Bentley adds performance model to Continental GT V8 model line. £139,000 V8 S has same chassis as W12 Speed, added V8 engine noise, sublime inside.

CJ Hubbard | August 2014

It is entirely possible that you could justify buying a V8 version of the Bentley Continental GT entirely because they come with red-black Bentley B badges in place of the decidedly more ordinary black-backed alternatives that grace the rest of the range. The ‘figure of eight’ styling for the tailpipes we could entirely take or leave, but those red badges are a beautiful touch, perfectly in keeping with the bespoke nature of these automobiles.

And they look particularly good sitting in the centre of the limited edition (yes, really) 21-inch black and silver alloy wheel upgrade for the new V8 S model – the smaller-engined Continental’s equivalent to the W12 Speed. The final polish on a gorgeously specified test car that also featured “Ice” white paintwork, “Beluga” black exterior detailing and Beluga black on Beluga black interior with “Piano Black” veneer. Subtle, yet exultant, tasteful but rich – which is appropriate indeed when the final tally of optional extras sweeps the list price for this particular car from the basic £139,000 to £179,720. That’s over £40k in add-ons, or four Volkswagen Ups (Bentley being part of the Volkswagen Group these days makes that a curiously compelling statistic). We digress.

The point is Bentley now makes a Continental GT V8 S, which enhances the V8’s raffish red-badged appeal with a dash of extra power and the same chassis modifications as the W12 Speed. So it’s lower – by 10mm – and livelier, without sacrificing really any of the luxury. Has Bentley built itself a sports car?

What is the Bentley Continental GT V8 S like to drive?

A sports car? Not exactly – the Conti GT is still a 2.3-tonne machine (nearly 2.5-tonnes if you opt for the Convertible equivalent), and even with the best will in the world it isn’t quite up there with the likes of an equally expensive Porsche 911. This, we suspect, Bentley knows, given the slightly lazy rate of steering and the optional carbon ceramic brake package (an essential at £10,405). But for all that, this big car is more than happy to be hurried through the corners.

Once you’re keyed into the prodigious grip – like all Continental derivatives, the V8 S is four-wheel drive – you can make very swift progress. And because the air suspension system is adjustable, this doesn’t necessarily lead to leaning like a battle cruiser during the turns. There is, in fact, an impressive degree of precision about the whole experience, even if the eight-speed automatic transmission will occasionally leave you waiting on response to your paddleshift command.

Select manual or sport mode on the transmission, and you’ll also be treated to an increased amount of engine and exhaust noise. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 never becomes loud enough to interrupt your conversion, but its presence as background rumble and thunder is certainly enhanced; many may prefer this cultured burble to the bigger W12’s harder-edged blare.

The raw performance is nothing to be sniffed at, either. The engine in question was co-developed with Audi, and in V8 S guise produces a healthy 528hp, 21hp more than lesser Continental V8 models. Even better, there’s a veritable wall of torque in place from 1,700 to 5,000rpm – no less than 502lb ft of it. Which ensures a suitably vigorous response to every throttle action, let alone 0-62mph in just 4.5 seconds. This monster can move.

Why buy the Continental GT V8 S instead of the Continental W12 Speed?

For all this performance, the V8 S remains a comfortable way to cover vast distances. We found the suspension delivered entirely acceptable amounts of comfort, even at its sportiest setting and despite the optional 21-inch wheels that replaced the standard 20s on the test car. Besides, you can make it softer if required.

As ever with Bentley, the interior is just sublime – genuinely handcrafted, beautifully finished and impressively sophisticated, even if much of the very latest safety technology is missing. You can carry four adults, though those relegated to the rear will need to be spry enough to negotiate climbing in and out through the front. The boot is a sizable 400 litres, but strangely shaped, so you may need to think carefully about your choices of luggage.

Aside from being usefully cheaper than the W12 Speed, the V8 S is also around 25% more efficient – at least on paper. This is supported in the real world through the advances of active cylinder management (meaning four of them can be switched off when not required), but even so you’d better believe the claimed 26.8mpg requires considerable restraint. We managed about 300 miles on a tank in mixed driving when Bentley reckons you could see over 500.

The efficiency improvements aren’t about the cost so much as the convenience, however, and certainly we’re sure you’ll be stopping for fuel much less often with one of these compared to the W12 Speed – which at a starting price of £156,700 certainly isn’t an insignificant upgrade. But for that you do get a substantial amount of additional performance, and a wider range of standard equipment, colour choices and interior finishes included in the asking price.

Not an easy decision to make if you’ve got the money for either, but those shopping exclusively at the V8 S level should hardly worry about feeling short-changed.

MR VERDICT: Bentley Continental GT V8 S

Great to look at, great to drive and – we strongly suspect – thoroughly satisfying to own, the Bentley Continental GT V8 S has much to recommend it, especially at just £9,000 more than the regular Continental GT V8.

Don’t buy it expecting a dynamic challenge to the most sporting alternatives, but it most certainly has the poise and power to cover ground at a substantial lick, and we don’t just mean on the motorway. That you can have this degree of ability and a beautifully hand-finished Bentley interior should make the V8 S a winner for the discerning enthusiast who appreciates the lap of luxury that bit more than ultimate lap times at a racing circuit.

Specifications: 2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S

Engine 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8

Power 528hp @ 6,000rpm

Torque 502lb ft @ 1,700-5,000rpm

0-62mph 4.5 seconds

Top speed 192mph

MPG 26.8

CO2 246g/km