Photo: Jan Coomans
There’s no such thing as a perfect car,
but if you had to give a car points on every aspect in equally weighted categories, I’m not sure there is another car in the world that could beat Bentley Continental GT V8 S. There are many reasons why this is probably the best car Bentley have ever made...
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I tend look at car reviews for entertainment purposes only. That includes the ones I write myself because, although I must admit the writing of the bloody article is a bit of a chore, at the end of the day I just like to drive different cars.
Let’s face it, many of you already know which car you’d like to buy next anyway. I know I do, and it would be rude to assume my readers are any more rational than I am. Cars, particularly those of the needlessly fast and expensive variety, are not a sensible choice but simply an emotional one. So when some pesky car journalist writes something negative about your favorite car, well, he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And nobody, least of all journalists, believes that there is such a thing as a completely unbiased review. How a car is written about more often than not depends on how much the writer liked the car or the brand to begin with.
So in the interest of fairness it’s important for me to point out in advance that I have never liked Bentleys very much. They’re just not my type of car, something which they probably ought to take as a compliment if it were not for the fact that my opinion is insignificant to begin with. We each have our peculiar individual tastes, and mine never really agreed with Bentleys or the people who drive them for that matter. To get to the point I’m trying to make: you can safely assume that the Bentley Continental GT V8 S which I’m about to talk to you about is even better than I say it is. Because, even though I won’t be daydreaming about it myself, there are many reasons why this is probably the best car Bentley have ever made.
It seems difficult to believe, but the Continental GT has been with us since way back in 2003. It was the first Bentley made under Volkswagen’s new philosophy for the brand, and there should be no doubt about how well it has worked out. The Continental GT almost single handedly boosted sales figures higher than ever in Bentley’s long history and created a vast number of new Bentley customers.
It’s difficult to overstate just how successful Bentley have been in re-shaping the perception of the brand from old and stuffy to sporty and chique. Of course it’s a bit of a historical tragedy that Bentley ended up with such an unenviable reputation to begin with. In the 1920s and 30s a famous group of wealthy British car enthusiasts named the «Bentley Boys» were very successful racers, including a very impressive 4 consecutive victories for Bentley in the Le Mans 24 hour race. It was the great depression which ultimately sank Bentley Motors Ltd and they would spend the next 60-odd years being owned by Rolls-Royce. During much of that time, the biggest technical difference between a Rolls and Bentley was simply the radiator grille and badge. But a Rolls-Royce was for people who wanted to be driven, whereas a Bentley was for people who wanted to do their own driving. At least this kept some of the Bentley spirit alive, even when the cars themselves weren’t necessarily living up to those expectations.
Spot the differences
Some might argue that a re-badged Rolls Royce isn’t all that bad compared to a Bentley consisting of parts made by the Volkswagen group. I may be guilty of bringing that up once upon a time. But let’s face it — this is the 21st century and a car is more than the sum of its parts. Some of VW’s other achievements include creating the Bugatti Veyron and building Lamborghinis which don’t break down every seven and a half minutes. If you can keep the spirit and style of a certain era in British automotive history alive and use contemporary top end parts to do it then all the better.
The story of how Great Britain’s most famous car brands ended up moving to Germany is actually an interesting one, if you like soap operas anyway. When Rolls-Royce Motors, including the Bentley brand, went up for sale in 1998 the obvious buyer was BMW who were already supplying engines and other parts to the company. However, Volkswagen swooped in and outbid BMW by about 90 million pounds. That would have been the end of that, except for the fact that the purchase of Rolls-Royce motors only included the famous Rolls grille shape and mascot. The rights to the actual Rolls-Royce logo and name were held by the entirely separate Rolls-Royce company which produces aircraft engines. Combined with the fact that BMW’s could withdraw engine supplies at short notice, a compromise was eventually found with Volkswagen Group retaining the Bentley brand, which was by far the best selling anyway, and BMW taking control of Rolls-Royce.
If by any chance you’re not quite bored to death yet after this, let me talk about the actual car. I mean, it’s a difficult think to avoid in a car review. The model I drove is the Continental GT V8 S — so it has the smaller 4-liter V8 turbo engine with 528 horsepower and 8-speed automatic transmission. This is basically the same engine and gearbox as you find in Audi’s latest RS6 and RS7, though I usually prefer to pretend the RS7 does not exist as I find it too horrible to look at. Anyway, this is a mighty impressive drivetrain, even if it has been down-tuned here to deliver a bit less power than it does in the Audis. The reason for that? Well, I guess Bentley didn’t want it to perform as well as the Continental GT with its 6-liter turbocharged W12 engine. Whilst the W12 is now up to 590 horsepower, I would argue that the V8 is simply a nicer engine. Much more modern, definitely better sounding, and a bit lighter, too. Audi has already turned this engine up to 605 horsepower for some of its models, so it could deliver all the power Bentley needs. Of course 12 cylinders look nicer on paper, and I understand why they are keeping that engine in the lineup. But if you ask me, the V8 S engine is the one you want in your Continental GT. If you’re really eager for a bit more power, well, we know the engine is capable of delivering it. If you don’t mind voiding your warranty on your expensive new toy, there are probably companies which can release the extra power. Not something I would recommend obviously, the car is actually fast enough already, but I’d still rather do that than get the old W12 version.
There’s no such thing as a lightweight Bentley, and this one is no exception weighing in at nearly 2300 kilograms. But it really doesn’t feel that heavy when you’re driving it. You’d probably notice on a racetrack, but that’s beyond irrelevant here. Given how much it weighs the V8 S is spectacularly quick in a straight line, and never lost for traction with the all wheel drive system. If you’re first in line at a red light, very few cars exist that could keep up with this in the real world. Something like a BMW M5 is going to be hopelessly lost for traction by comparison, the Bentley will be long gone by the time their traction control light stops flashing on the dashboard. The Bentley’s V8 engine has a deep and rather angry sounding roar which might frighten small children into the bushes, so be careful with the throttle pedal when driving this thing near schools.
Thanks to some exhaust valve trickery, the Bentley can sound both quietly sophisticated or angrily violent. But there is no button to change between the two, it’s all controlled by a computer which has been programmed to suit the car’s character. I actually like that. Cars have too many buttons these days and a Bentley certainly does not need a button to make the exhaust louder, it just wouldn’t be right. It also doesn’t have an automatic start/stop function, and this is also completely right and proper. The only thing you can really do is put the transmission in «sport» mode, making it more responsive and faster shifting. I quite liked using Sport mode as it’s still pretty normal to drive but it reacts much quicker to throttle inputs. As can be expected from a big heavy car with a powerful engine, it is quite thirsty. Fortunately, Bentley have fitted a 90 liter fuel tank so you get a pretty decent driving range. Be aware though, that every time you go full throttle in this thing, someone working in the oil sector gets a bigger Christmas bonus. Still, I’d call that a win-win all things considered.
Speaking of win, the optional carbon-ceramic brakes are absolutely fantastic. I probably enjoy great brakes at least as much as a good engine in a car, it gives a lot of confidence to have massive stopping power available. The pedal feel is also superb, reminding me quite a lot of a Porsche 911 brake pedal which is amazing considering how big and heavy this car is. Of course the actual brakes are huge — if you laid one of these brake discs on your lawn you could just about land a helicopter on it. It’s an expensive option, of course, but at this price level of car...just tick that box.
If I had to describe the Continental GT’s interior in one word I’d have to say «leather». Everything is coated in leather pretty much from top to bottom, and it does feel very nice. I’d like to make a particular notice of the fact that this is one of the only car’s I’ve ever driven where I could comfortably rest my right knee to the side of the center console. Tall people problems. Most cars, even very expensive ones, have a kind of sharp edge just where I need my knee to be and over a long distance it starts to hurt. Not in the Bentley, thank you very much. There are other things, irrelevant to most people, which this car has taught me. For example that Rock FM really does have terrible reception in Moscow. I was thinking of blaming the antenna system in my cars but, since even in a Bentley the reception is terrible, it must be that that they simply have a crap broadcast system. You learn something every day on this job.
After driving it for a couple of days, I can totally see why you’d buy a Bentley to be comfortable. It just does everything you could possibly want it to do, and in style. It’s still not exactly the kind of style that appeals to me at age 35, but who knows I might grow into it. What I have noticed is that my own driving style adjust itself a bit in this car. I usually pride myself on observing road etiquette, but in this car it seems to lose me more time than usual. People around you on the road seem to be conditioned to get out of the way of this kind of car. It’s faster to just go ahead than to wait and convince them by waving that I really do want to give them right of way. Pedestrians seem extremely hesitant to cross the road even after I’ve come to a full stop, flashed my lights and waved them on in encouragement. So, inevitably, after a while you kind of decide that it’s much less confusing for everyone if you just drive like most other Bentley drivers do. I do, however, still take care to park the car in a legally acceptable fashion. So it’s definitely possible!
It’s genuinely difficult for me to sum up this car, as a final word. There’s just so many things to talk about. As a machine, its capabilities are impressive. As a luxury item, the used materials are beautiful and exclusive enough to justify the price tag. As a driver’s car, it does give you pleasure, particularly when you get the V8 S variant. It promises a lot, but it makes good on those promises, as long as you don’t buy something silly like the GT3-R variant of this car. You can dress up a sumo wrestler like a kick boxer but you can’t hide the fact that he won’t be able to behave like one. The Bentley Continental GT V8 S on the other hand is honest about what it can do, and how it does it. There’s no such thing as a perfect car, but if you had to give a car points on every aspect in equally weighted categories... I’m not sure there is another car in the world that could beat this one.
Details by Posta-Magazine:
More information about Bentley — in Avilon: Moscow, Volgogradsky Prospect, 41
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