Bentley Continental GT V8 review: Luxury, sport and efficiency all in one

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2012, 5:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2012, 5:42pm

“With power comes responsibility.” That’s not Spider-Man talking. It’s Bentley, referring to the performance of its new Continental GT V8.

The latest model from the luxury carmaker’s Continental stable to reach our shores forsakes the massive 12-cylinder engine for a more economical 4-litre V8, good for 500bhp and 660Nm of torque. A sign of the green times, maybe, but that’s enough power by far for a Hong Kong motorist. “Responsibility” possibly refers to avoiding the temptation to break the speed limit.

What you get with the V8 is about 50 fewer horses under the bonnet but also a 40 per cent improvement in efficiency and a big reduction in CO2 emissions. And it can carry you 850 kilometres on a full tank of petrol, so the loss of four cylinders is hardly a sacrifice.

And it’s still the same body size as the 12-cylinder GT. At 4.8 metres in length, slightly smaller than the Continental Flying Spur, it has the familiar rounded rear end and bulging rear wheel arches that render a strong, muscular look. Resembling a crouching tiger from behind, when it pounces the V8 can sprint from zero to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds – not bad for a beast with a kerb weight of 2,295kg.

Part of the economy achieved results from the engine’s variable displacement system, which means the engine is a V8 at full throttle but switches seamlessly to a V4 at lower speeds. Efficiency is helped by a new 8-speed transmission, Bentley says.

Running on 20-inch alloy wheels, Bentley’s racing creed is stressed by the double figure-eight exhausts and red enamel ‘B’ badges above the grille and boot.

Setting it apart visually from other variants in the Continental stable, the V8 is touched off with a chrome-ringed, black matrix grille and black mesh lower grille. This was all the more stand-out on the bright red model used for the test drive on Hong Kong Island.

A nice touch is the automated arms that deliver the seat belts to front-seat passengers then recline once you’ve taken hold of them

Although the V8 has a top speed of 303km/h, there were to be no open highways for this mean machine to plough, only the clogged city roads and traffic lights of Causeway Bay and the narrow, winding route to Stanley. Its sporty enthusiasm was the last thing on my mind, wincing as I passed a truck crossing the Tai Tam reservoir, relieved to have traversed the spindly stretch of road with wing mirrors intact.

Nevertheless, it’s always a joy being behind the small sporty wheel of a big Bentley, revelling in the luxurious cabin trimmed with eucalyptus veneer and smelling of expensive leather. The other Bentley staples are there too, like the retro-styled circular dials and air vents on the dash, and the old-fashioned clockface. For the thoroughly modern touches there’s an eight-speaker infotainment system with 15GB of storage and a port for mobile devices.

A nice touch is the automated arms that deliver the seat belts to front-seat passengers then recline once you’ve taken hold of them.

As with many cars with a racing pedigree, the leg room in the back of the GT V8 feels a bit limited. But then this is a driver’s car, not one to be chauffeured in.

The GT V8, which was launched in Hong Kong in September, carries a price tag of HK$3.38 million, including tax. The convertible GTC, which shared the spotlight at the launch, costs a cool HK$3.88 million.