If you haven’t checked in on the Bentley brand in a decade or more, the 2015 Bentley Continental GT V8 S is a great starting point from which to grasp exactly how much this once-stodgy brand has changed. Its all-wheel-drive GT family can be seen as a high-shouldered exotic in some respects—performance numbers, for instance—yet it carries an exclusive touring-car gloss throughout, and no sacrifice in comfort along the way.
The GT V8 S model, introduced this past model year, rises to the occasion in 2015 as the performance touring car of the lineup, with a higher-output 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 making 521 horsepower and 502 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission that includes an S mode with sharper throttle response and a more aggressive shift logic. GT V8 S models can get to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, and to a top speed of 192 mph. GT V8 models carry their output of 500 hp and 487 lb-ft (and sub-five-second 0-60 time) over from last year. Both the GT Coupe and Convertible remain also offered with the top 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged W-12 engine that produces 631 hp.
Those W-12 versions do remain the straight-line kings of the lineup, though. They make 567 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, while the Speed editions pump power up to 616 hp and 590 lb-ft. Bentley puts the 12-cylinder coupe's 0-60 mph times at less than 4.3 seconds and sets its top speed of 195 mph, with convertibles running slightly slower, and Speed coupes hitting 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and topping out at 205 mph. These are astonishing feats for cars that weigh nearly three tons.
Despite the higher output of the W12 models, we’ve noted that V8 models feel perkier and more vivid behind the wheel; we expect an extension of that in V8 S models and hope to soon update this review on that driving experience. Also, according to Bentley the V8 models can go more than 500 miles (with some self control, of course) on a tank, thanks in part to a cylinder-deactivation system that runs the direct-injection engine in V-4 mode under light-load conditions.
In any case, the GT comes with an all-wheel drive system that uses a Torsen differential and 40/60 front/rear torque split that puts all that engine torque to the road with finesse—and allows a composed, refined, and capable driving experience even when the roads aren’t dry. The GT has sublime, capable road manners for a vehicle with this mass and length, and its standard computer-controlled shock system—Continuous Damping Control (CDC)—allows three different modes, permitting you to push this car hard into tight corners without you or the car feeling ragged. And it of course excels on higher-speed sweepers and in all-day Interstate hauls.
With the last redesign of the GT, for 2012, when it was more firmly separated from the Flying Spur sedans, the GT earned a somewhat more chiseled look, with creased aluminum sheetmetal that helps it stand as a sort of sharp-shouldered piece of rolling art, while the GTC (convertible) gets what we consider to be a somewhat more traditional (and relaxed) look. As for the S model, it gets a somewhat different set of visual priorities, with a rear diffuser, a more aggressive front splitter, and different side sills to match, as well as 20-inch wheels and red-painted brake calipers. The V8 cars are distinguished by their blacked-out grille, red-enameled badging, and figure-eight exhaust pipes.
With as much attention that’s paid to interior details, cabin space isn’t really what the Continental GT and GTC have going for it. While the front seats are cross-country comfortable, there’s a little less elbow room than you might expect; and rear-seat accommodations in the GT include two bucket seats, with far less legroom than you might expect from a car that’s the length of a mid-size sedan.
Yet like the Continental’s Flying Spur sedan counterparts, the GT coupes and GTC convertibles are built with the look and feel of a hand-built interior, and superbly appointed. GTC convertibles come with a power top that folds in 25 seconds; it's woven with great quality and damps out a lot of ambient road noise. We heartily recommend the Mulliner package of quilted leather, knurled chrome, and turned aluminum trim, as well as the optional lambs-wool rugs. The convertible top for Continental GTC models is offered in three different colors, while there are four different two-tone hide colors within the standard range (before even considering customization). V8 models get exclusive Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus wood veneer inside, as well as an Aliade cloth headliner and a short center console instead of the full-length console in W12 models.
The entire lineup includes electronic climate control, Bluetooth and a DVD navigation system that also controls climate and audio functions. The navigation system sports Google maps and a vibrant 8-inch LCD touchscreen. A Naim audio system has pure, flat sound, for just an additional $7,000 or so.
Although neither of the U.S. safety agencies have crash-tested a Continental (if they ever did, we might weep) safety concerns seem almost like a moot point considering the GT’s stout construction, and its full range of airbags—and the pop-up roll bars that GTC models get for extra protection. The standard rearview camera system is much appreciated, though, as the high-and-far rear can be challenging to see over.
NOTE: This review was written to reflect preliminary expectations for the 2015 model year and will be updated nearer to on-sale date.
- Bold V-8 or over-the-top W-12
- Quicker than it looks
- Wood, leather, and chrome
- GTC's top-down driving bliss
- New S model narrows the divide
- Very pricey, even for what it is
- Big and bulky
- Skimpy rear-seat room
- Thirsty W-12