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Bentley Continental GT V8 S First Drive

By raccars Published

Bentley sharpens its top-selling Continental GT V8 range with a sporting new S model: it combines improved driving enhancements and 528hp performance with the all-round sporting luxury of the Bentley GT to create a superb all-rounder.

Price: £139,000
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 192mph
MPG: 26.8
CO2: 246
On sale: Now (deliveries June 2014)
Insurance group: TBC

Three UK Bentley Continental GT V8 S facts

1: Bentley expects this model to become the most popular version sold in the UK; it’s offered in both GT and GTC convertible form
2: At £139,000, it’s priced within £1000 of the standard W12 model, and £9000 more than the standard V8
3: UK market gets a standard sports exhaust; it’s optional in other markets

What is it?

Bentley’s impressive Continental GT V8 model has proven rather popular in the 18 months it’s been on sale. A slightly lower price point has attracted more buyers out of their Porsches and Aston Martins, and the car’s more lithe nature has made it more engaging to drive.

To capitalise on this extra dynamism, Bentley is stepping things up a gear, with a new variant called GT V8 S. It’s S for sport: the engine has a bit of a power boost to 528hp, there’s lowered suspension and bigger wheels, plus a racier tune for the handling that makes it even more involving to drive.

The changes over the regular V8 need an expert eye to spot in places, but they’ve been very well engineered to deliver a car that’s just as pleasing to live with but more fun to drive. Oh, and with a standard sports exhaust, more fun to be driven in too.

Bentley already expects it to be the most popular V8 variant, and thus the most popular Continental GT model. For a rather reasonable £9000 price hike over the regular GT – pretty good value given the level of detail engineering – we reckon Bentley is right to be confident. Particularly after we drove it on its world launch in San Diego…

Styling and interior

Don’t worry if you can’t spot the differences between this and the regular V8 in the images. The visual cues are intentionally subtle, because Bentley customers don’t particularly like flashy additions or change for change’s sake.

The bits that have altered here are thus purposeful: a 10mm lower ride height, a lovely set of 20-inch alloys and a discreet lower bodykit finished in Beluga black. All it takes is a few hours with the car for the standard one to look a little malnourished – clever work, Bentley.

Inside, only the V8 S door kickplates signify the model change. You have to be in the know to spot the S’ two-tone leather seats with matching leather strip in the rooflining, plus its fantastically rich and deep piano black dash trim.

No matter: the standard interior remains quite breathtaking in its luxury feel, fit and finish plus general ambiance. A premium product indeed – and, with decent rear seats plus some semblance of a boot, one that really can take four people across a continent. No rival can match it here.

Performance

The on-paper performance boost to 528hp isn’t huge, but it’s enough. It delivers 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds (aided by four-wheel drive traction) and a 192mph top speed. More significant is the huge 502lb ft of torque that comes in at 1700rpm and remains flat until 5000rpm.

It’s this pulling power that gives the GT V8 S real muscle on the road. So long as you’re not in the eco-tuned top gears, response is virtually instantaneous and the thrust generated genuinely presses you forcefully into your seat. It really picks up and flies, this Bentley.

The noise is great too, that sports exhaust delivering a really rich and harmonious V8 growl. It’s addictive, particularly when sport mode in the fast-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox is selected. This makes the exhaust even more prominent and makes it sound fantastic.

Handling

Here’s where a lot of the hard work has gone into the Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Spring rates at the front are up 45%, for example, and 33% at the rear. There’s a stiffer rear anti-roll bar. Suspension bushes are firmer, in some cases by more than two-thirds. Even the steering geometry has been extensively revised.

All to make the GT V8 S a more engaging car to drive – and they work. It turns in more eagerly, handles with added dynamism and generally feels a sharper, more responsive machine. It’s a very rewarding car to drive, and that’s true in all weathers too thanks to the four-wheel drive chassis.

Bentley hasn't spoiled the ride though. It’s more tautly tied down but it retains the air suspension compliance of the regular V8 at high speed, only becoming a little more bitty in town. It’s still a car that’s an exceedingly comfortable place in which to cover hundreds of miles: a continental GT car indeed.

Price and value

Bentley charges £139,000 for the GT V8 S, which is £9000 more than the standard car. Although this is a steep price, it’s a lot of car for the money and actually looks to be the sweet spot in the range.

That’s because it delivers so much more over the standard V8, making the price difference almost a no-brainer. The extra performance alone would be worth it for some: factor in the extensive chassis changes and we have no doubt which version will sell best.

Fuel economy

A combined average of 26.8mpg isn’t going to save the planet but it’s much better than the alternative W12 model. More significantly, it’s no different to the regular V8, despite the extra power; the CO2 average of 246g/km CO2 remains identical too.

Bentley says it’s not so much fuel economy that its customers are seeking, but the extra range between tank fills it brings. With a theoretical distance of more than 500 miles between visits to the filling station, the GT V8 S is sure to be a more convenient car to own than the juicy W12.

Verdict: Bentley Continental GT V8 S

Bentley has given us a peach with the Continental GT V8 S. Look past the fact the changes don’t seem to be huge over the regular V8 – they don’t need to be. What the firm’s done is hone the car into a fine machine to drive, with just the right blend of added verve and extra engagement without spoiling the regular car’s comfort.

Porsche and Aston Martin drivers, check it out: you may finally find Bentley has delivered a car for you.

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