BENTLEY GT CONTINENTAL V8 S : ROAD TRIP DOWN UNDER
Since its inception in 2003 the Bentley GT Continental has been a popular choice with discerning motorists thanks to its elegant design, powerful engine, and comfortable interior. You might even say that the GT Continental boasts the ‘tri-fecta’ necessary to lure in potential customers from around the world.
Recent months have seen the launch of the latest model, the 2016 V8 S, widely reputed to be the best GT Continental yet. Time to see whether the rumours are true.
Considering Australia’s ‘nanny state’ attitude, you might argue that doing a road test of one of the most powerful tourers currently on the market in a country where speed limits are rigorously enforced is a waste of time.
I disagree. If I wanted to hoon the Bentley round a track at a gazillion rpm, as countless others have done before, I could have stayed in Blighty.
No – getting this beautiful beast out on the open road to discover why it truly merits the name GT was an infinitely more enticing proposition, even if it meant sticking religiously to the speed limit – not least of all for the promise of a little sunshine. February in London? No thanks, I’m off down under.
I collect the Candy Red V8 S convertible from Melbourne’s Lance Dixon Bentley and, after stowing away my luggage (the boot is surprisingly roomy, particularly for a convertible) hit the open road towards my first destination: Inverloch, a few hours’ drive along the coast.
I soon lose count of the number of admiring glances (and jealous glares) of my fellow road users as I cruise along the highway. They’d be even more envious if they knew I’m currently using only four cylinders of the Bentley’s 521bhp twin-turbo V8 engine – a clever modification while the car is in cruise control that shuts down four of the eight cylinders to save on petrol and emissions, but keeps the all-important sound [side note: it must work – during the 700-odd km trip, I only added just over one full tank of petrol].
The two-and-a-half-tonne GT V8 S convertible does a remarkable 0-60mph in 4.5seconds, and while it’s hard to test those numbers outside a private track, the response from the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, particularly in S mode with its sharpened throttle response and faster shifts, is impressive. So impressive, in fact, that although I have a play with the manual paddle-shifts on the steering wheel, I quickly realise that, in all honesty, I’m better off letting the car do the work.
Bentley GT Continental V8 S
My trip takes me from Melbourne to Inverloch, then along the coast to Wilsons Promontory National Park, a peaceful, scenic route perfect for wildlife spotting – and breaking the silence along the curving roads by testing the Bentley’s handling. The chassis is fantastic, and the upgraded sharper steering, as well as lowered and retuned sports suspension mean the V8 S grips the road snugly and securely, practically begging you to put your foot down out of the turns. Which I do, as often as possible.
Inside, too, the V8 S has all the refinements you’d expect from a Bentley; sat-nav, cruise control, cup holders (all the mod cons!) – but there are one or two treats that I thoroughly recommend. Climate-controlled seats are a must (whether you’re using them for a warm posterior in London or an air-conditioned back in Australia) and if you’ve got the option to upgrade to the massage chairs, these make for a supremely luxurious ride.
A fold-down Naim speaker between the seats means sound coverage is equally as tuneful in the back as the front, even with the top down, and indents in the back of the front seats for knees mean that adults can sit comfortably – a big plus point for the Bentley’s practicality rating.
If you’re not inclined to fill your back seat with grateful passengers (and you’re protective of your barnet) you can put up the windbreaker which cleverly diverts air flow away from your ‘do. A welcome addition for many Bentley customers, I imagine, although personally I rather like feeling the warm breezes of the Australian coast blowing away the last few London cobwebs.
To sum up, the GT Continental V8 S is, frankly, superb – in my opinion superior to the W12 version, (which I also drove recently in England) that felt less coordinated; a youthful, gangly Usain Bolt as opposed to the more experienced powerhouse.
So would I have room for one of these beauties in my fictional garage? For sure. And I’d save it for those long journeys when you really need a car with absolute class and comfort (plus a little – or in this case, a lot – of power to keep things interesting). The Continental is a dream drive – whichever continent you’re on.