The Bentley Continental GT V8 is a far more interesting and enjoyable car than the W12. It retains the grand-touring character and hand-built luxury of its more expensive relative, but is more agile and makes a better noise. The improved fuel economy is a bonus. It’s difficult to see why Bentley is continuing to offer the W12 model at all.
At the Geneva Motor Show in 2008, Bentley promised to reduce CO2 emissions across its range by 40 per cent. Now, four years later, this new Continental GT V8 is helping to deliver that. The range-topping 6.0-litre W12 may be faster than this new 4.0-litre V8, but a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds and a 188mph top speed are far from shabby.
What’s most impressive about the newcomer is the way it sounds. The bright sparks at Bentley, with some help from their colleagues at Audi, have created a soundtrack which, in their words, was designed to “burble, growl, then howl”.
Video: Watch the official promo for the Bentley Continental V8
It does exactly that: there’s a menacing sound at idle overlaid by a gloriously throaty roar when you push the accelerator into the thickly carpeted floor. It’s enough to make you temporarily forget about your fuel bills.
Used car tests
Bentley claims the GT V8 will return 26.7mpg when driven sensibly. With a 90-litre tank, this translates to a theoretical range of more than 500 miles. While Bentley’s customers won’t be worried about the cost of filling the tank, they will appreciate not having to do it as often.
This relative efficiency is thanks to the engine’s ability to shut down four of its eight cylinders under light throttle loads and run as a V4. Clever engine mounts mean there are no tell-tale vibrations when it does this, and there’s no change in the fantastic exhaust note, either.
Like the W12, the V8’s power delivery is effortless, with 660Nm of torque being produced from 1,700rpm to 5,000rpm. The engine is mated to a slick eight-speed automatic gearbox with steering wheel paddles, and it never seems to run out of power.
The V8’s steering is lighter and much more direct than that in the W12. Total weight is distributed more evenly, with 25kg less ahead of the front wheels.
This gives quicker turn-in and makes the car feel more agile and engaging. Four-wheel drive and supple air-suspension helps, too. The massive eight-piston brakes deliver sensational stopping power, especially if you pay £10,000 for Bentley’s carbon-composite discs.
Let’s not get carried away, though – the Continental is still big and heavy. The increased agility adds to its desirability as a grand tourer, but doesn’t turn it into a sports car.
Inside, you’re still surrounded by plenty of hand-crafted material and rich leather. Outside, the only hints that you’re packing eight rather than 12 cylinders are the neatly shaped exhausts, some red B badging and a black front grille – not to mention that amazing noise.
The V8 only costs around £10,000 less than the W12, so a few optional extras soon push this car into the same territory as its 6.0-litre brother.
A £10,000 saving is not to be sniffed at, though – especially when the car that you’re buying is better in every way than the more expensive model.