Goodwood Test: 2021 Bentley Continental GT V8 Review

Swapping the W12 power for a V8 rumble...
15th April 2021
Seán Ward



If you’re looking for a fast, luxury grand tourer then there’s every chance you’ve glanced at the Bentley Continental GT. Big, crammed with leather and tech and speedy to the point of straining your neck thanks to a big twin-turbo W12. Across two generations it has been one of the go-to GTs for nearly 20 years. The car you see here though is the V8, and is therefore less powerful, a tad slower and a good chunk less expensive than its W12 sibling. But is it any less of a Bentley? Is the speed (or even the Speed) something you’ll miss, or does it feel any less capable?

We like

  • V8 sounds nicer than the W12
  • Performance is silly for a car this large
  • Interior is relaxing and quiet

We don't like

  • Gearbox can be a little lumpy and slow at low speeds
  • Boot will gently shut on your head if you dawdle
  • Rotating display is optional



To say the original Continental GT wasn’t a looker would be a little unkind, but to say that the current car is prettier than its predecessor is more than fair. It’s still big, imposing and will perhaps, slightly unfairly, be viewed by some as brash in ways a similarly priced Aston Martin DB11 will not, but the new car looks more confident somehow, more settled and more comfortable in how it sits on the road.

At the front of the long bonnet you’ll see the large, rectangular grille that sits on the Continental, the Flying Spur and the Bentayga, which, combined with two sets of two simple, rounded lights, form the familiar Bentley look. There’s another slimmer grille above the car’s splitter, while there are two taller vents at the front corners that contain the fog lights. The curves and creases across the aluminium bodywork are more purposeful than they were on the original GT, thanks largely to a process known as superforming, where aluminium is heated to 500°C before being shaped.

There’s a lovely inward crease around each wheel arch that adds a bit more depth (imagine the car without them), while there’s another deeper imprint that runs above the sill from the vent behind the front wheels back down the car’s flank across the door, becoming shallower and shallower as it gets back towards those pronounced muscular hips. It’s the line across the car’s hips that’s my favourite, curving up and back and toward the rear lights, becoming less sharp as it does so. The rear end is relatively simple, with two oval lamps, a giant Bentley ‘B’ that doubles up as the button for the boot and four oval exhaust tips, as well as a chunky diffuser and hidden spoiler that emerges from the rear deck at speed or a button press.

A handsome creation? To my eyes yes, and as muscular as any Bentley should be without being complicated or crass.

Performance and Handling


The V8 might have less power than the W12 but you could hardly call it underwhelming. The twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 produces 550PS (404kW) at 5,750rpm and 770Nm (568lb ft) of torque from 1,960rpm to 4,500rpm, enough to propel the 2,165kg V8 machine to 62mph in 4.0 seconds dead and on to a top speed of 198mph. By comparison the W12 will manage the same 62mph sprint in 3.7 seconds and go on to 207mph, despite weighing 79kg more. But those are on paper figures, the sort of numbers you’ll only really need when you’re bragging or if you regularly travel with a stopwatch. Day-to-day this V8 is monstrous, punching noticeably hard from 2,500rpm almost all the way to the 6,800rpm redline. What’s more you get a deep, characterful V8 burble (which gets nicely louder in Sport mode), something the W12, as impressive as it is in performance terms, does not have. In that respect the V8 is the more entertaining and more engaging engine to use.

Every Bentley on sale is all-wheel-drive, and in the Continental GT there’s a maximum torque split of 38 per cent to the front and 62 per cent to the rear in Comfort and the default ‘Bentley’ driving mode, while in Sport only 17 per cent of the engine’s power will stay at the front. Engage launch control in Sport (all you need to do is stop, put your left foot on the brake with your right foot on the gas and go once the engine is holding steady just below 3,000rpm) and you’ll rocket forward in a mind bending fashion. More than two tonnes of car shouldn’t be able to leap at the horizon with such vigour. You can feel the engine’s power going mostly to the rear wheels until such time you need the fronts to help out, at which point you’ll feel the nose tug you through corners.

The ride is smooth, smoother than it should be for a car with 22-inch wheels, and that’s down to the suspension. There are aluminium wishbones forward and a multilink set-up aft, all combined with three-chamber air springs and what Bentley calls ‘Continuous Damping Control’. As well as controlling the ride height these springs offer varying levels of travel and support, giving you a pillowy soft cruiser or a firmer, keener machine depending on the drive mode. A 48V electric anti-roll bar system is optional on the V8 (standard fit on the W12), and fitted to our test car. Not having driven a Continental without the system all I can say is there’s a remarkable lack of roll and a real eagerness to the car that really shouldn’t be there for something this hefty.

The steering is nicely weighted and accurate, and the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox a truly rapid unit but with an occasional lumpiness at manoeuvring speeds. The brakes are suitably meaty and really do give the impression you’ve thrown an anchor out of the boot. Measuring 420mm up front with 10-piston calipers and 380mm at the rear with four piston calipers they’re the same as those of the W12 GT and the Flying Spur and therefore the joint largest fitted to a road car.



The Continental’s interior is really very nice. It isn’t as plush as a Rolls-Royce Ghost (the carpets, for example, as nowhere near as fluffy), but everything is crafted to a very high standard. The seats are comfortable and trimmed in immaculate leather, in our case finished with the ‘diamond-in-diamond’ pattern, each one created with 712 stitches. The air vents are heavy, substantial feeling aluminium items, while if you go for wood there’s 10m2 of the stuff throughout the interior, and the grain in the veneer will line up perfectly across the dash. The driving position is good, too, as is visibility, while the centre console is button-filled but, to be honest, I rather like that – as physical buttons are becoming few and far between in so many modern cars, it’s nice to have real things to poke and press.

Technology and Features


Climb into the Continental GT V8 and, once you’ve started the engine, you’ll notice a little bong that’ll sound familiar to anyone who’s driven a high-spec Audi, and a very similar digital instrument display (Virtual Cockpit in Audi speak). What you’ll also notice, however, is that the interface is different, the dials looking very Bentley-esque. The Bentley logo flashes up when the engine fires, too, so there’s no mistaking this for a product of anywhere but Crewe.

The optional Bentley Rotating Display is an option but a must have. Moving from a panel of wood to the central infotainment screen to three beautiful dials set into wood, the Continental’s cabin would feel very different without it. Considering it took three years to design and has its own ECU, £4,820 isn’t too much.  

There are 20-inch wheels as standard, with options for 21-inchers or 22s, as well as Bluetooth, a DAB radio, sat-nav, a CD/DVD player, Apple CarPlay. The ‘basic’ sound system is a 650W, 10-speaker unit, but you can upgrade to either a 1,500W, 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen or a 2,200W, 18-speaker Naim system. The car you see here had also been treated to the Blackline Specification, where the chrome grille, window and light surrounds go from a chrome finish to satin black.

What’s a shame is that a lot of the kit you’d use and enjoy every day is optional. The ‘Touring Specification’, which includes lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control as well as a head-up display and night vision is £6,415, while the City Specification, which adds a top view camera, traffic sign recognition and a reversing traffic warning is £4,060.

On a different note, you’d think a big V8 would use plenty of fuel wouldn’t you? Well yes, it does, or at least it uses more than a Kia Picanto. But what the V8 does at a cruise is shut down half of its cylinders to save fuel and lower its emissions, meaning you’ll see around 24mpg if you’re careful with the throttle. Granted – and I talk from experience here – that’s very difficult to do with a burbling engine, but if you really concentrate it is just possible.



Any notion of the V8 being the weaker Continental GT sibling should be binned. You don’t drive a car on paper, you experience it on the road, and from where I was sitting the Continental GT V8 felt fast, composed and just as luxurious as any other Bentley. And that V8 engine? It adds a sporty sparkle that you don’t get from the capable but quieter W12, and if I was weighing up the two it would be the V8 that would get the nod.



4.0-litre twin-turbo V8


550PS (404kW) @ 5,750rpm


770Nm (568lb ft) @ 1,960rpm-4,500rpm


Eight-speed dual-clutch, all-wheel-drive

Kerb weight



4.0 seconds

Top speed


Fuel economy


CO2 emissions




Our score

4 / 5

This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.

  • Evo
    4.5 out of 5
  • Autocar
    4.5 out of 5
  • Top Gear
    4.5 out of 5