2016 Bentley Continental GT V8 S Review

Rating: 8.5
$427,900 Mrlp
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The Bentley Continental GT V8 S is finally as dynamically capable as it is plush.
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The Bentley Continental GT V8 Speed is an astonishing motor vehicle no matter how you look at it, but at $427,900, it ought to be.

This particular car is in reality a fair bit more expensive though, $540,323, to be precise. That’s the drive-away cost including options and all relevant taxes. Of that total amount, $37,686 is GST, $20,360 is stamp duty and $105,410 is luxury car tax. In total, that’s $163,456 in tax. Think of that the next time you see someone in one of these, as the buyers certainly pay their fair share of tax.

The most amazing thing about this GT V8 S is that it’s exhilarating to drive, which is not what we were expecting. When you think about driving a Bentley, images of ultra-luxury, comfort and prestige come to mind. All of that remains the case, but now there’s the added benefit of a fire breathing powertrain that makes this 2295kg (kerb weight) GT an experience worth having.

Powered by a 4.0-litre turbocharged V8 (which is used in some other cars in the Volkswagen group stable), the Bentley manages a more than adequate 389kW and 680Nm (the current Audi RS6, with the same engine, manages 412kW and 700Nm). 0-100km/h is achieved in 4.5 seconds.

Those figures are largely useless, because the Bentley has never been about outright acceleration or power to weight. The fact that it shares its engine with the best from Audi is also of no concern, for anyone that has ever piloted an RS6 has been left with the world’s largest grin.

It’s the same type of grin we experienced as we flew out of a corner heading up Mount Nebo and Glorious on the outskirts of Brisbane. Our V8S, which had 25km on the odometer when we picked it up, bellowed a delightful note from its $3900 (plus LCT) optionable sports exhaust and the extreme grip from the Pirelli P Zero tyres proved that even a car that weighs this much can be addictive to drive.

The steering and its associated feedback is also a pleasant surprise. It’s direct, sharp and communicates far more than any Bentley we've sampled in the past. It’s no Ferrari or Lamborghini, but then again it’s not meant to be.

Despite measuring an appreciable 4806mm long, 1944mm wide and 1391mm tall, the big GT feels nimble through tight corners and the smooth torque profile of its powertrain in addition to its all-wheel drive underpinning result in a confidence inspiring package that will easily out perform the majority of its owners.

In many ways, the Bentley Continental GT V8 Speed is what a true GT is meant to be. Extremely plush and comfortable with the might of Thor behind it. Surprisingly there are no driving modes such as sport or comfort. You simply use the Volkswagen-sourced infotainment screen to adjust the suspension setting.

Left on the most comfort level, the GT is remarkably smooth over bumps. More so than even a full-sized Range Rover. It basically floats over speed bumps and potholes without being floaty after the fact. It settles nicely and the insane amount of anti-noise insulation blocks out so much sound you wonder if you’ve rolled over anything at all.

Switch it to the most sporty setting and, while it still remains more comfortable than anything exotic out of Italy, it becomes a nice flat ride, hungry for the next bend. It doesn’t pitch or roll and the pressure on the front, coming hot in to a corner, is far less evident.

Our car was fitted with the optional $21,829 carbon ceramic brakes, which while amazing when up to temperature (not so when you’ve only got 25km on the odometer) – with painful levels of stopping force - can be somewhat agonizing around town and not ideal or necessary on a car such as a GT unless you’re fond of regular track days or just fond of saying you have carbon ceramic brakes (it does make for great dinner conversation).

When you’ve got the boy-racer out of your system, you simply adjust your collar and begin what is a notably serene driving experience. The already-mentioned noise insulation is worth mentioning again for it’s basically akin to having a pair of noise-cancelling headphones permanently installed. It’s eerily quiet in the cabin.

We did a simple test of having a person conversing with us at normal to high volume outside of the driver’s window and then having that window shut. In both cases - we even pushed it to yelling levels of volume - the noise intrusion is basically non-existent. The double-glazed window and whatever else Bentley engineers have done means that you’re literally in your own sense of reality as you float through traffic.

Unfortunately, though, that reality is often interrupted as the Bentley turns enough heads that any idea of going anywhere undetected is basically impossible. Despite the Continental shape being basically unchanged (of course, it has had several facelifts) since this generation made its debut in 2011, it’s still adored for its universal beauty. It’s not pretty, but it’s beautiful.

On the inside the GT is not as over-the-top as its bigger and more expensive Mulsanne stable mate. That’s easily noticeable going by everything from the air-conditioning vents to the switchgear. Part of that is because the GT is trying to save weight (a basically irrelevant figure for the Mulsanne) and part of it is simply cost saving.

In some ways its simplicity is reassuring, but in other ways one may wish for more, well, bling? For a lack of better word anyway.

Most disappointing is the infotainment system, which is a Volkswagen parts bin special. It would be nice if Bentley took the Audi MMI system, as it’s a significantly better human/machine interface experience than what Volkswagen has to offer.

Surprisingly, we also found the high-end Naim audio system to be lacking in the lower frequencies or otherwise the sub vibrating too harshly at volumes that it really shouldn’t. Our car was optioned with a 4G wifi hot spot and TV tuner as well ($1700 and $1853 respectively).

The leather seats and the Alcantara roof lining are genuinely lovely to touch, though you’ll pay another $1000 to have the Bentley logo embroided on your Bentley’s seats. Thankfully the Bentley badge on the bonnet is standard.

We found the two rear seats of the Bentley quite spacious - not only for forward facing ISOFIX child seats, which fit with a little bit of wiggling as the anchor points are buried deep in the leather, but also with two adults. You can indeed carry four adults for shorter trips, or perhaps even long trips depending on how tall they are.

In that sense the Bentley is just as practical as a Porsche 911 if you intend to make use of the rear seats. In many ways, this competes against a 911 Turbo S ($456,500), and in many ways it doesn’t.

The Bentley Continental GT V8 Speed is a lovely car. It’s far more than a prestigious badge on a large and heavy two-door GT destined for inner-city traffic. It’s a dynamically capable package that inspires with its willingness to go far faster than it’s ever really allowed to while enclosing it occupants in a cocoon of luxury that’s hard to match in this class.

If you’ve got the means, the only question remains whether to go for the V8 or the W12 ($3,400 more for a regular W12 or $57,300 more for a W12 S). For just its uniqueness and quintessential Bentley-factor we would recommend the W12, even if the V8 is the more lively and modern of the two.