Grand tourer eats up the miles
Even with its long-serving 6.0-litre W12 engine, the Bentley Continental GT may not be able to quite live with the ultra-focused supercar set, but with the introduction of a new, high-tech 500bhp V8 it has the potential to be an even better Grand Tourer, boasting a range of over 500 miles. The V8 engine is derived from the similar-sized powerplant already used in Audi's S6, S7 and S8 models but with its power and torque characteristics tailored to suit the Continental's greater bulk. Crewe's engineering claim that the transition from eight to four cylinders, implemented by the Bentley configured engine management system, is "seamless and imperceptible". The engine features low-friction bearings, thermal management to avoid excess heat loss, energy recuperation and turbos located within the engine's Vee to reduce throttle lag. The headline outputs are 500bhp at 6000rpm and 487lb ft of torque between 1700 and 5000rpm.
Power is still transmitted to the road via a rear-biased four-wheel drive set up which gives the Continental GT a handy advantage when the going gets slippery. Advanced ESP stability control technology helps here too with its 'sport Traction' mode allowing extra scope for the driver to enjoy the car's handling with the safety net still in place. The link between the driven wheels and the engine comes courtesy of a new eight-speed automatic transmission built for Bentley by ZF. This can be marshalled via paddles behind the steering wheel should you wish, or else it can be driven like a conventional automatic. Bentley claims a top speed of 180mph for the V8 and a sub-five second 0-60mph time.
Just as well, then, that the latest Continental GT benefits from the expertise of the best aerodynamicists the Volkswagen Group had and the venturi tunnel under the rear of the car and the cooling ducts in the engine bay all attest to their labours.
Does the latest Continental GT's styling look good with the black grille unique to the V8? And possibly even better with the optional special 21in six-spoke alloy wheels, which can also be finished in black? We think so. There are distinguishing features inside too: a new cloth headlining, eucalyptus wood veneers and optional two-tone leather upholstery.
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The Continental GT V8, more than any other of Crewe's recent models, brings Bentley into a new era. Purists may grumble at the Teutonic influence, but one can't help feeling that if WO Bentley is watching, he'd be mighty proud of the coupe that bears his name.
This model seamlessly blends Bentley's glittering heritage with the latest technology to create a highly desirable package. If you have the means, sports coupes don't come any classier nor capable than this. Its substantial mass ensures it's no hardcore track weapon but if you've got a continent or two to cross in double quick time, there can be few better options.