Bentley Continental GT V8

Does new twin-turbo V8 engine transform Continental into a class leader?

The Continental GT has proven a huge hit for Bentley. Despite sharing its underpinnings with VW’s unheralded Phaeton saloon, the imposing four-seater coupé has been a big sales success for the British brand.

So it comes as no surprise that Bentley hasn’t messed with the winning formula for the second-generation Continental, as it looks almost identical to its predecessor.

Under the skin, though, there have been major changes, as the existing 6.0-litre W12 engine is now joined by a new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8. It’s mated to an advanced ZF eight-speed automatic box and promises to combine the GT’s trademark effortless pace with lower emissions and fuel consumption.

Externally, the V8-powered car looks near-identical to the more expensive W12 model. Sharp-eyed buyers will notice the black mesh finish for the large grille, red-backed Bentley logos and distinctive twin-exit exhausts, but otherwise it boasts the same imposing and handsome lines as other versions. Our test car was given even greater kerb appeal courtesy of its £9,170 Driving Package, which includes two-tone 21-inch alloys, quilted leather seat trim and aluminium pedals and gearlever.

Even without these additions, the Bentley’s cabin feels a cut above. The upright dashboard, wide centre console and small side windows help create a cosy atmosphere, plus the hand-stitched leather seats and turned aluminium trim inserts are superior to the luxury touches in the Panamera. Yet while the GT feels more special inside, it’s also more cramped.

Driver and front passenger get plenty of space, but adults sitting in the rear have much less head and legroom. What’s more, the Bentley lacks the Porsche’s hatchback versatility and folding rear seats – although the well shaped 358-litre boot swallows a decent amount of luggage.

Get behind the wheel of the Continental, and all thoughts of practicality vanish. The 4.0-litre V8 delivers scorching pace, and at the test track the car was every bit as quick as the more powerful Porsche, demolishing the sprint from 0-60mph in only four seconds.

What really stands out, though, is the astounding mid-range pace. With a muscular peak torque output of 660Nm delivered at only 1,700prm, the Bentley responds instantly to the throttle, catapulting past slower traffic in the blink of an eye. This devastating acceleration is accompanied by a snarling roar from the exhausts at high revs, while the eight-speed transmission provides crisp shifts whether in auto mode or via the steering column-mounted paddles.

A further dynamic highlight is the optional carbon ceramic brake set-up. It’s extremely expensive, at £11,020, but delivers eye-popping results, stopping the 2,295kg car from 70mph in only 45.2 metres.

Point the long nose of the Bentley down a twisting back road, though, and it instantly feels less nimble than the Porsche. Setting the dampers to Sport helps reduce body roll, but the Continental doesn’t respond as sharply and its steering lacks the Panamera’s feedback. Yet the standard four-wheel-drive system delivers confidence-inspiring traction in all weathers, while the excellent visibility makes it easy to place the GT on the road.

The Continental is at its best on a long journey. At 70mph, the V8 is turning over at just 1,500rpm, there’s barely any wind or road noise and the air-suspension soaks up bumps in a way the Porsche simply can’t. Thanks to the cylinder deactivation system, which lets the car run as a V4 in certain conditions, the Bentley can deliver 30mpg while cruising.

But it’s not cheap to run. At £123,850, the car is £1,227 more than the Panamera, while it can be easy to get carried away on the options list – our test model was fitted with £32,400 of extras. And with residuals of 45.7 per cent, depreciation will be significant, too.

Yet there’s no doubting the Bentley’s class and sense of occasion, which is in contrast to the more clinical personality of the Porsche. Factor in its brilliant new V8 engine, and the Continental GT makes a strong case for itself.

Details

Chart position: 1WHY: With a new twin-turbo V8, the latest Continental GT promises to be the best yet. But has it already been eclipsed by the Panamera as the ultimate grand tourer?

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