Bentley has thrown down a gauntlet to its class rivals Maserati, Aston Martin and even Ferrari with a car that provides genuinely impressive running costs for the performance on offer. Although it might lose out, ultimately, in terms of outright dynamics it’s not by much. The question is: what will the V8 do to W12 sales? No doubt that car will continue to sell well in overseas markets where petrol is cheap or to those whose pockets are infinitely deep. But, in the UK and Europe, the V8 has to be the Continental to buy.
Every manufacturer has to conform to ever stricter emissions regulations and the likes of Bentley are no exception. So the British-based manufacturer has fitted the Continental with a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine that's 40 per cent more efficient than the current 6.0-litre W12. But is it as characterful? We took to the roads to find out.
The visual clues – including a more aggressive front spoiler and figure-of-eight exhausts – may be too subtle to give it away but the minute you start the engine, you'll be convinced there's something different about this Bentley Continental.
The new unit has been jointly developed with Audi, but it has its own unique character developing 500bhp at 6000rpm and, for a petrol engine, an astonishing 660Nm torque from 1700rpm through to 5000rpm.
Used car tests
Mate that to ZF’s eight-speed automatic (not available on the W12 model) and, on paper, this looks like a marriage made in heaven. It will still sprint to 60mph in under five seconds and top 180mph, but the car also delivers a 40 per cent improvement in fuel consumption over the W12 thanks, mainly, to its clever cylinder deactivation technology. This effectively switches off four of the eight cylinders, two on each bank, when the engine is lightly loaded under cruising conditions and up to about 70mph. The result is an average of 27mpg, enough to eke 500 miles from each tank of petrol.
Whilst Audi has opted for electronic active engine mounts and anti noise control (ANC) to quell the engine note when it’s in V4 mode, Bentley has opted for a purer engineering solution as they didn’t want audiophiles to be put off by the possibility of the ANC interfering with their listening. That, together with the absence of any ‘green’ meter telling you the car’s in eco-mode combines to ensure the experience of slipping between V4 and V8 modes is totally unnoticeable.
But the new Continental is about a lot more than fewer visits to the petrol pump. In addition to an exciting new engine note, new life has been breathed into the car’s dynamics. The lighter new engine has allowed Bentley’s engineers to tweak the anti-roll bars and suspension to make a much nimbler car. And it really shows on the track.
The prototype we drove on part of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit and on surrounding roads, had much sharper turn-in and feedback through the steering than the W12. Moreover, it was more willing to change direction than its bigger engined sibling, and on the fast sweeping curves of Silverstone felt more balanced and less nose heavy.
The V8 Continental GT and GTC can be distinguished by a black gloss matrix grille with chrome frame and centre bar, a red enamel Bentley ‘B’ badge, and a black matrix three-segment lower front bumper divided by distinctive body-coloured strakes. At the rear there’s unique chromed ‘figure eight’ exhaust tailpipes, a dark lower valance and red enamel ‘B’ boot lid badge.
On the inside, Eliade cloth headlining, new contemporary Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus veneers, optional two-tone leather colour split and short centre console continue the fresh, sporting design theme.
Pricing has yet to be confirmed but expect a price-tag of around £120,000 when it goes on sale in January.