Referring to oneself as “the world’s most stylish, luxury grand tourer” is a pretty big claim, even when coming from a hyper-luxury brand like Bentley, but that’s exactly what was uttered when the iconic winged badge unveiled the Continental GT V8 S at the Frankfurt Show in 2013. Released in both coupe and convertible trim, this variant added a fresh level of aggression to the Continental line with more performance tweaks and a 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8 powertrain that was just as suave as it was ferocious. This helped land the car a spot on our Cheat Sheet list of sportiest Bentleys of all time.
Upon its initial release, chairman and chief executive for Bentley Motors Dr. Wolfgang Schreiber called the Bentley Continental “the definitive grand tourer,” and said for those customers who want “even more drama and excitement, the sharper, sporting edge of the new GT V8 S adds a new dimension to the Continental range.”
The S model utilizes Bentley’s somewhat efficient 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V8 and tunes it to 521 horsepower, with 502 pound-feet of torque. Holstered to a close-ratio eight-speed automatic transmission, the S hits 60 in just 4.3 seconds and will top out somewhere around 192 miles per hour. The convertible version is swift too, and is only 0.2 seconds slower to 60, retaining virtually the same top end speed limitation. Pounding more than 500 miles of asphalt between fill-ups, the GT V8 S coupe sports a combined EPA estimate of 18 miles per gallon, with the convertible version returning a slightly worse average.
These modest gains are achieved with variable displacement via cylinder management, where the car runs on four of its eight cylinders when cruising, seamlessly switching back to all eight cylinders at the driver’s command. Combined with high-pressure direct injection, low friction bearings, advanced thermal management, energy recuperation via electrical charging, and next level integrated turbo packaging, the S retains a fairly balanced blend of sportiness and sensibility.
This clever design was apparently quite the pain in the ass for Bentley exhaust engineers, who encountered multiple issues when the car was cruising in four-cylinder mode. But eventually someone nailed it down, and with the addition of a sports exhaust option, Bentley enthusiasts can now get a potent, performance inspired exhaust system straight from the dealer.
The GT V8 S still rolls on the same continuous dampening, aluminum double-wishbone suspension up front and trapezoidal, multi-link, self-leveling rear air system as what you find on all other Continental models. What sets the S model apart from the pack is its lowered stance, stiffer spring rates (45% front, 33% rear), and re-valved dampeners for sharper turns and increased driving confidence. The car’s bushings are also 70% stiffer, and since the rear sway bar is about 54% more rigid, body roll is greatly reduced. Paired with a recalibrated steering setting, this unique automobile offers spirited drivers a significant bump in improved precision and feedback via smarter software and tighter mechanical controls.
Tight turns aside, at some point you will feel the need to throttle all 521 ponies in this thing, and that’s when a clever Electronic Stability Control system “allows increased wheel slip at higher speeds with engine torque reinstated more quickly after a system intervention.” Bentley claims that this “provides the spirited driver more opportunity to exploit the full potential of the uprated chassis and increased power,” making it far more fun and safe to drive than its 5,000 pound curb weight would have one assume. Sporting a specialized front splitter, side sills, and a rear diffuser, it has all of the proper aerodynamics to reduce front-end lift while providing greater stability at higher speeds. Once unloaded upon an all-wheel drive system that employs a highly advanced Torsen differential and a 40:60 rear-biased power split, drivers and critics alike agree that the GT V8 S is quite the sure-footed heavy hitter.
Though some say that the Continental is starting to look dated, that timeless Bentley body will forever be a thing of beauty to many. Bentley claims that it purposefully utilized the coachwork of iconic cars from its past and fused them together into a much more “modern, sculpted design, with crisp, highly defined feature lines.” But unlike its less expensive siblings, the S model benefits from the aforementioned stance and aero, along with things like Beluga gloss sprayed accents and “figure of eight” polished exhaust pipes.
Sticking with the idea of looking sporty and sophisticated, the S version’s signature 20-inch wheels feature an open-spoke design that reveals red brake calipers, while “V8 S” badges adorn both front fenders, and the famous Bentley badge gets red paint in true, sportsmanlike conduct. With 17 different paint colors to choose from, there are plenty of fun shades to select, even though we suggest going with the GT V8 S exclusive “Kingfisher Blue” or “Monaco Yellow.”
Not wanting to disappoint the world’s most refined drivers, designers retained many of the soft-touch leathers, wood veneers, polished metals, and deep-pile carpeting from the regular Continental and infused it with striking dual-tone appointments. Much like the outside, buyers can choose from 17 different hide colors, and thanks to contrasting stitching colors, the combinations are just staggering. Don’t forget to note all that knurled chrome along the gearshift lever and ventilation controls.
We could go on an entire tangent about how advanced infotainment technology has changed cars and how clever touchscreens in the S model now handle everything from comfort settings to air suspension levels. But instead, we’ll leave you with a single recommendation: If you genuinely have 200 grand laying around and this vehicle appeals to you, spend the extra dough and get the Mulliner Driving Specification package. This way you can enjoy things like 21-inch, Black Edition wheels, drilled aluminum race pedals, a “bejeweled” filler cap, a cabin that has been outfitted in diamond-quilted, perforated leather with indented headlining, tinted front and rear lights, and Beluga glossed mirrors to match the rest of the aero accents. If you’re going for high class, you might as well not do it half-assed, right?