Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible Test Drive: Striking The Perfect Balance Of Luxury And Performance

Article by Andrew Christian, on February 9, 2016

After British brand Bentley Motors became a part of Volkswagen in 1998, the first model that it came out with was the Bentley Continental Grand Tourer (GT). It has been produced in volumes since 2003 – the first Bentley really to be given the mass-production treatment. Notably, it shares a platform with the Volkswagen Phaeton. It could be differentiated from the previous Continental R & T models by looking at how it was conceptualized.

It’s believed that Bentley’s transformation into a major brand known all over the world is largely credited to the success of the Continental GT. It isn’t a coach-built vehicle and while it is mass-produced, a substantial part of the entire process is still accomplished by hand. By doing this, Bentley was able to sell it in a much lower price – approximately half of the cost of a Continental R.

Because of its affordability, it drew in plenty of new customers from a wider demographic. It was at the Geneva Motor Show in 2003 that the Continental GT was introduced. The first-generation Continental GTC received excellent reviews and its elegance impressed consumers as well as the important players in the auto industry. The excitement for this new grand tourer was mostly centered on its impeccable silhouette – a trademark of Bentley’s famed convertible range.

Its craftsmanship is of course, beyond reproach, as is the case with any model produced by Bentley. Its proportions are lauded for their precision but with the addition of the most advanced technologies available for vehicles at the time, the competition didn’t stand a chance. Powered by a 6-litre, 12-cylinder turbocharged engine, the Continental GT had the capability of delivering unparalleled power and torque. It caused such a splash in this segment that it appeared that its momentum would continue indefinitely.

However, with the changing priorities of potential buyers, adjustments had to be made. For instance, Bentley had to accommodate those who wanted better fuel economy and offered a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine. Sales grew quickly upon the launch of the Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show.

The coachwork history of the Continental GT continues to be evident in its sculpted modern structure with lines that are crisp and clearly defined. The topmost standards of construction and quality were utilized in the making of its body, giving it outstanding integrity and sophistication. But for the new models, Bentley took an approach that was a bit more dramatic.

Exterior Design

Aside from getting a lower suspension, it also got a stance that’s quite sleeker and stronger. The lower body received distinctive styling, enhanced by separate side sills, sharp front splitter, and a subtle rear diffuser that was given a Beluga gloss finish.

Nothing about the Continental GT is neglected as even its roaring V8 engine was styled with a black gloss radiator grille that came with a single chrome divider bar and ‘figure of eight’ exhaust tail pipes. There’s no way that anyone will fail to notice the 20-inch wheels on the ‘S’ models with its open-spoke design and unique brake calipers painted red.

‘V8 S’ badges are tastefully positioned on the front fenders. Similar to the other models in the Continental V8 range, a red center is seen in the Bentley Wings badges. With 17 paint colors to choose from, buyers of the GT V8 S will not be disappointed with the multiple possibilities.

The same wide color palette is available for buyers of the Continental GT W12. Seven of these colors have been tapped by Bentley as those that highlight its sporty character the most, with the signature colors being Kingfisher Blue and the new Monaco Yellow. Even when the vehicle is moving as fast as 20 mph or 32 km/h, lowering the roof is possible. It also doesn’t take more than a single traffic-signal cycle to bring it down.

For our test, we took the GT with the Mulliner Driving Specification to the desert. What made it stand out are its 21-inch 7-spoke Black Edition wheels, a ‘jewel’ filler cap, drilled alloy foot pedals, and a cabin that featured diamond-quilted, perforated leather with indented headlining.

Some of its key options are Mulliner dark - tint front and rear lights and Beluga gloss door mirrors that complement the Lower Body Styling Specification. The Electronic Stability Control received optimization for the GT V8 S Convertible.

The system has been retuned to offer increased wheel slip at faster speeds with engine torque returning faster with the intercession of the system. As a result, the driver gets the chance to optimize the full capabilities of the uprated chassis and the power increase.

Because of the reduced front-end lift, the vehicle becomes more stable at faster speeds. Its aerodynamics has been taken a notch higher with its Lower Body Styling Specification. An all-wheel drive system is used for all the Continental models.

These go together with a 40:60 rear-biased power split and a very advanced Torsen differential. With all these installed features, Bentley guarantees that handling is safe and dynamic regardless of the road conditions.

Interior Design

Bentley's Continental GT V8 S Convertible cabin screams luxury as soon as you enter, with its deep-pile carpeting, soft-touch leather, wood veneers, and polished metals – all hand-crafted in the workshops of Bentley in Crewe, England.

Color and tone were expertly applied in its cabin, fitting in with how the brand interprets modern luxury. Again, the interior is available in 17 hide colors as well as duo-tone options. The main hide color can be chosen to complement the contrast centre-stripe on the hide-trimmed roof lining of the GT V8 S coupe. In fact, buyers can ask for contrast stitching all throughout, even up to the steering wheel.

An amazing contrast also comes as the result of using knurled chrome detailing to the gearshift lever and ventilation controls. The finish is absolutely beautiful after the Piano Black veneers have been sanded and lacquered up to 18 times. Furthermore, ‘V8 S’ badges are visible on every sill tread plate.

The latest infotainment technologies are available in the ‘S’ models as standard, including an 8-inch touchscreen where the driver can access the navigation, audio and telephone systems, and ride and comfort settings for the air suspension. All these are supported by a 30GB on-board hard drive.

Powertrain

The new GT V8 S models offer an even more impressive lineup of engines, including the high-efficiency 4-litre, twin-turbo V8 engine that can generate 521 bhp (528 PS / 389 KW) at 6,000 rev/min and that offers an enormous peak torque of 680 Nm (502 lb.ft) at just 1,700 rev/min. Delivering this incredible boost of power is a close-ratio ZF 8-speed automatic transmission that makes for a smooth and exciting performance with remarkable acceleration.

When it is in the S mode, it offers a much improved throttle response and it allows gears to be held longer with quicker shifts. It only takes the GT V8 S convertible 4.5 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph and just 4.7 seconds to reach 100 km/h from a standstill.

Maximum speed is at 191mph (308 km/h). It’s almost unheard of for these acceleration figures to be achieved from a vehicle weight of 5560 pounds or 2521 kg. It also has to be mentioned that Bentley attained this without hurting fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures of its V8 engine (which means that it continues to lead in its class).

It is so efficient that one fuel fill-up permits the GT to cover more than 500 miles (805 km). The coupe version of the GT V8 S offers a combined cycle fuel economy of 26.8 mpg (10.6 l/100km) and has CO2 emissions of 246 g/km while the convertible’s fuel economy rating is at 25.9 mpg (10.9 l/100km) and emits 254 g/km of CO2.

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