Bentley Continental GT V8 S review

The Continental GT V8 S is a harder-edged Bentley for a new generation of customers. Jonathan Crouch reports.

Ten Second Review

The V8 S takes the standard Bentley Continental GT formula and gives it a brutal gym-toning. Power goes up by 21bhp, but that's nothing compared to the lower and firmer suspension, the sharper steering and the aural fireworks of the optional sports exhaust system.

Background

Would you notice another 21 horsepower? You certainly would feel a serious shot in the arm were it added to a car with 50bhp but to a car with 500bhp? That's 4.2 per cent more power, or the equivalent of an extra 13 millilitres in a can of Coke. 2.2 inches onto the width of a double bed. I'm guessing that if you weren't told beforehand, you probably wouldn't notice. You'll certainly notice the changes that Bentley has wrought to the Continental GT V8 S though. Yes, power has increased by that modest 4.2 per cent factor but the Crewe company has endowed the car with a very different personality to the Conti GT norm. This one makes the standard V8 look like the 'before' picture in a Bowflex commercial.

Driving Experience

Although outwardly little looks different, beneath the skin this S version of the V8 gets some serious fettling. It rides 10mm lower on its suspension, the wheels now filling the arches more purposefully. Everything that could be stiffened has been; springs, dampers, bushings and anti roll bar. Despite this, Bentley has striven to keep ride quality more than acceptable in Comfort mode. Dial the dampers up to attack mode though and the body control becomes a good deal tauter and you'll feel some distinctly un-Bentley thumps entering the cabin. The steering has been retuned to offer more heft which gives the illusion of additional feel. With this additional directness, a more subtle hand is required. The stability control system has been slackened off a little which requires a moment's pause, especially when one considers that 680Nm of torque is being divided amongst those four tyres. Of course, it's quick. The sprint to 62mph is demolished in 4.2 seconds en route to 192mph but the most startling thing about the V8 S is undoubtedly the noise. The sports exhaust system is a must-have. It gargles and blares, amplifying a proper old-school V8 soundtrack, throwing in all manner of ostentatious crackles and barks on the overrun.

Design and Build

Bentley claims to have fitted a 'Beluga' lower body styling kit, although that only makes the car sound vaguely whale-like. The result is anything but, the combination of the gloss styling additions and the lower ride height giving the car a tauter look. The dramatic look is completed by exclusive 20" Open-spoke wheels and red painted brake calipers as well as a gloss black radiator grille. There's also the option of dark tint front & rear lamps. Just in case you thought the V8 S wasn't quite extrovert enough, Bentley has added Monaco Yellow to the available exterior colour palette. Go for the Mulliner Driving Spec for quilted leather, 21-inch wheels and alloy pedals. As in every Bentley, the choice of interior colours is almost endless. Seventeen different hide colours are available, but you also have the choice of single or two-colour hide upholstery with darker colours, recommended for surfaces such as the fascia top roll to prevent unwelcome reflections. Needless to say, the choice of carpet and seat belt colours is just as extensive. From steering wheel to gear lever, seat and armrest, every soft-touch surface in the cockpit is covered with soft leather.

Market and Model

Customers get to choose between the Continental GT V8 S coupe at £139,000 or the open-top Continental GTC V8 S which retails at £152,900. Straight away you'll want to tick the box for the optional sports exhaust system. Here you get completely redesigned silencers, revised pipe architecture and re-tuned mountings to create a free-breathing system with a more powerful, throaty roar. The interior doesn't want for too much in the way of options. The car can pair with almost any Bluetooth smartphone, tablet or media player to enable your films and music to be played through the in car entertainment system. The sound system built into every Continental GT V8 S features custom Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) speakers, which combine the functions of separate tweeters and mid-range speakers in a single unit, making it possible to direct sound with accuracy and clarity. Those who want and even punchier and crisper sound can opt for the fifteen-channel Naim for Bentley sound system.

Cost of Ownership

One big advantage of the V8 engine compared to the W12 is that it's a good deal more economical. Where you'll get 19.5mpg from a 12-cylinder Continental, go for the V8 S and you'll average 26.8mpg. It's a similar story on emissions, the lighter V8 with cylinder cut technology emitting 246g/km compared to the W12's 338g/km. Does that really matter that much when you're spending this much on a car? In the overall scheme of things, probably not, but it has an effect on the range you get from your Continental. Frequent stops at filling stations are tedious and the better economy of the V8 S means you can travel 144 more miles per tank.

Summary

There will be some more traditional Bentley owners who don't approve of the Continental V8 S. They'll see it as a bit brash, a bit new money, something that property developers or footballers might hanker after and you know what? They'd be completely wrong. Bentley was built around the notion of beautifully-engineered but sporting cars, not half-panelled drawing rooms on wheels. In that regard, drawing on the true ethos of the company's history, this is the most authentic model in the whole range. The great thing about the V8 S is that it's down to you how lairy you make it. Choose a sober colour, live without the sports exhaust and leave the car in Comfort mode and it does a great impression of a louche boulevardier. Amp up the paintwork, fit the sports exhaust and enervate the suspension and it's got some serious intent. It's something very special.