From £135,7608
More power is exactly the medicine the Continental GT needed, but it leaves the Bentley feeling like it could do with an even bigger dose

Our Verdict

Bentley Continental GT

Full of character and still able to impress, particularly as a V8

Andrew Frankel Autocar
7 February 2014

What is it?

For a company with some of the most bling-friendly customers on earth, Bentley has always taken a delightfully understated approach to often quite dramatic engineering changes.

Look at this, the new Continental GT V8 S. The name has just an additional ‘S’ and the looks are enhanced by just a mildly revised front grille, a new chin spoiler, reprofiled side skirts and a different rear diffuser. But miss the V8 S badge on the side and you might miss also that this is Bentley’s best Continental yet, and by some margin.

Bentley has almost started again with the suspension and has taken 18 months to do it, the aim being to sharpen up the Continental GT for all those customers who continue to tell Bentley they want more fun.

So, the power of the twin-turbo 4.0-litre  V8 has been tickled up from 500 to 521bhp, the 0-62mph time cut from 4.8 to 4.5sec and its top speed raised from 188 to 192mph.

It’s understandable that much of the focus will fall on the additional engine power, but in fact it’s the suspension changes that are far more interesting, because this is far more than a stiffer set of springs. The Bentley's ride height has been dropped by 10mm; the front spring rate has also been increased by a massive 45 per cent and the rear by ‘only’ 33 per cent.

You’d think this would encourage understeer, but Bentley has also made the rear anti-roll bar more than half as stiff again but left the front bar unchanged, so the car is actually more eager to turn in. With ESP additionally reprogrammed to delay its activation, a more neutral handling stance has been achieved.

What's it like?

Don’t set too much store by these numbers, for they are not what this car is about. Indeed, I have only Bentley's word that the car is any quicker at all.

Show me someone who reckons they can spot 21bhp in a 2.3-tonne car that already had 500bhp without being able to do a back to back and I’ll show you someone who shouldn’t be earning their living this way.

Instead, join me on an open road somewhere in the middle of nowhere as the driver eyes up a quick, open turn and wonders whether to brake, lift or stay flat. In the standard GT V8, you’d be far more concerned about entry speed and mindful of any hidden mid-corner undulations that might unsettle the car.

Not any more; my time in the V8 S was spent unlearning what my brain thought it knew this car could do, and reprogramming it with altogether more interesting parameters.

Given what stands against it – its weight, four-wheel drive hardware, more mass in the nose than you’d like and the fact it remains a grand tourer rather than a real sports car – the V8 S has hauled itself up to a level you’d not have believed conceivable had you only driven the Continental GT as it started life over 10 years ago.

Of course, it corners flatter and faster than the standard V8, but by putting greater loads through its suspension, it is also able to communicate like no other Continental before.

The V8 S's chassis feels taut and precise, and while it’s still no drift machine, if you do run wide in a curve it will tighten its line in direct, precise proportion to how far and how fast you lift your foot from the accelerator.

Should I buy one?

Unlike its floppier, heavier GTC sister, these modifications suit the character of the Continental coupe.

Indeed, they speak of a car that has had all this latent talent stored up within it all these years and it’s only now that Bentley is allowing it to realise its full potential. Except it’s not there yet.

There was nothing in many hours of high-speed driving that made me think the car was near the limit of what the chassis could take. On the contrary, I think Bentley could and should go further.

And if the rumours of a sub-two tonne, rear-drive road-going version of its GT3 car hold any water at all, that is precisely what Bentley is planning to do.

Bentley Continental GT V8 S

Price £139,000; 0-62mph 4.5sec; Top speed 192mph; Economy 26.8mpg; CO2 246g/km; Kerb weight 2295kg; Engine layout V8, 3997cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Installation Front, longitudinal, 4WD; Power 521bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 502lb ft from 1700rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
8

7 February 2014
'The Bentley's instruments are starting to look old and staid'. To me they look like instruments should do. Mind you, I'm starting to look old and staid too.

Wide cars in a world of narrow.

7 February 2014
... but VW have managed to make this polished turd even uglier.

7 February 2014
2.3 tonnes, obviously the engineers come from the same pool as JLR's

8 February 2014
It's still a beautiful shape. But the V8S font IS tacky (emulating Porsche?) as is that interior AND garish scarlet paint job. Yes we get it - it's a faster version. But I'll have mine in Barnato Green please.

10 February 2014
Vance Miller Kitchens. You tell me what other kitchen company can sell a full kitchen for £700 with appliances.

12 February 2014
Maybe they're just from unflattering angles, but the photos surely make this Phaeton look like one large ungainly red plastic bucket.
That's a rather cheap-looking Audi A4 red paint too, isn't it?
Still, I'm sure the badges aren't made of plastic. Sorry, spoke too soon - just looked at the engine cover shot. Surely they still come with Wilton carpet or has that been replaced by a cheap, but inferior quality, German-made Teppich Ersatz? Death by a thousand cuts. Read it and weep.

13 February 2014
pauld101 wrote:

Maybe they're just from unflattering angles, but the photos surely make this Phaeton look like one large ungainly red plastic bucket.
That's a rather cheap-looking Audi A4 red paint too, isn't it?
Still, I'm sure the badges aren't made of plastic. Sorry, spoke too soon - just looked at the engine cover shot. Surely they still come with Wilton carpet or has that been replaced by a cheap, but inferior quality, German-made Teppich Ersatz? Death by a thousand cuts. Read it and weep.

You can't afford one so you try to rubbish it.

You add nothing more useful to the discussion than the kitchen spammer before you.

 

I'm a disillusioned former Citroëniste.

30 June 2014
There is yet another 'edition' trying to rework the basic Conti GT which has been around for ages with early ones selling at about £30,000. It must be time for a totally new design/ shape, also lose more of the VW Phaeton bit (not that the VW isn't a great car, another second-hand bargain ).

RogerHudson

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