The V8 version of the Continental GT is everything you expect from a Bentley, but it has one surprising competitor…
CREWE, ENGLAND — Here we are, three generations of Bentley Continental GT in, and the latest variant to hit Singapore is the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. I should say variants, because you can have a Continental GT Convertible V8 (below) now, too.
These join the W12s, with their Earth-shaking twin-turbo, 6.0-litre behemoth engines, meaning the Conti now has a four-version lineup.
The Bentayga, a hefty sport utility vehicle, accounts for as much as 45 percent of Bentley’s output now, and the four-door Flying Spur has a habit of making up 20 percent of sales, but it’s impossible to overstate the importance of the Continental GT to Volkswagen Groups’ ultra-luxury brand.
Basically if you were on the hunt for something properly roomy for four adults with a useful amount of boot space, the performance to obliterate long highway stretches and a cabin nicer than most people’s houses, you had to write a cheque to Bentley for a Continental GT.
That’s still pretty much the case if you want 12 cylinders, and today’s Continental GT is as implausibly fast and plush as the original.
But one hopes that size isn’t everything, and Bentley likes to say its V8 Contis are sportier than the 12 cylinder ones despite being less endowed. That’s because a smaller, lighter engine lends itself to better handling.
Never having driven the current W12 model before, I have no idea how the two cars compare, but a brief jaunt in a Continental GT V8 in the Cheshire countryside was enough to confirm that the new engine is a gem, at least.
The V8 has a depth of character that gives it an intoxicating level of appeal. Under gentle acceleration, it makes a creamy, burbling susurration that’s honey for the ears, but it knows when mechanical discretion is called for, and silences itself on the expressway, where the GT V8 is as hushed as any electric car.
But select the Sport driving mode and the V8 alters its character immediately, morphing into a growling thing with a touchy personality, eager to send the big coupe hurtling ahead with no-nonsense immediacy. The exhaust crackles when you lift off the accelerator, but the real fireworks happen when you push down and turn the Bentley into a rocket-powered cloud.
Flashback to the future
Walter Owen Bentley may have founded his car company in 1919, but the Bentley Motors we know and love was arguably born in 2003 when the Continental GT (the first model developed with VW money and engineering muscle) exploded through the factory gates. It essentially revived Bentley — since then the brand’s sales have grown 11 times, with 11,006 cars leaving the factory last year in Crewe, where Bentleys have been built since 1946.
I can remember blasting down the country roads of nearby Wales in that first batch of Continentals, fairly impressed by the sumptuous interior with its matched wood veneer, plush carpets and exquisite leatherwork, but completely bowled over by the mighty W12 engine.
The Conti simply ate up other traffic, reaching unprintable speeds with shocking ease and somehow taking the lounge of a gentleman’s club and turning it into a serious, brutal mile muncher. When I left Crewe I wished for a cigar, but after dancing through Wales I wanted a ciggie.
Bentley says the new engine’s real party trick is its efficiency. With monk-like restraint on the accelerator, it’s apparently possible to stretch a single 90-litre fill-up to more than 800km, more than enough to cover a trek from home to, say, Penang for kicks.
With winter tyres adding squidginess to the test car’s steering, and my drive altogether brief and unchallenging anyway, I had no way to assess how stubbornly the GT V8 would cling to tarmac at a push, but there’s little reason to doubt that the Bentley would acquit itself well on a bit of twisty road. It’s loaded to the gills with the technology for it, between all-wheel drive for endless traction, adaptive air suspension that adjusts to your intentions and enormous brakes that look like they could stop the Covid-19 spread.
The eight-speed auto, meanwhile, is Bentley’s first twin-clutch unit, but its shifts are as creamy as can be, yet rapid when the occasion calls for it.
Given how it all comes together to make the Continental GT V8 such a rapid fireball of car, you really need another four cylinders like you need a hole in your skull. Yet, the GT V8 costs S$869,000 without Certificate of Entitlement, which makes it just S$70,000 cheaper than the almighty W12 model.
You get another 85hp and a useful 130 Newton-metre bump in peak torque with the 12-cylinder engine, though honestly if you can tell the performance difference between the two, your buttocks are more sensitive than mine.
Yet, 70 grand is chump change to the average Bentley buyer in Singapore (or at least, it ought to be), so it’s hard to see why one would opt for the V8 over the W12. Bentleys are about excess, and the one thing more excessive than a Continental GT V8 is a Continental GT W12.
Bentley Continental GT V8
|Engine||3,996cc, V8, twin-turbocharged|
|Power||550hp at 6,000rpm|
|Torque||770Nm at 2,000-4,000rpm|
|Top Speed||4.0 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||C2 / 255g/km|
|Price||S$869,000 without COE|
VERDICT: The new V8 for the Bentley Continental GT is a gem of a engine in a gem of a car
What has no top and flies? A convertible garbage truck. What has no top and really flies? This 12-cylinder Bentley Continental GT Convertible!