Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible
Tweaks to the GT V8 S make it look slightly more aggressive
- Specially engineered exhaust system delivers a wonderful noise
- High-quality trim throughout the cabin
- Drivetrain feels beautifully engineered
- Much-improved handling balance and overall enjoyment
- Weight overwhelms the tyres before reaching the chassis' limits
- Official fuel economy difficult to match in the real world
- Some standard cabin parts could look a little more expensive
- Large alloy wheels vulnerable to kerb impacts
Following on from the success of the original V8 model, almost exactly two years later Bentley has taken the idea one step further with the sharper, tauter S version. More power and more torque combine with significant suspension upgrades to create something better suited to winding roads without compromising the overall trademark comfort that Bentley values above all else.
The GT V8 S comes at a time when Bentley has returned to racing after a decade out. The success of its V8-engined GT3 racing car will, the company hopes, help to inspire a new surge of sales and general interest in the S. With this car, true sporting pretentions make a welcome return to Bentley's range.
The S is built to demolish corners as confidently as every Continental GT already dispatches straights. With around 2.5 tonnes pressing down on its wheels the Convertible is no lightweight and needs serious structural additions to keep the mass under control. Highlights include stiffer springs, revised and uprated dampers and suspension bushes that have been stiffened by up to 70%.
While the GT V8 S is not designed to take a fight directly to its much lighter, nimbler opposition, it is designed to give a new slant on the already highly successful Continental GT. No real process of lightening has taken place in order to maintain the exquisite interior quality that all Bentleys possess, but the driving experience is markedly different.
The convertible body style is anticipated to be a big seller. Despite its higher price compared to the hard-top, many of Bentley's key sun-soaked markets are perfect for open-air motoring and the bombastic V8 throb from the V8 S's exhausts can be better appreciated with no roof in the way, and there's little or no real handling compromise.
Our verdict on the Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible
While the differences on paper might be small, the overall shift in driving impressions is huge. The GT V8 S is much more controlled in corners, hiding its weight remarkably well while offering an adjustable suspension system that allows both amazing cruising comfort and tight handling dynamics. With the optional Sports Exhaust fitted, the depth of the V8 S's charm exceeds any other Continental before it.
There is little difference in terms of fuel economy and emissions when comparing this car to the standard V8 Convertible, so it maintains its impressive cruising range - a quality specifically requested and enjoyed by existing Continental GT buyers. Its CO2 output is respectably low for its size, and as a sportier, more exclusive way of buying into the brand it is likely to retain high residual values.
Space and practicality
Although this is a large car, interior storage space is at a little bit of a premium, with relatively ineffective door pockets a low point. There are several storage bins; a closed one underneath the central armrest and a smaller, open one beyond the gear lever. The glove box is of a good size though. Boot space is much more pleasing on the whole, with a long, deep load area easily accessible through an ample aperture.
Controls and display
The dials and displays in the V8 S are all just about perfect. There's no showboating and the emphasis is on ease of use and legibility, but it excels at both. It's very functional, clear and informative, but arguably it's not as exciting as it could have been. All the controls fall into standard Volkswagen Group locations so it's incredibly easy to pilot even for past Polo owners, and the digital displays are easy to read at a glance.
The S uses a similar adjustable suspension setup to the normal V8, with four options between 'Comfort' and 'Sport'. Despite the S model's additional capabilities at the Comfort end the ride quality is sublime, with very few vibrations and bumps making their way through to the cabin with any vigour. The seats are multi-way adjustable and suited to most sizes and shapes of body, but especially slim people might find them a little wider than ideal through corners.
The Convertible's roof is thick and well sound insulated, but it potentially still vulnerable to cutting tools. An advanced alarm and immobiliser are fitted as standard. Cars like the GT V8 S are nearly impossible to steal without the key these days, and security is further helped by the absence of any visible locking mechanism on the boot. Heavily-tinted security glass is not standard but can be specified if required.
There is not much publicly available data for Bentley's safety systems, but the car uses a clever four-wheel-drive system for extra traction, providing a surer footing in wet conditions. Airbags are fitted all around the cabin and there are pop-up rollover protectors should the worst happen to the Convertible. A full, extremely advanced selection of active electronic safety gizmos is also installed.
The GT V8 S is set up to be a more sporting drive than the existing V8, and thanks to new throttle response tuning it's definitely livelier. A relative absence of turbo lag and a wave of torque throughout the rev range make it very rapid, and its real appeal comes through fast, uneven, sweeping bends where the platform is both supremely stable and beautifully poised. Unlike the standard V8 it does still manage to hide its bulk through tighter corners and simply overwhelms its tyres before reaching the limits of the chassis.
Family car appeal
The name Continental is not given by accident. There are few better cars to cross continents with in comfort with the family in tow. ISOfix child seat mounts are standard on the rear seats if needed, and there's more than enough room for families of up to four and their luggage. The materials are expensive and perhaps sensitive to damage from scratching fingers, but for older children there are few drawbacks.
First car appeal
The extra cost over the standard V8 is relatively small given that car's already huge list price, but it's hardly 'affordable', and is very unlikely to be within financial reach of a first-time car buyer. Its size and slightly restricted visibility also count against it for young or inexperienced drivers, and despite the fact that it's actually very easy to drive carefully, the sheer power that's readily available would be too big a risk for novices.
Quality and image
Few luxury brands put quite the same emphasis on quality as Bentley, and the firm boasts an enviable reputation for quality of materials and finishes. The GT V8 S has the same standard of build as the W12-powered flagship and as such is resplendent in very luxurious quilted leather upholstery and wood polished to a high gloss. The drivetrain also feels incredibly solid and substantial, adding to an overall sense of an extremely satisfyingly well made car.
While it's no sliding door-equipped MPV, the Bentley is very easy to get in and out of. The seats are shaped to avoid getting in the way of either front or rear seat occupants. The long doors extend well past the typical position of the front seats, so accessing the back is surprisingly easy too. To overcome the difficulty for people in the front in reaching the seat belts, neat automated arms push the belts forward, to within reach.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
Satellite navigation is standard, so of course the large screen that it operates through is standard too. The stereo systems, including the astonishingly good Naim Audio upgrade with built-in hard drive, are partially controlled via this touchscreen interface with some aspects of the functionality reserved for old-fashioned buttons. It can sometimes feel like a clumsy and unnecessary combination but the screen is bright and clear, and the system does accept SD card, CD and auxiliary inputs as well as Bluetooth.
Colours and trim
As with the ordinary GT V8, the S is aimed at a younger buyer than the W12. As well as the usual reserved, gentlemanly hues there are also some more adventurous shades that look fantastic on the GT's shapely shell. The interior trim is of the highest quality and the trim details, including the aviation-inspired push-pull air vent switches, look superb. The GT V8 S has a defined roguish look about it, especially in brighter colours.
Variable-assistance power steering makes the car surprisingly easy to manoeuvre at low speed, although rear visibility could be better. There are parking sensors to help guide the driver into gaps, but the sheer size of the GT will make appropriate spaces harder than usual to find. The two-door coupe body style means long doors, which make bay parking doubly tricky by increasing the necessary empty space either side of the car.
Space saver spare wheel fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 4.0-litre (500bhp; 521bhp), 6.0-litre (567bhp). Transmission options: 8-speed automatic only. Trim levels: GT, GT V8, GT V8 S.
Aston Martin DB9 A large V12 engine gives different character but shorter cruising range
Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG Sensible appearance and all-round ability hides ballistic performance
Maserati GranTurismo S Significantly cheaper and lighter than the Bentley, but less advanced
BMW M6 Again much cheaper, but more inconspicuous and just as efficient