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Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible review

First UK verdict on facelifted Continental GT with 520bhp twin-turbo under the bonnet

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Changes to the Bentley Continental GT V8S maybe merely cosmetic but they do subtly enhance the car’s visual appeal. There are no changes to the way it drives though, yet despite this it’s still an impressively capable and enjoyable machine to cover ground in. Plus with the roof down you can enjoy the aural delights of the gutsy V8 engine completely unobstructed.

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Bentley has given its Continental GT Convertible a mild facelift with modest changes both inside and out. Exterior updates include a re-shaped lower front bumper so that all V8 and W12 models now have a consistent look.

The grille surround is marginally thinner than before and there’s new flying B badges on the wings. Also, Bentley has revised the wheel choices, and added a new 21-inch rim with ‘directional’ spokes – a design not previously available on the GT.

Round the back, the integrated boot lip spoiler is more pronounced, there’s a chrome strip which runs the width of the car, and the V8 models now feature a rear diffuser. To top it all off there’s a selection of new body colours available, too.

Inside changes are even subtler. There’s narrower seat fluting, revised dials and a new Breitling clock sitting in the centre of the dash. Bentley has also increased the size of the paddle shifters for the smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox, and also given them a grippy knurling effect. However, being mounted to the steering column rather than the wheel itself, they’re still not quite as easy to use as in rival cars.

New interior options include a sports steering wheel, and super soft semi Aniline leather – with up to nine hides being used to trim the GT’s cabin. You can also order the car with a Wi-Fi hot spot, which can connect with up to eight mobile devices. At £845 it may be more expensive than an Apple iPhone 6 Plus but it’s still one of the more ‘affordable’ Bentley extras.

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If only the British firm had used this facelift to update the Continental’s infotainment screen and digital driver’s display. They both are rather low definition compared to the crisp displays sister VW Group company Audi is putting in its far less expensive cars. But this is the only detraction from what is a beautifully designed and superbly handcrafted interior. With this level of quality it’s no surprise that each Continental GT takes up to 104 hours to build.  

As for changes under the skin, well, in the case of the V8S there aren’t any. But there’s little reason to be disappointed. The 4.0-litre twin turbo engine pumps out an impressive 520bhp and a 680Nm of torque – while the permanent all-wheel drive system means you can put that entire grunt down with unflappable ease, even in damp conditions.

Almost whisper quiet when cruising, under hard acceleration V8 makes a wonderful woofer like a World War Two fighter plane – and it’s particularly enjoyable with the roof down. More charismatic than the seismic rumble of the slightly punchier W12’s 6.0-litre? Well that’s a matter of personal opinion.

What’s not in dispute is that being 30kg lighter (most of which is saved in the nose), the V8 models do feel marginally more responsive to steering inputs. S models also feature 25 per cent stiffer suspension. But don’t go thinking this is a sports car. If that’s your thing; get a less comfortable Aston Martin.

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Weighing in at almost 2,500kg the GT Speed Convertible is certainly no sports car. Yet it’s no lumbering lummox either. The predictable handling, precise steering and impressive grip means you can hustle along a twisty road at quick a surprising lick. You can alter the stiffness of the air suspension to suit your driving style, but really they are best left in their mid setting for the best balance of comfort and body control.

Even then it’s not perfect. While very comfortable, the Bentley can’t quite match the impeccable ride comfort of a Mercedes S-Class Coupe. Also in the convertible you can feel the loss in rigidity of chopping the roof off, where the body flexes slightly over bumps, causing the steering wheel to shimmy in your hands. It’s not a major distraction though, and neither is the wind – as even at speed with there’s very little buffeting. And with it up it’s almost as quiet as the coupe.

If you want a fast, luxurious four-seater convertible this car has no rivals until the S-Class Convertible arrives early next year. But even then the Bentley’s hand-built craftsmanship and British heritage – combined with the minor styling upgrades – will ensure the Continental GT Convertible will always have a certain appeal. It’s just that it’s even more unique with the W12 engine.

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