Isn’t Bentley going electric?
It is, and sooner than plenty of other carmakers. By 2025, Bentley will have launched its first EV. By 2030, its whole range will be electric. Its Crewe factory is already carbon neutral and home – but of course – to 600,000 bees.
The car you’re looking at contains no electric motors. Nor, thankfully, any bees. The Continental GT S is more old-school than that, and perhaps we should see it as a bit of a ‘last blast’ before electrification starts dripping into the Conti range.
What’s its elevator pitch?
It’s a sportier Continental GT. Simple as that. And yet it makes the claim with no more power, the entry GT’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 producing 542bhp and 568lb ft. While the whole thing weighs a decidedly un-sporty 2,165kg, all-wheel drive and a silky smooth eight-speed transmission help it hit 62mph in 4.0secs on its way to 198mph. Let’s call it 200 with a light tailwind.
The sportiness comes from detail tweaks and additions. The S launches to balance out Bentley’s ultra-plush Azure trim (which we’ve sampled in the Bentayga EWB), “an opposing yet complementary emphasis to the ‘Wellbeing behind the Wheel’ concept,” according to its maker. It’s exclusively available with the Conti’s smaller V8 engine – good job, really, given the W12 is about to retire and build slots are now very thin on the ground.
Isn’t the V8 the one I want anyway?
We’ve always found it the more agile option in all of Bentley’s cars; nipping a little weight from the front limits understeer and makes the whole thing more appealing to hustle along. It’s a long time since this company’s cars have felt solely made for wafting and the current Conti and Flying Spur are its most dynamic cars yet. Though if you can squeeze your name on the finite list of W12 orders, then the latest Continental GT Speed – offered solely with that iconic 6.0-litre – gets all-wheel steering and a trick differential to make it the ultimate driver’s Bentley.
So how should I consider this one?
If you’ll allow us to lean on another pillar within the vast VW empire, think of this as the GTI to the Speed’s Golf R. A little less outright grip and ability, but still focused on fun and with its edges as rough as they’re ever allowed to get in a Bentley. Which still equates to the coarseness of a satin quilt, admittedly.
So there’s a standard-fit Sports Exhaust “to amplify the crossplane V8 beat”. There’s 48v active anti-roll technology to keep cornering as flat as can be. Shiny chrome trim is replaced by black, the grille’s makeover most transformative. Its 22in wheels are new and sit in front of red brake calipers. Badges cover the wings, dashboard and seats, the ‘S’ reminiscent of an inviting pair of corners. The interior is a mix of leather and Dinamica (an alternative to Alcantara which uses recycled materials) and here demonstrates one of the bolder visions of the roughly 25bn specs you can concoct on the Bentley configurator.
What’s the cost?
The stock Continental GT continues service with a starting price of £178,200, while this S version ups things to £200,600. The Flying Spur range offers the same treatment for around four grand less, but let’s assume that’s not a pressing issue for people shopping in this particular aisle. Indeed, time is money for a lot of these folk, and being able to give your car a quick, sporting makeover without losing an afternoon to the order form may quickly cancel out the £22,400 hike.
Whether it’s the right choice depends where you sit in the ‘sound versus refinement’ debate. Even without the cornucopia of S badges, you’ll know which Conti you’re in as soon as your index finger indents the starter button. That initial blare of revs immediately marks this out as a more dynamically minded Bentley, and if you’ve notched the knurled drive mode dial into Sport – prompting the gearbox into its sportier map in the process – then you’ll be treated to pops, bangs and crackles during all manner of downchanges and throttle lifts. The bumf wasn’t wrong – this exhaust really does amplify things.
A more assertive soundtrack and faux-suede trim might be just enough to convince you the rest of the car is sportier, too. But in truth it drives just as ably as the stock Continental GT below it.
Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter. Look out for your regular round-up of news, reviews and offers in your inbox.
Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.
Thankfully that means it drives incredibly well indeed. You might miss the rear-wheel steering of its W12 sibling but even without it, this is uncommonly agile for something so luxuriously appointed. Power still dwells more towards the rear axle allowing for a surprisingly adjustable attitude in corners, while leaving the ‘box in S – resisting its paddles – keeps this free-revving V8 slap-bang in its rich torque curve.
The ability of Bentley’s current line-up to balance fun and finesse, offering a greater portion of one or the other at the whim of your drive mode selection, is uncanny. Once you’ve had your fill of driving quickly, the Conti GT S settles back down to a quiet cruise with the contentment of a Labrador cosying up for a nap following a wild hour in the park.
Is it a successful ‘last blast’?
That honour more comfortably lives with the W12-engined Speed and its clever chassis tech. But if you’ve not got an order in quickly enough, this is nearly as much fun while offering us a cautiously optimistic glimpse of what comes next.
If Bentley’s engineers can make something so heavy steer with such clarity then surely its purely electric future is in safe hands, the inherent disadvantages of EVs standing a better chance than usual of having their edges chamfered off. Just don’t expect the slightly raucous soundtrack to carry over…