For 2014, Bentley introduces the nearest rod-going alternative it has to its GT3 racer, the Continental GT V8 S.
In 2013, we saw a big change. Bentley, so long the vanguard of W12 engines, had the nerve to downsize. And not only that, they had the audacity to claim that this new, tiny engine actually represented the sportiest Bentley yet. What nonsense.
And yet it wasn’t. The Continental GT V8 was, just as the firm claimed, really rather sprightly for a two-tonne lump of British leather and wood. And so for 2014, the firm has made a few tweaks to produce this, the Continental V8 S.
Power in the new car is up, the twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8 now producing 521bhp, fed to all four wheels through an EIGHT-speed AUTOMATIC gearbox. And that’s not all. The dampers and anti-roll bars have been revised, as have the steering settings to give more response, while there’s a substantially improved noise if you opt for the sports exhaust.
Visually, the V8 S sits 10mm lower than the standard Continental, and there are black aero additions to the bottom of the car to enhance the slippery look. The badges, like the standard V8, are red, as are the brake callipers, while the grille is finished in shiny black paint, like the wing mirrors.
Little has changed inside compared to other GTs, although our car is resplendent with piano black trim rather than some of the more traditional wooden finishes you might expect in other Contis. Bentley isn’t necessarily about the latest in cutting edge technology, so there’s no adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist or any of that ilk, but you get what’s needed in a luxury car – cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a superb stereo system, that sort of thing.
I’ve not driven the standard V8, so I can’t tell you about the difference between it and the S. But I can give you an idea of what the V8 S feels like compared to Continentals equipped with W12s. Essentially, it feels faster, more dramatic. This may not be reflected in absolute performance – the V8 S boasts only 521bhp compared to 626bhp in the Continental GT Speed and hits 100kph in 4.5 seconds compared to 4.2. But the vibe, the character of the V8 is a notch more frenetic and exciting, and it feels like it’s working harder. Where the W12 is a laconic, effortless employer of power, the V8 gives more of an air of activity and involvement, and that means more fun.
Punch the throttle and the response is sharp, torque heavy and accompanied by a V8 bellow from behind as the exhausts lend extra drama to proceedings. The suspension can be stiffened via the infotainment screen, and it helps to keep the GT’s substantial weight in check through the bends. This is not a light car at 2295kg, but it’s composed and agile for its size. The steering isn’t as clear in its messages as I’d like though – there’s a lightness to the wheel at turn in which just takes a fraction of confidence away when you want to push hard into a corner. You have to guide it in, wait to be sure that all is well and then, when the nose decides to head towards the apex, you can get on the gas and feel the power and torque drag you towards the next corner with all four tyres. The eight-speed gearbox isn’t as fast as a dual-clutch affair, but it’s suited to the character of the car – fast, smooth but not particularly interested in wringing fractions of a second out of journey times. It’ll hustle to an admirable degree, but it won’t be rushed beyond its abilities.
Ultimately, the V8 S is cut from the same cloth as its siblings – it’s big, heavy and and luxurious. But on the sliding scale of luxo-barge to whippet, it’s closer to a racing dog than anything else in the current Conti GT generation. If you must have a Bentley, but want the most focused driving experience possible, this is your best option until a new Supersports appears.
|Continental GT V8 S
|V8 / twin-turbocharged / 3993cc
|521bhp @ 6000rpm
|502lb ft @ 1700rpm
|Eight-speed automatic / all-wheel drive
|Four-link double wishbones / anti-roll bar
|Trapezoidal multi-link, anti-roll bar
|Cast Iron or optional Carbon-Silicon-Carbide (CSiC) / 405mm ventilated iron or 420mm cross-drilled CSiC (front) / 335mm ventilated iron or 356mm cross-drilled CSiC (rear)
|20-inch front and rear
|275/40 ZR20 front and rear