Around 65% of Bentley Continental GT buyers currently opt for the 6.0-litre W12 model rather than the newer, more efficient V8 – some people, it seems, think biggest is best.
But that could and should change with the arrival of the new V8 S model, which lifts performance of the 8-cylinder car to pretty much the same level of the flagship 12-cylinder version, but adds more sporting intent.
Bentley has upped the power of the twin-turbo V8 by 21bhp to 521bhp, so the 0-62mph time drops from 5.0secs to a W12 matching 4.7 secs, while top speed rises from 187mph to 191mph. The stats may not seem jaw-droppingly quicker, but it’s the manner in which the S goes about its business that makes this yet another brilliant new Bentley.
Power only tells part of the story – torque is up to 680Nm, while the car sits 10mm lower on a chassis tweaked for greater agility, with steering adjusted for greater feel.
Visual tweaks are subtle with a black composite front splitter, side skirts and rear diffuser, gloss black for the grille and a V8 S badge on the front wing.
All that might not sound like too much for your extra £9,000, making this convertible version £152,900, but the changes have turned this capable grand tourer into a more focused performance machine.
Hit the start button and the V8 rumbles into life and sits at idle with a mischievous uneven burble from the exhausts.
Spending a bit extra on the sports exhaust is worthwhile for the aural thrills it delivers – a very British, bassy roar under full acceleration that will have you searching out tunnels and tree lined roads just to hear the noise echo back at you – this is a car that you should be driving with the hood down in all but the very worst weather.
Standard four-wheel drive provides immense security with huge reserves of grip, while the revised steering is more responsive than ever. This is a heavy car at 2470kg, but it feels incredibly sprightly and adjustable for something so weighty.
However, it still seems reassuringly solid on the road, with a good ride – there’s a fair degree of waft even with the chassis in its sportiest settings and if you opt for Mulliner Driving specification with its 21” rather than 20” wheels.
It’s also beautifully built with an excellent level of standard kit on board, including an 8-inch touch screen system with hard disk music system (which can be upgraded to a rich and detailed Naim set-up) and impeccably trimmed electric leather seats. With the hood up it’s quiet and refined, and you’re not blown about too much with the hood down.
Bentley says 25.9mpg and 254g/km of CO2 aren’t bad figures – we’ll let you be the judge of that. Meanwhile, the rear seats are tight, the boot isn’t huge and the options on our Monaco Yellow test car pushed the price perilously close to £200,000. Money worth spending? In supercar terms, we’d say so.