When: February 2012
Where: Logrono, Spain
What: Bentley Continental GT V8
Occasion: International first drive
Overall rating: 4.5/5
Lighter, more agile, more economical and cheaper (just), the Bentley Continental GT V8 builds on the tremendous foundations of the W12 model with a smaller, more efficient engine. It sounds fantastic too, immediately making the 6.0-litre W12 obsolete.
Pricing: €240,000 (estimated)
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: two-door coupé
Rivals: Porsche 911 Turbo, Aston Martin V8 Vantage S, Maserati GranTurismo
CO2 emissions: 246g/km (Band G, €2,258 per annum)
Combined economy: 26.7mpg (10.6 litres/100km)
Top speed: 302km/h
0-100km/h: 4.8 seconds
Power: 507hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 660Nm at 1,750- to 6,000rpm
In the metal 4.5/5
Not a great deal new to see here, the GT V8 taking the super-formed aluminium lines of its W12 Continental relative and adding a few visual signifiers for its smaller engine. Chief is the black grille, slightly re-profiled lower bumper intakes and unique alloy wheels, while the exhaust finishers subtly hint at this car's eight cylinders with their approximated '8' shape.
It's all very neat, the GT's recent re-style retaining its scale and squat proportions, but adding a contemporary edge that looks great. Inside it's much the same, which means plenty of wood, chrome and leather, with the opportunity to spend lots making it more personal to your specific tastes. The new car gets some V8-specific highlights including the dark wood trim, while other items like the kick-plates denote the cheaper car.
Driving it 4/5
The Continental GT has always driven with a degree of agility that belies its hefty bulk. Sure, with 'just' 507hp on tap from the 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 engine it doesn't quite as have the same eye-widening pace as its 6.0-litre W12 relatives, but you'll be hard pushed to notice. The smaller engine features an eight-speed automatic, which is all the better for being in the right ratio for both performance and economy and it's silky smooth when changing gears. You can do so yourself, but really, when it's as seamless in automatic mode as it is there's really little point. Along with that, inputs to the steering column mounted paddles are sometimes ignored and a bit of a reach if your hands are anywhere away from the ten-to-two position.
It's not the 4.8 seconds it takes to reach 100km/h, nor the 302km/h top speed potential that matter with the V8, it's the 26.7mpg (10.6 litres/100km) Bentley quotes for it. That's impressive, and down to a number of efficiency tweaks including cylinder deactivation and that automatic transmission. Don't think that the GT V8 sounds any less potent when it's gliding along on a V4 engine though, as the engineers spent a great deal of time on the engine and exhaust to create the right timbre. It's worked, and some, the GT V8 sounding absolutely fantastic, whether it's burbling away at idle or tearing along with a guttural wail.
More efficiency and a wonderful sound would be enough, but there's more. It might not be as fast as the W12, but it's gained an athleticism that's absent in the bigger-engined car. Thank weight savings, particularly over the front of the car, for that. It's done wonders for the steering and turn in, giving the V8 driver a more responsive GT. It's still hugely confidence inspiring and delivers massive grip, but there's a greater delicacy about how it gets down a road.
What you get for your money 3/5
It's not massively cheaper than the W12 alternative; indeed, specify a few choice options like the massive ceramic brakes and you'll be up into the 6.0-litre car's stratosphere. Thing is, it doesn't feel like it should be any cheaper, as, aside from the lack of four cylinders under the bonnet, the V8 GT is hardly an austere choice.
The price differential might be slight, but the potential range is hugely improved. Drive it sensibly (difficult, admittedly) and the GT V8 has a range that is in excess of 800 kilometres. That means it properly lives up to its GT name, and saves its wealthy owners from the hassle of regular fill-ups.
Less is most definitely more when it comes to the Bentley Continental GT V8. The smaller engined machine lacks nothing in pace, yet delivers a more exciting, involving driving experience. Economy savings are a bonus too, even if the deep pockets of potential owners aren't likely to worry about such things.