Downsizing doesn't surprise me anymore. It was a buzz word for quite some time, but as I said, not anymore. We now talk about having more cars and the extended model lineups in the market as a result. So keeping that in mind let me share my experience from Oman last month.
Bentley invited us to Muscat to test drive the Continental GT V8 S. It's the same British automaker which until now had three production models, namely Continental Flying Spur (the bestseller), Continental GT and Mulsanne. The W12 engine in the Continental GT lost 4 cylinders on the way to the introduction of the Continental GT V8 two years ago. In the meantime, we heard about the SUV concept planned for a full run production in 2016. Continental GT Speed, a retuned and even more powerful Continental GT W12, joined the lot. So the shop was expanding. But that's not all.
The all new Bentley Continental GT V8 S is based on the same idea of GT Speed. V8 S is a follow up model to the Continental V8. Now that's a lot of talking.
Continental V8 itself received positive accolades globally for its power and performance which were close to its W12 variant. That proved to be a nice preposition to invite new customers. And during the drive session, we had the opportunity to try out both engines: a normal V8 and the V8 with an S.
Luxury, power and style are like given when we talk about Bentleys. Add timely upgrades and a little bit of brains - that is the V8 S for you. It's hard not to notice the famous Bentley Wings badge on the front just above the grille, where the letter "B" in white font is seen on a red center background. Let me highlight what's new in here. We get to see a lower body styling with a sharp front splitter and discrete side sills. The black gloss radiator with a single chrome divider bar further highlights a solid stance. Exhaust pipes in the rear side are chrome plated which look like a "figure of eight" and there is a rear diffuser finished in Beluga gloss. The car is massive and, hence, it's important to keep the lines and curves simple. Striking V8 S badges are seen on either sides of front fender. The V8 S features a set of signature 20 inch wheels with an open spoke design and striking red painted brake calipers. The overall shape of the V8 S was sporty enough to induce aerodynamic characters.
Do I really need to talk about interiors? It's a Bentley and almost everything inside is hand-crafted at the facility in Crewe, England. That includes contrast stitching, usage of high quality leather, knurled chrome work on the gearshift lever and ventilation controls. Then follows the list of obvious luxury mandates such as deep-pile carpeting that girls go crazy for, wood veneers and polished metals. I noticed the V8 S badges on each sill tread plate. Infotainment was integrated to an 8-inch touchscreen. Standard navigation, audio and telephone systems seem to work normal while the whole set up was backed with a 30GB on-board hard drive. Decent space in the rear side along with some storage options throughout complement the car's potential. So that sums up the interior which is pretty modern, luxurious and practical.
Now let's move on to the main part which lives under the hood. It is quite weird to say that we are talking about a small engine, well, compared to the Continental GT which has a W12. Our tester had a 4 liter twin-turbocharged direct injection V8 which could deliver 521hp at the rate of 6000rpm and a torque of 680Nm as close to 1700rpm. To make it clear, that's a 21hp increase in power and a torque figure raised by 20Nm. Drive terrain is AWD and it works on a close-ratio ZF 8-speed automatic transmission system. Other highlights include high pressure direct injection, advanced thermal management and low friction bearings. The V8 S uses the same aluminum double-wishbone front and trapezoidal multi-link rear self-levelling air suspension coupled with continuous damping control tuned for dynamic performance. A more sporty set up with subtly different tunes for coupe and convertible is used for GT V8 S.
So we are clear with specs. Even if I repeat, highlighting the added power in the V8 S, I can tell you that all the work was done in the suspension. Retuned and infinitely variable damping has made the car lower, firmer and stiffer.
The seating position was great and we liked the way the steering wheel responded: precise and commanding. The speed sensitive servotronic system is further enhanced with changes to static toe, camber and software. The start wasn't that instant. Our sweet spot was somewhere around 1500-1600rpm and the reaction after that point was breathtaking. The exhaust growl was the star. On full throttle the car is an absolute monster on road and so demands attention and respect. To go along with the trend, the V8 S also has variable displacement system. So four out of eight cylinders can stay idle when cruising; hence, reducing fuel consumption. It automatically switches to full eight when more power is required.
With such a massive car, I'll need strong brakes and a great chassis to ensure stability and handling. Thanks to the changes in suspension, lowered body and a stiffer feel the car felt agile. Handling was the best part as at no point I felt the car was out of control. On straight roads, the V8 S was very composed even on high speeds and the later part of the potential was seen in bends and curves. Understeer was barely allowed due to suspension tweaks and throughout the ride, it was all flat handled. The annoying part was using the fixed gear paddle-shifter under the steering. Every time I had to turn or corner and drop down gears, I quickly looked for the paddles while my hands were in a twisted position - not convenient. The spirited drive continued with the loud growl even while cruising where only four cylinders were active - thanks to the newly tuned exhaust pipes. So here's a Grand Tourer fully packed and ready for game.
We concluded the day by taking a nice route through the city and suburbs which included flat roads, twisty hills and some nice people. The Bentley team is excited and rightly so. Continental GT V8 S might be the best Continental yet. Ride quality, handling, power and performance and the looks should tick all check marks. First deliveries are expected to arrive in August and there is already buzz about the smart boy in town!
Pros: Agile ride & handling, monster growl, performance, great style in and out, revised technology
Cons: Fixed gear paddle-shifter, less head room for tall in rear seats, expensive as it's close to W12
Rivals: Aston Martin DB9, Mercedes CLS 63 AMG, BMW M6, Maserati GranTurismo Sport
Engine: 4L Twin-Turbo Charged, V8, 521 hp, 680 Nm
Transmission: ZF 8-speed automatic, AWD
Performance: 0-100 kph: 4.5 sec, 11 L /100 km, Top speed: 309 kph
Curb Weight: 2295kg
One word: Paramount