Bentley Continental

GT V8

Bentley Continental GT, front
Bentley Continental GT, side
Bentley Continental GT, rear
Bentley Continental GT

GT is a very overused abbreviation but fully justified as a suffix to the Bentley Continental.

This 191-inch long two-door coupe oozes ability to cover immense distances without complaint and cocooned in complete luxury; the original Grand Tourer for the wealthiest of owners.

Of course, such excellence does not come cheap and today's Bentley Continental GT maintains an air of aristocracy with its ability and a price to match.

The Continental series accounts for 40 per cent of Bentley sales, 60 per cent of them are the V8 and just under a third go to America, the company's biggest market for the V8, while the UK is fourth behind Europe and China but ahead of Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

The extensive list of options fitted to the car we drove added up to £47,250, taking the invoiced price to £202,050.

The £14,760 Mulliner Driving Specification is a cosmetic choice with black and polished 22-inch alloys, distinctive leather upholstery and embroidery; while the Touring Specification at £6,415 comprises a number of safety and convenience programmes, the hugely impressive Bang and Olufsen audio is a premium system adding £5,125, and the dynamic ride is yours for £4,085.

At the Bentley Continental GT's heart is a highly sophisticated and very refined 4.0 litre V8 engine with twin-scroll turbo-chargers between the banks of cylinders which give a near linear power delivery and yet under light load one bank shuts down to save fuel but instantly responds to demand and throttle position.

Power is delivered through a well-engineered ZF automatic eight-speed transmission to an intelligent four-wheel-drive system that apportions traction as required by the wheels' sensors.

The result is fuel consumption which can head towards 30mpg on particular journeys but overall we achieved 25mpg.

The incredible smoothness of the engine was matched by that of the gearbox with silken changes under any load and even in the sportiest of the four modes available its changes were creamy.

With a maximum close to 200mph, 0-62mph dispatched in 4 seconds and 100mph in just over eight seconds you need good brakes and the Bentley Continental GT's 42cm front and 38cm rear disc-brakes were up to the job and among the most powerful I've ever experienced. Beautifully balanced between progression and performance they dragged down the 2.1 tonnes car without drama or delay or you could feather to a stop on the lightest application.

The steering wheel was not very large and while you may think this might have demanded a lot of turning or made it twitchy, the variable ratio electric assistance was inspiring with precision and effect. It's a big car in town but it really handled like a much smaller model on open twisting roads and that's the mark of a properly sorted performance car.

Frequently used secondary controls were close to hands and operated with a satisfying cushioned feel.

Our car was fitted with fairly standard large, clear to read main instruments infront of the driver and came with Bentley's optional rotating display for secondary gauges in the centre of the dash which changed from plain veneer to normal or sporting gauges depending on the driver's chosen mode. A truly brilliant piece of engineering even if a very focused £4,820 option.

Heating and ventilation was remarkable in such a big 2+2 cabin with powerful fan, wide temperature control and retro pull-push knobs for the directional vents. Heated and cooling seats came with the option of a multi-choice massaging function, powered bolsters, cushion length and headrests for £3,180.

Room infront was very good for legs, heads and arms, while the back pair of seats were not so generous for room but proved extremely comfortable. Access to them was slightly fiddly but once seated the vision from them was good.

The driver had good all round vision helped by radar for traffic and sensors & cameras when manoeuvring. Very long range, bright headlights gave added safety at night and the wiper/ wash system was highly effective.

Although oddments room was not exceptional in a car of great touring ability, the 12.6 cu ft bootspace was very large, a good shape and easy to load or empty, essential pre-requisites for a touring holiday.

The Continental GT V8 is a very tranquil traveller with a muted engine note unless strong acceleration is needed when a pleasant roar emits from the exhausts.

Other mechanical noises are extremely low apart from the wide 22-inch tyres on poor tarmac at low speed.

It would be wrong to think of this as a pure motorway cruiser. It will do that without question or complaint but where it really impresses is on cross country trips through winding lanes, countryside, valleys or moors and these are gobbled up mile after mile as we found on our round trip to West Wales.

Power response was instant and strong with 568lbft torque waiting to be unleashed. Alter the driving modes from economy to sporting and you instantly get even more urge under your right foot, sharpness through the steering and tauter sportier feeling suspension.

Although this is an expensive car in reality it's not one car but several with their own personalities portrayed and revealed.

FAST FACTS

Bentley Continental GT V8

Price:£154,800

Mechanical: 550ps 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8, 8sp AWD

Max Speed:198 mph

0-62mph:4.0sec

Combined MPG:25

Insurance Group:50

C02 emissions: 268g/km

Bik rating:37%

Warranty:3yrs/unlimited miles

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