Bentley Continental GT V8 – Review
By Liam Bird
There’s a general consensus, almost an unwritten rule, amongst motoring writers and journalists. Whatever their status, experience, or quality of publication, the rule states that the entry-level model of any car range is most often the best of the bunch.
For the last half century readers of car reviews the world over have been told by both the great and the good (and those of us still learning the ropes) that Porsche’s 911 is at its best when it’s two-wheel drive, devoid of spoilers and comes with a manual gearbox. Forget the GT3, a bog-standard Carrera is really the purest way to experience what Porsche call “driving in its purest form”.
It’s the same too when it comes to Peugeots. A three cylinder 208 on 15”steel rims is all the more entertaining thanks to it’s frugality. That said, the world awaits the 208 GTi with bated breath. Yet still we wonder whether its extra weight will dull its dynamics. According to those in the know, it’s that same story for the BMW 3-series, the Range-Rover and the Ford Fiesta too.
“Seats will massage you”
So what exactly has any of this got to do with the Bentley Continental you see here? Well, this particular Continental just happens to be the GTV8 – the entry level one. In fact, it’s the cheapest brand-new Bentley you can buy.
All things are relative of course. Being a Bentley the GT V8 doesn’t exactly come cheap. The starting price of £123,850 would still bag you a nice two-up-two-down in the sleepier parts of middle England. But it’s unlikely that your cottage of choice would come anywhere near as nicely appointed.
Pull open the Continental’s double glazed door and you’re greeted by acres of thick hand-stitched, quilted leather. Machine turned aluminium covers the dashboard à la Bentleys of old. Should you wish, the air-conditioned seats will massage you too. Even the steering wheel is heated. If your budget allows it the optional Naim audio system is a must have too. You’d swear your band of choice were playing live on the Continental’s snug fitting rear seat.
“Notice the difference at the pumps”
So, interior-wise it’s Pym’s Lane perfection as usual. You’d be hard pressed to notice any differences between the V8 and larger engined Continental W12. A rectangular brake pedal rather than a round one is the only thing I note. Outside too you’ll have to be a fully paid up member of the Bentley spotters club to really see the signs. Those in the know will note the badges have a red background rather than the more usual black one. Possibly the exhausts are shaped like the figure 8. The biggest giveaway though is the grille. It’s black rather than chrome. But Bentley make bespoke cars remember? So you can bet some owners will spec a shiny one just because they can.
Where those lucky enough to spend time with the V8 will really notice the difference, though, is at the pumps. The 4-litre twin turbo engine employs some clever technology that means not only does it produce 500bhp (not far off the W12’s 567) and sufficient torque to hurl 2.3 tonnes of Crewe’s finest coachwork towards the horizon with apparent ease – 0-62 takes 4.8 seconds – but it’s also capable of 26.1 mpg. By deactivating the outermost cylinders in one bank and the innermost of the other, under light loads this engine runs as a V4. The transition between the two modes is imperceptible. An 8-speed auto-box that ensures sufficient urge regardless of speed means you’ll never notice it either.
“A little sharper”
It’s that engine, its low speed V8 woofle and high speed devilish cackle, together with a weight saving (albeit a small one) that make the V8 Continental seem more sporting, less GT-like to drive. The steering feels a little sharper. The ride a little less wafty. Somehow the V8 feels more athletic than you expect it might be. Yet should you want it to you could happily cross continents in this car. You will arrive at your destination feeling as relaxed and unruffled as you when you started out.
The V8 Continental proves the rule. As the entry level model, not only to the range but to Bentley ownership as a whole, it provides all of the luxury, all of the thrills and yet saves you a little cash too. Never before has being at the bottom of the ladder felt so good.
Bentley Continental GT V8
Engine: 3993cc twin-turbo V8 32V Petrol
Power: 500 BHP @ 6000rpm
Torque: 487 lbft @ 1700rpm
Transmission: 8 speed automatic with selectable ratios & 4WD
Performance: 0-62mph 4.8 sec
Max Speed: 198mph
MPG: 26.7 Combined
Price: from £123,850 (car driven £152,995)