What is it?
This is the uprated ‘S’ version of the already fabulous V8-powered Bentley Continental GT convertible, priced at £152,900 and driven here on UK roads for the first time.
For the V8 S, the twin-turbo 4.0-litre powerplant has had its outputs boosted to 521bhp (up 21bhp on the standard Continental GT V8) and 502lb ft (up 15lb ft), without harming fuel economy or CO2 emissions. That’s still shy of the 552bhp and 516lb ft produced by the related engine in the Audi RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback, but it’s enough to drop the V8 S convertible’s 0-60mph time by a few tenths to 4.5sec and lift its top speed incrementally to 191mph.
That increase in performance is aided by a 10mm reduction in ride height, revised suspension settings and new aerodynamic lower body trim – a front splitter, sill extensions and a rear diffuser, all in gloss black – which are designed to improve high-speed stability, while tweaks to the steering, eight-speed automatic gearbox and stability control aim to further sharpen up the car’s responses.
As standard, there’s an abundance of shiny black veneer inside the four-seat drop-top’s beautifully crafted cabin, although there are plenty of alternatives if you'd prefer a more traditional Bentley colour combo. The V8 S also comes with a unique set of 20-inch, double-spoke alloy wheels and red brake calipers, although our test car was fitted with optional 21-inch rims and more than 10 grand’s worth of carbon-ceramic brakes.
What's it like?
The Continental V8 is already our favourite Bentley model, in either coupé or convertible form, and the V8 S is even more of a good thing. You might not think that the power and torque hikes would be enough to make much of a difference, but the V8 S feels deeply powerful and fast in a way that the standard car can’t quite match.
The revisions to the car’s aerodynamics and chassis have paid off, too, with levels of stability and body control at high speeds that convince you that achieving its 191mph top speed would be a piece of cake. The ride quality gets better and better as the speed rises and the car feels incredibly planted yet also surprisingly responsive. This is a magnificent car to drive fast or slow, but it’s that high-speed poise that impresses most.
With the four-layer cloth hood raised, refinement is almost as good as that of the coupé, while open-top motoring doesn't get much more pleasurable than this, thanks to the ambience of the Continental GT’s cabin and the relative lack of buffeting with the hood down and the wind deflector raised.
The optional sports exhaust also provides rich rewards, especially with the roof down. This is the best-sounding modern Bentley we’ve yet encountered, with an intoxicating V8 soundtrack that ranges from a distant background burble to a shattering full-throttle bellow which rivals that of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG for drama and aural delights. At £1860, the sports exhaust is one option box we’d tick every time.
In the main, the Continental GT V8 S convertible handles with impressive poise, despite the occasional shimmy from the convertible bodyshell over broken surfaces and some unwanted impact intrusion over potholes.
The biggest limiting factor, though, is still its weight; this isn't a car that responds well to being thrown around in corners, and just getting nearly two and a half tonnes away from a standstill or stopped requires a Herculean effort. The optional carbon-ceramic brakes have more than enough power for the job, but hitting them hard causes the nose to dive severely as all that weight transfers forward, especially with the adaptive dampers in their softer settings, and they can be a little grabby when you try to pull up smoothly and gently at a set of lights.
Should I buy one?
It’s worth bearing in mind that Bentley is planning an even hotter V8-powered Continental Supersports with at least 545bhp and GT3-derived aerodynamics – an exciting prospect, you’ll no doubt agree. But for now the Continental GT V8 S is easily the pick of the entire Bentley line-up, in either body style, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more satisfying route to open-top motoring than this anywhere, at any price.
Bentley Continental GT V8 S convertible
Price £152,900; 0-60mph 4.5sec; Top speed 191mph; Economy 25.9mpg (combined); CO2 254g/km; Kerb weight 2470kg; Engine V8, 3993cc, twin-turbo, petrol; Power 521bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 502lb ft at 1700rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic