Bentley's Continental GT V8S mixes luxe with sportiness

The Bentley Continental GT V8S is surprisingly nimble and manouevrable.
The Bentley Continental GT V8S is surprisingly nimble and manouevrable.ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

Bentley's Continental GT V8S is an intoxicating mix of luxe and sportiness

The Bentley Continental GT V8S' luxe barge persona and genteel heritage are but a smokescreen. Do not be fooled.

The car is a veritable sports car. It rides like one, it sounds like one and, man, it goes like one. Yet, it has a good measure of comfort and dignity, and is probably the most accessible eight-cylinder performance Bentley.

The next step upwards would be the rascally GT3-R, a car that is probably more at home on the track than on the street.

At the helm, the V8S surprises on several fronts. Its steering feels sharp and keen, with a level of responsiveness leaning towards sportiness rather than comfort.

Yet, there is not a hint of twitchiness. The car reacts to steering inputs with precision and predictability. Despite its generous dimensions (it is almost 2m wide, excluding mirrors), it is far from unwieldy.

  • SPECS/ BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GT V8S

  • Price: From $790,000 without COE

    Engine: 3,993cc 32-valve twin-turbocharged V8

    Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift

    Power: 528bhpat 6,000rpm

    Torque: 680Nm at 1,700-5,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 4.5 seconds

    Top speed: 309kmh

    Fuel consumption: 10.5 litres/100km

    Agent: Wearnes Automotive

In fact, it is surprisingly nimble. Whether you are negotiating a U-turn across a two-lane road, making a right-angle turn or tracing a long and wide sweeper at high speed, the V8S always feels well-judged and reliable.

It is not in the least intimidating or bulky. In fact, it feels as compact as a Porsche 911.

And like the 911, its suspension is decidedly firm. Its ride is uncharacteristically sporty, so you might want to look elsewhere if you expect a water-bed ride.

This trait contributes to the GT's surefootedness and crisp handling around curves. Nothing dampens the joy of a fast bend like the rolling body movements that follow. In the V8S, this is not an issue at all.

But this suspension set-up is at some expense to comfort, even if the Brit qualifies as the most pampering two-door grand tourer under a million bucks.

In the test-car, the firm chassis also results in an occasional rattle from the driver-side door panel. It is something that should not be there, but is.

That aside, the Bentley is a hall of hush. It is extremely well-insulated against road noise and wind turbulence. Which makes it easier for you to enjoy its deep, mutli-layered engine note.

Shift the gear lever down to Sport and that note rises by a notch. Even then, the car rarely raises a ruckus. It is only when the tacho approaches the 4,000rpm mark that the engine belts out a different tune - a mighty V8 bellow that is textured and celestial.

It is quite unlike the adrenaline-inducing bark you get from revving a Ferrari or Lamborghini, and is best described as a mechanical version of the deep-throated growl that big cats make.

Unfortunately, there are few opportunities for you to enjoy this aural treat. The V8S is so effortlessly swift that you often run out of tarmac before its revs can pile up high enough.

Its 4.5-second dash from 0 to 100kmh is phenomenal for a car of its size and grandeur. Equally impressive is how it delivers accleration across its rev range. With 680Nm of torque available from 1,700rpm, the V8S blows up a storm with the calmness of a gentle breeze.

You do not have to drive it hard to witness its strong-hearted athleticism. But should you be chasing down a BMW M5, the GT's steroidal side surfaces in an instant. Its eight-speed ZF autobox goes from seamless to sizzling, and its steering becomes quicker and weightier.

Even if you are driving it with gusto, the car retains an overall composure that gentleman racers are known for. Braking action is never harsh, wheelspins are minimal and occupants are seldom tossed about like lettuce in a salad bowl.

In fact, occupants are cushioned - not just from the dishevelledness associated with hard driving, but also from all sorts of unpleasantness that you find outside its leather- bound, chromed-lined, climate- controlled cabin. It does not have as many techie frills as some other modern limos, but its auto seatbelt extenders, soft-closing doors and easy rear access are everything you need to make day-to-day use painless.

For its level of performance and prestige, its price is rather painless too. Relatively speaking, of course.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2015, with the headline 'Revving up, gently'. Print Edition | Subscribe