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The new Bentley Continental V8 is much more frugal than its W12-powered sibling and is also a whole lot better to drive
Andrew Frankel Autocar
11 December 2011

What is it?

You don’t need to set off to the South of France nor even drive down the road to know the new V8 motor Bentley has just fitted to the Continental coupe has something the long-serving W12 has never known. You don’t even need to move: just sit in the car park and stab the throttle. And in one deep, thunderous snarl of a reply, it’ll tell you it has more character than the fastest, most powerful W12-engined Bentley will ever know.

After that, the news just goes on getting better. Bentley is at pains to point out that the car Autocar drove at and on the roads around Silverstone was a mere prototype but confirmed its specification was signed off. Which means buyers can look forward not only to a car that makes a great deal more sense because it does 27mpg rather than 17.1mpg and can now drive from London to the Alps on a tank but, less predictably, is also a whole lot better to drive.

Here’s why: the main purpose of the V8 was meet a commitment made by Bentley in 2008 to offer a 40 per cent improvement in economy and emissions with no loss of perceived performance by now. Well, fuel and CO2 side of the equation we know about already, but could a 4-litre V8 really provide not only enough performance to justify inclusion in a Bentley, but enough of the right kind of performance?

What’s it like?

The new 4-litre V8 may have a mere 500bhp and, because of all the technology attached to it, weigh just 25kg less than a 6-litre W12, but if you compare it to a first generation 6-litre Conti GT, it has more torque and better acceleration thanks, in no small part to the eight speed ZF gearbox which you won’t get on a W12 even today.

Although Bentley takes the engine direct from Audi, it is dressed in Crewe to a unique specification designed specifically to trade power for torque. So while it has 13 fewer horsepower, it offers 7lb ft more torque at 1700rpm.

The engine is also fitted with cylinder deactivation technology though Bentley has dispensed with the active engine mounts and active noise system used by Audi in the S8. It improves fuel consumption by five per cent. More major fuel savings over the W12 include downsizing (16 per cent) and the eight-speed gearbox (6 per cent).


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The remainder of the 40 per cent improvement comes from items like revised power steering, better energy recuperation, low rolling resistance tyres and improvements to weight and drag.

Better still, because maximum torque is delivered at the same 1700rpm as the W12 and is maintained all the way to 5000rpm, if you shift the lever into manual so it doesn’t try to downchange, you can ride along a very similar wall of torque as W12 buyers. But this engine is far more responsive, wildly better to listen to and, thanks to the never ending supply of gears, even more seamless at maximum attack.

It’s also a better balanced car. Bentley has completely revised all the suspension settings so that, for the first time in its life, the Continental GT no longer feels overweight. You’d not call it agile yet but it is precise, poised, balanced and, yes, truly good fun to drive.

Should I buy one?

The last Bentley I drove was a 631bhp Supersports model and, slower though it is, I’d mark this entry level V8 as the significantly more satisfying driving machine.

If you find this amazing, you are not alone. Indeed I think from Bentley’s point of view its abilities might even be problematic: it reckons half of sales will continue to be W12s, but unless you’re a Russian oligarch or are sufficiently deluded to think size matters in such things, I can’t see why you would.

In every area that matters to me, the V8 would be a superior machine even if it weren’t ten per cent more affordable. What effect having to buy this expensive new engine from Audi and charging less for the car you put it in will have on the profitability of each car remains to be seen. But I guess that comes under the category of nice problems to have.

Bentley Continental GT V8

Price: £122,000 (approx); Top speed: 188mph; 0-62mph: 4.8sec; Economy: 27.0mpg; Co2: 246g/100km; Kerbweight: 2295kg; Engine type: V8, 3993cc, petrol, twin turbocharged; Installation: front, longitudinal, four-wheel drive; Power: 500bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 486lb ft at 1700rpm; Gearbox: 8-speed auto

Join the debate


3 January 2012

[quote Autocar] The engine is also fitted with cylinder deactivation technology though Bentley has dispensed with the active engine mounts and active noise system used by Audi in the S8. It improves fuel consumption by five per cent [/quote]

Sort of makes you wonder how many more cars out there could be made more efficient by the ditching of superfluous guff like this.

It does appear to be an impressive car though,.

3 January 2012

This car makes more sense than running a V12 every day. I look forward to it being advertised on Pistonheads for £45k in 2 years time.


3 January 2012

[quote Autocar]weigh just 25kg less than a 6-litre W12[/quote] Disappointed as I was to read this, the increased agility and range are the best answer Bentley could make to allegations of automotive obesity. Still, can't help wondering how good it could be if it were 250 Kg less.

3 January 2012

Still won't be anywhere near a rounded car as an AMG CL Class (63 or 65), weighs more, drinks more fuel and not as quick either!

3 January 2012

[quote nosha]Still won't be anywhere near a rounded car as an AMG CL Class (63 or 65), weighs more, drinks more fuel and not as quick either![/quote] But, if history repeats itself, will still feel a lot more special.

3 January 2012

Impressive numbers from the official test. I wonder what the difference is in the real world?

Surely this is a very old car now though, in need of a complete refresh, and a bigger diet than i need after Xmas. And isnt its image tarnished. It surely is in the UK with the 'footballer' image is has, not to mention those very quesionable 'specials' Bentley keep on showing.

3 January 2012

For some 500bhp isn't enough,but this car has enough for most,if you really want more,it's just over kill and a waste of cash,and for what?......just to say mines bigger than yours!?

3 January 2012

[quote nosha]Still won't be anywhere near a rounded car as an AMG CL Class (63 or 65), weighs more, drinks more fuel and not as quick either![/quote]

Maybe so, but I hazard a guess at this sector of the market, mere numbers might not be the main determining factor to tempt buyers. "Desirability" (whatever that means to different people), cachet and class are far more relevant. Bentley is perceived to have plenty of those and it's not as if the Continental's performance is exactly lacking either.

3 January 2012

Very valid and subjective. I do feel at times though being British we have obvious bias to what were traditional British brands like a lot of the motoring press which inevitably hails every new Jaguar as a destroyer of Mercs and Beemers. However likewise, I often read report about the sheer number of awards Mercs always seem to win within Germany. I too am a little biased being a Mercedes fan however I think they seriously messed up the maybach brand. I believe that despite diluting the brand with cheaper mainstream models, exclusive Mercs "could" still have the class to compete on desirability and status as Rolls, Bentley, Aston etc. Looking back through history the Grosser Saloons and SL convertibles of the 60s have more cache then anything of their time. Stretching further back the SSKs likewise. Merc need to create a model above the S-Class and current CL Class which goes all out, hand finished etc. Cars that are out of reach for "normal" people like us.

3 January 2012

Being the owner of the current GT, I really welcome this more fuel frugal model, it`s not neccesserily the fuel consumtion that is the problem but the range. The current car can only do about 225 miles on the open road before it needs refueling. It`s as fast as the current W12`s in the real world.

I`ve never had anything other than compliments on the car, so the `image` is in my opinion press generated garbage and as for comparison with the Merc CL, as nice as that car is, and I did consider it three years ago when I bought the GT (previuosly owned about 10 of them before the Bentley.. still have and ML) the interior of the CL feels like most other Mercs, but the GT is something else altogether. Thats my two pence worth, will be ordering one of these at the end of the year, GT or GTC?.........problems, problems


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