-litre capacity yet the deep performance is not far removed from that of the W12. It’s just delivered with so much more excitement and fizz.

It’s a proper head-rush sprint to 62mph (in 4.6 seconds) and can v-max at 188mph. Similar performance figures of the W12 but just off its radar. But it’s the 487lb ft of torque, from 1,700-5,000rpm, that supplies its true character. This is a 2.3-tonne car, don’t forget, but has such pulling power – just 29lb ft less than the W12, and that really makes you start to weigh up the pros and cons.

Phenomenal traction off the line means it’s fully usable too, and supercar quick. Any true petrol head won’t be able to refrain from a few expletives when you first get behind the wheel and jump head first into the V8.

Unlike the more subtle W12, you can really hear the new soundtrack. It’s mainly the exhaust note that gets it noticed – or is that the flash git in the driver’s seat? Its off-beat burble sounds just like a Mercedes AMG then dig deeper and it turns on its head at higher revs. The only comparison I can think of is the McLaren SLR. For ultimate amusement, just drop the windows…

The GT V8 is fitted with a new eight-speed gearbox, now with closely-stacked ratios it makes the Continental feel so much more energetic. Upshifts are smooth, downshifts immediate. It’s lightening quick yet smooth with swift and fast driving moods. Bentley should be commended here.

New car, new suspension and chassis tweaks. These amount to revised anti-roll bar mountings and a slightly more sporting tune for the springs, dampers and stability control. Grippy 20-inch tyres are standard, even grippier 21-inch ones are optional.

The V8 is lighter than the W12, which is noticed at the front end. As such, the weight balance between front to rear becomes near perfect. Add in the rear-biased 60:40, four-wheel drive split for a much more agile and responsive car.

Which nicely leads onto the handling; let’s start with a cross country hoon. The GT V8 is set up incredibly well despite lugging around two tonnes. The nose leads in much more positively now, giving an extra degree of flowy cornering satisfaction. It’s easier to turn into corners and feels more accurate and precise once in them.

The steering is perfectly weighted, and quick, which means you can throw the V8 at pretty much anything your nerves can handle – keep this to yourselves, but there were several moments where I had to back off as speeds became too much for the road yet the GT still wanted to press on. Despite its mammoth pace it feels incredibly well balanced and reassuring.

Special mention to the brakes; forget the optional ceramics. The factory standards provide forceful stopping power for this big, heavy car. They’re extremely reassuring, time and again. This is also mixed with an extremely positive pedal feel, even if you’re heading into the sunset at break-neck speeds.

The four-wheel drive system has plenty traction and maximizes grip as well as exuding confidence. Few cars northward of 500bhp can blend this style of dynamism with safe stability so well. There’s no denying this is a 2.3-tonne car but it’s definitely up there with the vast majority of the more established competition, particularly as the wonderful ride remains in place.

The interior is fundamentally the same, but somehow feels refreshed. The main visual change is the option of two-tone leather. The experts at Crewe can blend colour options so well together that no other car on sale can match it. Sure, there are some wood veneer options that are far too garish for most tastes, but choose carefully and you can have one of the most exquisite interiors I can think of.

It’s surprising how different the V8 feels overall. Keen drivers will be completely sold, and, if I were fortunate enough to be able to own and run one, it would be my everyday car. It is that perfect. I can’t believe this new GT V8 hasn’t been given the credit it deserves in the press.

The Continental W12 averages 17mpg. The new V8 can return 26.7mpg. That’s a huge improvement and means the new model becomes the most fuel-efficient 500bhp sports car you can buy. It also has a driving range big enough to take you from London to the French Alps, according to Bentley. But if you enjoy driving, like me, you can drain a tank dry relatively quickly.

Let’s wrap things up then: This Bentley Continental GT V8 is a huge achievement, almost all the performance of the W12 but 40 per cent more efficient. It still feels like a Bentley and looks like a Bentley, but is a huge step forward. You can definitely feel a new era within the company and if this is a flavour of things to come, then I for one can’t wait to see what’s next.

It’s not often I’ve tagged a car as ‘perfect’ but this is it; Luxurious, fast, exclusive, has exquisite detail and is a “proper drivers car”. An all-round car you really need to go and drive. Now excuse me while I go and run the fuel tank empty.

Bentley Continental GT V8

Tech Spec:

Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo
Power (bhp): 500hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque (lb/ft): 487 @ 1,700-5,000rpm
0-62mph (secs): 4.6
Top speed (mph): 188
Combined mpg: 26.1mpg
CO2: 246g/km
Price: £130,000 (est)

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One Response to The new Bentley Continental GT V8

  1. maximile May 3, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    Can i sit up front with you mr?

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