Bentley Continental GT 4.0 V8 auto road test report

4.0 V8 auto

Big numbers are to be expected from Bentley. Its range of high-output supercars is renowned for mind-boggling torque figures and heady top speeds are usually involved too. List prices are duly top-line, of course, while the CO2 emissions that come as a result of all this super-luxury performance will also make eyes water. With its latest new car, Bentley once again delivers a big number, with a 40 per cent improvement in one key area. But this time, it’s not in power, torque or top speed, but fuel efficiency. The new Continental GT V8 uses a full 40 per cent less fuel than the current W12 model. It can return almost 27mpg. Didn’t expect that, did you?

Road Test Reports Says4 star rating
A front-facing image of the Bentley Continental GT

Image number 2 of the Bentley Continental GTImage number 3 of the Bentley Continental GTImage number 4 of the Bentley Continental GT

Performance Performance - 5 stars

Bentley’s new 4.0-litre V8 jointly developed with Audi, is key to the Continental’s fuel efficiency improvements. This new engine features the standout new fuel-saving technology of cylinder deactivation, which turns a V8 into a V4. It also has a new eight-speed gearbox, reduced energy demand systems, even low rolling resistance tyres. Bentley is, at long last, taking fuel efficiency very seriously. But does that mean a compromise on performance? Not on your Nelly. Just 4.0-litres in size but still has the muscle of the 6.0-litre W12 as well. The on-paper stats show this shouldn’t be a surprise: 479lb ft of torque is just 29lb ft less than its bigger brother, and it’s delivered flat from 1700-5000rpm. 500hp is 75hp down on but it’s still more than enough: it adds just 0.2secs to the 0-60mph time, and still allows an inconsequential 188mph top speed. Really though, it’s how the power is delivered from low revs with such forcefulness and, more importantly, such little delay, that sets the V8 apart. OK, it’s at its most gasp-inducing, backside-kick responsive over 4000rpm, but even in the bowels of the rev range can be found more than adequate surge. The new eight-speed gearbox adds two ratios to the W12’s count, and grants gearshifts that are fast, smooth and measured enough to be the equal of a DSG-style twin clutch gearbox. They are closely stacked, to allow minimal rev drop between gearchanges and ensure the engine is always in its optimum power band: they also allow a tall top gear to help generate such impressive fuel efficiency claims. The gearbox is best in Sport mode, which holds onto gears for longer and changes down sooner. Case in point: it blocks out eighth gear, in the interests of rapid response. As the gearbox can also ‘block downshift’, going from eight to fourth direct, there’s virtually no need to use the standard steering column paddleshifters. Good job: as they’re fixed, they’re a bit awkward to use.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

Changes to the suspension of this MkII Continental GTC, introduced as a W12 in 2010, are modest: simply a retune of the springs and dampers to account for the reduced weight of the engine. The four-wheel drive motor is 25kg lighter and that mass is also set further back in the engine’s nose too, so there’s less front-end overhang to corrupt the drive. The steering is too light in regular mode, but does pleasingly get more meat when you turn the variable dampers over to a more sporting setting. This sharpens the response and quells the big Bentley’s bodyroll, but doesn’t destroy the ride, which remains amazingly compliant. It absorbs crash and bang, remaining beautifully compliant and luxury car plush. Handling enjoys a suitable boost though. Because there’s less mass at the front end, the nose tucks into corners more eagerly, and it also changes direction with more measured willingness. The Conti GT becomes more dynamic, more agile. It hasn’t become a 911 but has discovered a welcome new fleetness – basically, become the car you’d always wanted the Bentley coupe to be.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 3 stars

Impeccable quality is a given with a Bentley. People in the factory spend hours pouring over the most intricate details: the steering wheel takes two days to stitch, the air vents are closed with the most delightful chrome organ stop levers. To the substantial base of VW Group engineering is added the British overlay of craftsmanship: it’s quite a combination. The German roots mean it’s likely to be very reliable too. The Continental GT is a proven force and the engine itself will have been thoroughly tested to both Bentley and Audi standards. Even the cylinder deactivation part, which sounds complicated, actually isn’t. This shouldn’t provide many headaches either. You can spot the new Continental GT V8 by some subtle but purposeful styling tweaks. Most obvious is the new front bumper and grille, which gets black mesh inserts and a ‘shark’s tooth’ design to its lower half. There’s a black lower section for the rear bumper too, and exhaust tailpipes shaped in a figure of eight. Most telling are the Bentley ‘B’ badges, though: these are finished in red enamel for the bonnet, bootlid and wheel centres. Bentley has also taken the opportunity with the interior to differentiate the V8 from the W12 a little. The rooflining is dark anthracite cloth instead of leather, wood trim is dark and modern instead of antique, seat and upholstery options are far more avant-garde and modern. Even the centre console now stops short of the rear seat, rather than flowing into it. You can, of course, add all these features on, if you want to spend more. That’s all part of the Bentley brand personalisation too…

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 4 stars

All that torque and power is distributed through all four wheels – 60 per cent rear, 40 per cent forwards – making it one of the most civilised supercars on sale. It’s staggeringly quick but feels particularly well sorted with it, meaning dynamic safety is high. If things do go wrong, VW’s structural engineering will mean active safety is at a high level. VW Group cars have won awards for their security systems and we have no reason to suspect Bentley will not have benefitted from this too.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

The Continental GT has always been the supercar world’s most practical supercar – even more useable everyday than a Porsche 911. Front seat occupants enjoy high-set armchairs and loads of lounging room, while those in the rear don’t fare too badly either (although getting in and out is still an issue). Massive doors open wide, meaning even getting in and out isn’t the usual supercar bind. The boot doesn’t look huge on first appearance but it will actually swallow 358 litres, better than a Ford Fiesta. It’s just that the opening is a bit small, that’s all.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 5 stars

The Bentley returns an amazing 26.7mpg: a key part of this is cylinder deactivation – yet, you guessed it, this is completely undetectable on the move. It works on light throttle loads: take things gently and the engine automatically shuts off the valves to four cylinders, creating a V4. There is not a single giveaway to say it is in action. Not even a light on the dashboard. “We did think about one,” said Bentley, “but why give the game away?” And that economy? At 26.7mpg, it’s hardly a new eco powerhouse, of course. But this 40 per cent improvement on the W12 is nevertheless remarkable, as it’s achieved without resorting to engine stop-start – not the Bentley way as people would notice it, said an engineer – but instead is gained through that cylinder deactivation plus BMW-style efficiency improvements throughout. So, fast, appealing, focused and entertaining as well as far more economical? Yes, if you like the Continental GT, you’ll love the Continental GT V8…

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