The Brits may drive on the wrong side of the road and call soccer, football, but they sure know what they’re doing when it comes to building sporting upper-crust rides. That know-how is best experienced in the Bentley Continental GT, the brand’s sexy superstar. But that nasty streak of performance that has long been lurking beneath its sensuous sheet metal is now even wider.
When Bentley broadened the Continental GT lineup with a V8 model last year, the reasons were simple. Downsizing from a W12 to an eight means better fuel economy and less tax in certain important markets like China. An added no-cost benefit was less weight over the front end that gives the GT V8 a more nimble nature. The 2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S looks to build on that by adding a little more performance back into the mix.
For starter, the 4.0-liter V8 gets a boost, or more boost out of its twin turbochargers. Output increases 21-horsepower to 521, torque spins up 15 lb-ft. to 502. The attached ZF close ratio 8-speed automatic transmission with sport mode and steering column-mounted shifters needed no upgrades as it already handles much more power from the W12.
From there, the ride controlling hardware also gets a “tending to” for a lower ride height and even greater agility. Brake size stays the same, but calipers are now dressed up with red paint.
Now, a few more horsepower and some suspension tweaks don’t necessarily make for drastic changes in performance. But, there’s only one way to be sure…
With the GT’s rear biased all-wheel-drive, there’s plenty of hook up and go at launch. Power is smooth and plentiful, but there wasn’t quite enough extra thrust to better the standard GT V8 0-60 time of 4.2-seconds. Still that’s only two tenths slower than the last Continental W12 we tested.
The power never seems to let up, as you smooth shift your way down the track, clearing the ¼ mile in 12.4-seconds and 112 miles-per-hour. Braking power is just as impressive bringing a hasty halt to things in only 118 feet from 60. While piloting some luxury liners through a slalom course does resemble steering a cruise ship from a recliner, this 5,000 pound GT has always been a capable carver.
And while you still feel all of the heft, the V8 S’ spring rates have been increased to keep the transfer in check a bit more, bushings stiffened to quicken turn ins, and damping revised to take out more of the float. Steering feel is still pretty dead, but the chassis seems to shed weight as you go, responding better the more you push.
When you’re driving an updated version of anything, you want people to know, of course. And specific upgrades to the V8 S include a black gloss treatment to the grilles and a front splitter low in the fascia. Side sills get discreetly extended between the standard 20-inch or upgraded 21-inch alloy wheels, and there’s a tasteful V8 S fender badge. Astern, the diffuser also gets a glossy finish, nicely integrating the figure 8-shaped exhaust tips.
Leather wrapped and comfortably numb is how you feel inside the cabin; and as always, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to materials and color choices. Keep them tasteful, please! The traditional touches like knurled metal, glossy finishes, and organ stops are all still terrific; and most interior controls have a German feel and precision.
And if open air motoring is more to your liking, just as in other Bentley Continental GT offerings; you can get a convertible as well. The appearance with the top up is not quite as classy or dynamic, but those shortcomings are short-lived as you lower the top into the boot, hit the road, and enjoy some warm spring weather, or even maybe some traditional British gloom.
Ride quality seemed just as good in the Convertible as the Coupe, despite our Glacier White example riding on limited edition 21-inch Black 7-spoke alloys.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings come in the same as the standard GT V8, at 15-City, 24-Highway, and 18-Combined. We averaged 17.8 miles-per-gallon of Premium in mixed driving.
You have to know that this much luxury and fun come at a price, $199,225 for the Coupe and $219,925 for the Convertible. With options, this pair was pushing a cool half-mil, but who’s counting?
The Bentley Continental GT has always been one of our favorite big buck sporting coupes, and this 2014 GT V8 S only reaffirms why we love them so much. But there may be troubled waters on the horizon, with Rolls-Royce offering more technology features and wow factor with their Wraith Coupe, and a “smashing” S-Class Coupe coming from Mercedes-Benz, this Continental GT’s time as lead vehicle might be running out.
Engine: 4.0-liter V8
Torque: 502 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds
1/4 mile: 12.4 seconds @ 112 mph
EPA: 15 mpg city/ 24 mpg highway