Bentley's Continental GT V8 delivers automotive pleasure that is multi-sensory
Entley’s eagerly anticipated third generation continentals are available in two editions – a V8 (choose Coupe or Convertible) and an enhanced version of the 6-litre W12.
Both have been designed, engineered and handcrafted in Britain; and it bears highlighting that the latter really does mean just that.
At the Bentley factory in Crewe, artisans specialising in the array of high-end materials that go into each car sew, cut, shape and polish by hand. The initials of the artisan who moulds Bentley’s exceptional leather upholstery are even etched inside each car (discreetly placed so as not to be visible to the eye… but they’re there).
The standards to which the Bentley leather is held outmatch those of the most rarefied designer handbag makers. Sourced in Europe, where there are fewer insects and fencing made of wood is standard, the hides are carefully inspected to be without imperfections, before being laser-cut by hand and machine by skilled workers.
When it comes to the sleek wood veneers that grace the dashboard, the story begins in 200-year old sustainable forests whose root burls are hand-matched, sanded, lacquered and cured before being fitted to the car.
What this means is that the superlative driver experience begins as soon as you deploy the key fob. The door opens with a reassuringly soft click and the seatbelt extends silently as the dashboard screen unfurls and lights up. The driver finds themselves in an environment that affirms their status and naturally, their exceptional taste in grand tourers. Of course, it’s not just about the sensual smell of top-tier leather or the pleasingly cool sensation of hand-polished chrome details.
A sheer jolt of automotive joy ensues as soon as the car is on the open road, with its 20-inch 10-spoke alloys, elegant V8 badge and muscular, streamlined shape lending it an unmistakable road presence. It’s the first of Bentley’s production cars to have an entire body side made using the company’s new Super Formed technology that precisely shapes the aluminium into ever more sculptural forms.
Pouncing onto the road, the Conti’s profile is longer and lower, allowing the bonnet to be extended and nose lowered. If Bentley made felines, it’s likely that their coiled grace wouldn’t be too dissimilar from this beast with its diamond-like LED Matrix headlamps that catch and refract the lights, evoking the eye of a cat, and its purrs and growls.
The sound of it is simply magnificent to listen to, and it is hard to resist hitting the gas just to hear the V8 engine roar. There is so much aural pleasure; a distinctive, burbling exhaust elicited when your foot hits the metal a little more insistently. That coupled with the satisfying sensation of being gently pushed back into your seat as the Conti nips forwards is an endlessly agreeable reminder of the power that you wield with near effortlessness.
That’s thanks of course to the 4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine with its hefty 542 bhp (550PS) and 568 lb.fit (770Nm) of torque. It slides to 100 km/h in just four seconds, which barely breaks a sweat – the top speed of 318 km/h may only be one that motorists can experience within the confines of a driving track but simply knowing it’s there lends the driving experience a certain… confidence.
And it really does feel as though this exquisitely refined beast has been crafted with the drive centre-stage – from the dashboard and array of controls at your fingertips, to the wonderfully ergonomic seats.
There’s enough room in the back to fit your passengers just about comfortably, although there’s a lot to be said for setting out solo, adjusting the 20-way seat to your exact liking, and cranking up the Bang and Olufsen 16-speaker system to neighbour-bothering levels.
Of course, they won’t hear you in your cocoon – and with an array of driver assist features such as Active Lane, Traffic Jam and Park Assist, the sense of effortless joy will see you right up to the door of your office, beachside staycation destination, or wherever your whim takes you.