The promises were big, could Bentley build a V8 version of the popular Continental GT 6 litre twin-turbocharged W12 and not have it feel like the little Bentley? Of course I am not suggesting the legendary automotive company would do anything half-assed, it is a Bentley after all. But in these cynical times of cars being unveiled to great hype only to fall short in reality, I was seeking the truth and I found it in my test drive during Pebble Beach Car Week. Test drives during car week are quite unlike any other test drive in one’s life. The first being you are not sold, but guided through the car by someone more knowledgeable than you are about the car. The level of professionalism is staggering and the concept of “phony car salesman” does not exist. Bentley had a house, a big fancy house right on the lawn of Pebble Beach Golf Links, with a car court full of their best new toys. Yes, of course I checked out the interior, the refreshments and shopped the merchandise room but we are here to talk about the new GT V8 (GT = coupe and GTC = convertible) and how it drives.
I may be female but looks are not everything. They matter because if it does not turn my head, driving is hardly relevant. Ladies don’t drive ugly. Hello. But let’s start with the car is unbelievably gorgeous inside and out. Soft supple leather tightly wraps every needed surface, not a dimple or contrasting stitch out of line. Not one to settle for ordinary, the eight different two tone options are only the beginning of experiencing a car built in the bespoke tradition. The box of seemingly endless (good) color options was right up my alley.Not to get too caught up in the interior, for me, placement is everything. I don’t want to reach, crane my neck, move my head to look out the rearview mirror (a flaw with the rake of the Mercedes windshield) or get lost in the where in the h%!! is the whatever I’m looking for.
Once the seat was adjusted up, down, forward, angle, and lumbar to fit, I closed my eyes. Of course not with the car running! My hands found what they needed without any hesitation. Controls are where you expect to find them. Sorry again Mercedes, but unless you’ve driven a S-Class 550 with the gear stalk on the steering wheel with buttons much like where oh, one might find the wiper blade controls on another car, you have no idea the gratification of a having a gear shift knob where it is supposed to be.
Honestly, the best way to sum it up, I was at home. It was easy, relaxed and comfortable. Having driven the Continental GT W12 last year at Pebble Beach (Twitter to A Test Drive) I was a bit skeptical – would the power be there? Would the acceleration meet my expectations? How maneuverable would this AWD be? What was I going to do with an 8-speed transmission, never tried that before? How smooth would the shifting be? Porsche spoiled me with the Tiptronic and PDK transmissions but I do like a twin turbo.
Nothing suffered. The power, 0-60 in 4.6 seconds, delivers. The gear shifts are like poetry. Sorry gearheads, not many people drive a manual nowadays and with all the advancements from the track (race cars), a great transmission will out-shift you any day of the week. Oh, but for those with control issues there are nice long fingertip sensitive paddles on the steering wheel and one can manhandle the shifter to change gears if one must.With all this 40% efficiency gain I’ve read about in this new 4.0 liter V8, I had to ask, does this mean what I think it does? Uh, huh – no gas guzzler surcharge. Not only it is speedy, it is fuel efficient too. W.O. Bentley and The Bentley Boys would be proud.
The flying B flies. The new Bentley Continental GT V8 is an extension of your mind. You think, it goes. At 5,000 pounds you might expect it to lumber a bit and corner like a tank but you would be wrong, very wrong. The self-leveling air suspension keeps the car well balanced in a tight corner and the nimble handling is spot-on precise as you expect from a sportscar. It is a driver’s car.Let’s not forget the burbling baritone voice either. Oh yes, in my book a sportscar needs to talk to me, converse with my foot. I need audible confirmation of a car’s confidence. I apologize for not recording it. The standard version is energetic, but with the sport exhaust option your body feels the beefy growl. Deep and gentlemanly, not sharp and auto-tuned. Duly noted, one must be outside the car for the full experience, the solid well insulated construction allows hardly a whisper of exterior noise.
Nit-picky, judgmental me found nary a thread out of place and felt no sacrifices were made comparing the V8 to the W12. The Bentley Continental GT V8 just might be the perfect touring car.On a side note, I did get up close and personal with the new Bentley EXP 9 as well.
Photos 2, 6 & 7 via Bentley Motors.