They say that a Rolls Royce is for being driven in, but a Bentley is for driving. Seemingly intent on proving this true, Bentley has unveiled the Continental GT V8 S: a luxury grand tourer that comes in a coupe and convertible versions and puts the accent squarely on performance by virtue of its twin-turbocharged, 521 bhp (388 kW) V8.
"The V8 S is a car for our V8 customers who want more," says Dr Wolfgang Schreiber, Chairman and Chief Executive of Bentley Motors. "It is more agile with a lower and uprated suspension. It is faster with more power and visually, has its own styling."
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The GT V8 S takes a lot of "S" cues from older Bentleys and is built around a chassis intended by Bentley engineers to make the GT V8 S more agile without reducing the comfort factor. Its exterior is understated and wonderfully balanced. The black gloss radiator grille with single chrome divider bar is nicely offset by the front splitter and the air scoops and the front blends into the bonnet.
On the downside we are not quite as sold on the design of the LED headlamps, which give the GT V8 S a slightly startled look, and the the passenger cabin appears a bit cramped. It isn't a car that looks like it will try to kill you on a track day, but it is one where the styling serves as the wrapping for the performance inside.
The GT V8 S is no lightweight though. The coupe comes in with a curb weight of 2,295 kg (5,060 lb) while the Continental GT V8 S Convertible tips the scales at 2,470 kg (5,445 lb).
Part of that weight is the four-liter twin-turbocharged, high-pressure direct injection V8 with cylinder deactivation, which cuts out four of the eight cylinders when cruising to reduce fuel consumption. There are also low friction bearings, an advanced thermal management, and energy recuperation using an electrical charging system. Going flat out, it punches 521 bhp (388 kW) with 502 lb-ft (680 Nm) of torque.
Bentley has even designed a "soundtrack" for the uprated V8 engine to provide a distinctive growl even in four-cylinder mode, so presumably pressing the accelerator makes it sound like you've stomped on a lion’s tail. There’s also a sports exhaust option for those who want the “full-blooded V8 sound track.”
The gearbox is a flappy paddle ZF 8-speed automatic with Quickshift, Block Shifting, a 40:60 rear-biased power split and sharpened throttle response, where the gears are held for longer with faster shifting. Put all this together and you get a top speed for the coupe of 192 mph (309 km/h) and 191 mph (308 km/h) for the convertible. Acceleration is 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds for the coupe and 4.5 seconds for the convertible.
Riding 10 mm lower than previous Continentals, the GT V8 S boasts a lowered four-link aluminum double-wishbone, computer-controlled, self-leveling air front suspension with anti-roll bar. The rear gets trapezoidal multi-link, computer-controlled, self-leveling air suspension with anti-roll bar. The springs and rear anti-roll bar have also been stiffened for improved body control and turn-in. According to Bentley, the Continuous Damping Control system has been recalibrated to maintain comfort without impairing performance and the Electronic Stability Control has been retuned to allow increased wheel slip at higher speed with faster engine torque reinstatement when the system takes over from the driver.
Brakes are ventilated carbon silicon carbide cross-drilled with red-painted brake calipers to go with the 20-inch open-spoke wheels. Meanwhile there’s rack and pinion, power assisted, speed-sensitive ZF servotronic steering system with improved precision and feedback thanks to changes in the static toe and camber backed up by new software.
Not surprisingly, the interior carries over the Bentley design to balance performance and comfort. The rear seats seem a bit cramped, but this isn't a car you’d want to sit in the back in anyway. Hand crafted, the interior is filled with piano-black wood veneer lacquered 18-layers thick, deep-pile carpet and soft-touch leathers. There’s also an advanced infotainment system with a 30GB hard drive and an 8-inch touchscreen for navigation, audio and telephone systems.
In terms of mileage, the GT V8 S does surprisingly well for a performance car with the coupe doing 18.4 mpg (15.4 l/100 km) in town against the convertible’s 17.9 mpg (15.8 l/100 km) and in the country they do 36.7 mpg (7.7 l/100 km) and 35.3 mpg (8 l/100 km) respectively. That gives the 90 liter (20 gal, 24 US gal) fuel tank a range of Range: 533 miles (857 km). As Dr. Schreiber pointed out, it could get you from London to Frankfurt (where it was unveiled last week) with the top down.
The new Continental V8 S starts delivery in early 2014 for a list price of £139,000 (US$220,000).
The Bentley video below introduces the Continental GT V8 S.