What is it?
Bentley’s attempt to make a fast, pretty and affordable (OK, relatively affordable) GT car, that was enhanced last year with a new V8 engine option. At last broadening the model line-up, the new 4.0-litre motor has been co-developed with Audi but is thoroughly Bentley in its torque delivery, and is not only 10 per cent cheaper up front, it also goes 40 per cent further per gallon of fuel. There’s also a new Speed for 2013 too – this is also more efficient and, at 205mph, the fastest production Bentley ever.
The V8 has only enhanced the Conti GT’s abilities. With 500bhp and, more significantly, just 29lb ft less torque than the W12, it’s a real treat to use. It has a guttural soundtrack when you want and near-silence when you don’t. A more alert nature combines with an eight-speed automatic and 25kg less mass hung far over the front wheels to turn the V8 into the car you’d always wanted the Continental GT to be.
Yes, it can waft along in isolation as brilliantly as it always has, but the V8 is also that bit more pointy and agile when you want to work the four-wheel drive chassis harder. It lends itself to dignified performance driving in a way no Conti GT has done before – and the rasp from the exhausts will thrill pedestrians equally so.
That magnificently-engineered 6.0-litre engine in a ‘W12’ layout remains available too, churning out an even more indecent 575bhp in regular form and a walloping 625hp in new Speed guise. At 205mph, it becomes the fastest Bentley ever.
On the inside
As one would expect, sire. Comfortable, beautiful to behold and exquisitely put together. It’s all contrast stitch and pipe, quilt and carbon fibre, sink-in-and-relax leather and more controls than you have knowledge for. There’s also handmade aluminium fascia inserts, walnut veneer and chrome-bezelled dials all knocked together by the Crewe company’s master craftsmen. And they earn their wages because the finish of each GT is exemplary.
Space in the back is restricted for anyone tall, but up front the driver and passenger are swaddled in luxury and presented with a fascia-mounted touchscreen and the knowledge there are few places on earth you’d be more comfortable.
It’s a Bentley, and so demands to have money spent on it, you assume. Which is why the V8 is so great. Nearly 27mpg equals a huge driving range by Bentley standards. Impressively, the Speed W12 is now just as economical as the standard 6.0-litre model, too – both, thanks to the new eight-speed auto, return 19.5mpg. Not green, but better than the lowly 17mpg of before.