Especially this one, the new S version with the Audi derived 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 tickled from 507hp and 487lb ft to 528hp and 502lb ft. In the RS6 and RS7 this engine delivers even more but, given that it's already knocking on the door of the 575hp and 516lb ft of the 'entry level' W12, Bentley has tactfully kept a lid on to maintain the range's pecking order. That said, the S is only £700 cheaper than the W12, records the same 0-62mph and only starts lagging at higher speeds where it drops half a second 0-100mph and 6mph at the top end.
So, at the Bentley dealership with £140K in your hand why would you pick the 'lesser' eight-cylinder car? It probably matters more in which country that showroom is located. In crucial markets like China, where punitive taxes are levied on engines above 4.0 litres, you see the logic. In the UK the price difference between the non-S V8 and the W12 is nearly £16K but in China it's £70K. There's no Chinese price for the S yet but it'll help bridge that considerable gap and uses shared in-house tech to futureproof the Conti against ever stricter restrictions on thirsty, large capacity engines. How Aston must be counting the days until it can do the same with downsized turbo V8s from AMG...
Enough talk though, is this really the leaner, meaner Bentley we were hoping for?
It's a decidedly more aggressive Continental GT than the W12 that's for sure. You want turbine-like smoothness? Stick with the 12-cylinder. Want to make the cutlery at the fancy restaurant you've just arrived outside rattle? The V8 S is your boy. Wisely Bentley fitted all the cars on the launch with the optional sports exhaust and if it thunders pleasingly from inside the cabin for those outside it's utterly unapologetic. It's classily uncouth though; a bassy rumble overlayed with discreet whistles of turbocharged induction rather than a NASCAR wannabe.
That aural aggression is matched with aesthetic flourishes like black aero extensions and a 10mm ride height drop that give the S a subtle but noticeable shift in emphasis. Most of the test cars had a blingy 21-inch rims polished in the Californian style but the smaller (it's all relative) 20s show a bit more sidewall and proportionally look more like those on the GT3 race car.
You can carry more speed in, get on the power more quickly and the fast spooling 'inside out' turbo installation reacts more rapidly to the throttle. OK, you're still battling a kerb weight that's more SUV than sports car and Bentley wisely hasn't attempted to get too clever with active diffs, torque vectoring and other flim flams. Regardless, on the final twisting few miles up to the ski resort after that cross-continental drive the V8 is the one you'd want to be in.
Stiff upper lip
A button selects four stages of adjustment on the dampers but frankly there doesn't seem to be a huge difference between them and having gone mid-way we barely touched it for the rest of the drive. The base chassis settings are significantly more aggressive than the standard V8 though (spring rates up by 45 per cent front and 38 per cent rear, 70 per cent stiffer bushes, 54 per cent stiffer rear anti-roll) and there's a bit more thud and thump than waft and glide. But the damping contains that heft extremely well and body control has an easy-going fluidity that complements the torque-rich power delivery and buttery gearbox very nicely. This is a making progress car, not something to corner on the door handles. It makes a lot of progress and in a very satisfying way and will do whatever the conditions too. It's not a thrill ride but nor is it aloof and uninvolving. It's just ... nice.
We're nit picking though. Abiding memories of driving the V8 S are the gentle creak of leather and the reflected rumble of a rather naughty sounding V8. Not trying to spot which switches are shared with the Skoda Octavia.
A little taste of Bentley V8 here.
BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GT V8 S
Engine: 3,993cc V8 twin-turbo
Transmission: 8-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 528@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 502@1,700rpm
Top speed: 192mph
MPG: 26.7mpg (NEDC combined)