JUN 05th 2015
Bentley Continental GT Review ‑ The Refined Hooligan
The sleeping giants of Norway’s infamous ‘Troll Path’ remained disappointingly silent as we thundered over the mountains in our new-for-2015 spec Bentley Continental GT V8 S.
Perhaps it wasn’t too surprising; legend tells how Norwegian trolls roam only at night and are petrified (as in literally turned to piles of rocks) during the daylight hours. But at least our cavalcade of Contis gave the tourists at Stigora – the highest point of the Trolligsten and a honeypot for its views – something loud and spectacular to gaze upon.
Especially in fruitily-burbling V8 S form and in our car’s chosen hue of Monaco Yellow, the Bentley Continental GT is a car to get you noticed, even if it’s not quite as rare as an authenticated troll sighting. (Except perhaps here in Norway where a) trolls actually live and b) punitive tax laws make any form of luxury motoring a particularly esoteric pursuit.)
The current Continental GT has been around since 2003, and is in large part responsible for Bentley’s claim to be the ‘most sought-after’ luxury brand in the world. Now it’s time for a freshen-up.
Bentley’s 2015 changes to the Continental family are largely cosmetic, with a new more compact radiator shell, revised front wings, re-profiled bootlid , new bumpers front and back plus new rear diffusers for the V8 S and W12 Speed models; the whole package designed to ‘sharpen-up’ the aesthetics and further enhance the Continental’s muscular athleticism.
Looks good too, doesn’t it? As ever the coupe is the most cohesive from a design perspective (might this be one of those shapes that one day makes it into the pantheon of ‘design classics’?), whereas the convertible’s charms are probably at their most beguiling when enjoyed from the cockpit. Although perhaps not at the top of Trolligsten on a freezing morning with sleet in the air…
Being gentleman with sporting predilections, we spent as much time as possible in the V8 S coupe. (Which, in spite of our protestations about that lurid yellow paint, I think we were both secretly seduced by.)
Unlike the mighty, yet thoroughly refined, 6.0 litre W12 model (which for 2015 gains a modest power and torque increase bringing the numbers up to an immutably immodest 582bhp and 531lb ft), which is probably the world’s favourite luxury boulevardier, the V8 S has a slightly more rumbustious feel.
Not overtly rumbustious I hasten to add, you probably need a Continental GT3 R for that, which GRR drove earlier this year.
No, the V8 S is very much a gentleman’s take on the boy-racer genre; quick as you like thanks to 521bhp and 502lb ft from its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, hunkered down on stiffer springs and dampers, that satisfyingly fruity sports exhaust and (typically – this is all bespoke, remember…) turned-out with a black leather and engine-turned aluminium trimmed interior. If it doesn’t quicken your pulse slightly you’re probably not a motoring enthusiast.
Part of the appeal is that it’s all so easily ‘usable’ – a proper four seater, with four wheel drive allowing the prodigious output to be unleashed in all sorts of conditions where a rear-drive supercar might be relying on torque-sapping electronics to save you from flying backwards into the nearest hedge. Or in Norway, over the nearest precipice.
It rained up in the mountains quite a lot on our ‘Grand Tour’, and we were genuinely impressed by the car’s stability and poise at speeds on twisting, challenging roads sluiced by rain and run-off water.
Of course the V8 S is largely a known quantity already, the model arriving last year as part of an array of significant technical upgrades to the Continental under the skin, all aimed at upping the dynamic appeal of a car that’s been part of the supercar scenery for some little while. The road-test brigade loved it then, and now Bentley has tweaked the design to match the extra dynamism, the model is even more compelling.
In fact Bentley reckons the Continental family offers the consummate Grand Touring experience however you like it nuanced, which is why we ended up on this 2015 launch event taking in 230 miles of Norway’s spectacular Western fjords and mountains in the first place.
With mixed weather and some pretty challenging road conditions to negotiate, the V8 and W12 Continentals all made it look easy – whether wafting in the lap of luxury with that monster 12-cylinder motor under foot, or reeling in the mountain roads with the sporty V8 S as a plaything.
Oh, and now it’s fully Wi-Fi enabled, meaning you can have a different device hooked up to the cloud from each of the four passenger seats – so it’s even easier to share your Grand Tour pictures too.
Or for that matter, to keep tabs on your favourite website, which will shortly be featuring the new Continental family on the only slightly less-mountainous Goodwood Hillclimb at the Festival of Speed!