Bentley Continental


Bentley Continental GT V8, side
Bentley Continental GT V8 S coupe
Bentley Continental GT V8, rear
Bentley Continental GT V8 S coupe, badge
Bentley Continental GT V8, interior
Bentley Continental GT V8 S coupe, dash

A NEW lightweight chassis has made the leanest and greenest Bentley yet even sharper and more agile.

It's part of the ongoing evolution of Bentley's best-selling model - the Continental GT - a vehicle that has driven the Crewe car maker's resurgence and incredible growth.

Applying ‘lean and green' as adjectives to describe the 4.0-litre V8 version of the Continental GT might involve a bit of poetic licence.

It's certainly not on environmentalists' wish lists just yet (they'll have to wait in hope for an electric or hybrid version) but in Bentley terms it represents a pretty radical step forward over the alternative option - a 6.0-litre W12.

In the real world that equates to fuel economy of 26.6mpg on the combined cycle compared to 20mpg and CO2 emissions of 246g/km compared to 327g/km.

Both engines now have the capacity to shut down cylinders when not in use - previously it was just the V8.

Not that it probably matters much to Bentley buyers but the standard V8 also costs around £10,000 less than the W12.

Performance devotees might suggest the W12 is superior and in truth it delivers 582bhp compared to the standard V8's 500bhp but ultimately the differences aren't huge with 0-62mph sprint times of 4.8 seconds and 4.5 seconds respectively.

Accelerating to 100mph the W12 has a more marked edge and with a top speed of 198mph compared to 188mph it could also boast bragging rights in a game of Top Trumps but one has to ask do such differences really matter?

The V8/W12 differences become even more blurred however when it comes to the model I tested - the V8 S - they're on a par in terms of 0-62mph acceleration and with a top speed of 192mph the V8 S represents a step closer to the W12.

But in terms of efficiency the S matches the standard V8 for emissions and has a combined economy figure that's just 0.2mpg less.

Given the weight-saving of the V8 over the W12 makes for a better handling car then the case for the V8 would seem to be complete and when it comes to the marginal differences between a V8 S and a W12 it starts to become something on a no-brainer. Perhaps W12/V8 S pricing which is just £700 apart recognises that.

The latest version of the Continental isn't radically different to the model that got the ball rolling and though it has been extensively developed over the years it has in many ways remained as something of a reassuring constant, with no radical design departure.

The latest version gets new bumpers front and rear, a slightly smaller radiator and a redesigned boot lid.

Bentley's cosmetic enhancements, such as wheel options and exterior colours, are always being expanded and now there's more choice than ever.

On the inside the changes include new dials and graphics on the instrument panel and larger gearshift paddles. For the eagle-eyed among you the stitching pattern on the seats has been revised.

The cabin still has the feel of a country club on wheels - a place where you are truly cosseted from the harsh realities of the world outside - an environment that makes every journey, long or short, a joy.

Overall the latest Continental doesn't differ greatly from its predecessor - though it still makes a strong case for being the ultimate grand tourer - a car that combine comfort and luxury with genuinely sporting performance as and when it's needed.

As an everyday car a Continental GT is remarkably easy to live with - coping well with suburban toing and froing and a daily commute on a varied road network.

My only gripe would be it's a vehicle not suited to multi-story car parks where its sizeable bulk is noticed most. I had one episode trying to exit a multi-storey which had clearly not been designed with Bentley drivers in mind.

I got in okay and even managed to park easily enough but getting out proved more of a problem - with milimetres rather than inches to spare either side as I tried to avoid a wing mirror making contact with a concrete pillar or an alloy wheel colliding with a kerb.

Away from such confined spaces this Bentley was a different beast though and my daily commute was enhanced immeasurably by its comfort and opulence.


Bentley Continental GT V8 S

Price: £149,800

Mechanical:521bhp, 3,993cc, 8cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 192mph

0-62mph: 4.5 seconds

Combined MPG:26.4

Insurance Group: 50

C02 emissions: 246g/km

Bik rating: 35%

Warranty: 3yrs/100,000 miles

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