September 21, 2014 @ 05:41 PM

Bentley Continental V8 S - big performance

Bentley has seen fit to slip in an S variant of the Continental V8 for the more performance oriented among us. Bring it on Words: Chris Ng


Words: Chris Ng
Photography: Bentley Motors Malaysia

“Just a day or two ago, one of the customers drove this car around the track. When he got back to the pits, he decided to buy the GT V8 instead. He said the noise was too much for him,” said Peter, one of Bentley’s reps from UK, as he rides shotgun while I am completing two out of three laps in Sepang International Circuit.
This car he is referring to is the new Bentley Continental GT V8 S, and it is causing a huge ruckus on the track. With right foot putting mere pressure on the accelerator, this Bentley sounds out an intimidating battlecry before slashing down the distance between two apexes at a frightening speed. Downshift the gears and the car seemingly explodes in a sea of bangs and pops; upshift and the guttural noises the engine makes take on a different and very adrenaline-inducing battle song.
Yes, it is making all the right kind of noises that come directly from the engine. None of the sound is being piped in or seemingly channeled into the cabin or even played through the stereo; Bentley doesn’t need such nonsense. Each and every decibel that reaches my overworked eardrums is delivered directly from the source – the hand-crafted metal of the four-litre twin-turbo with its cylinders arranged in two banks of four cylinders in a ‘V’ formation.
While you might find the same engine beating inside the Continental GT V8, this one has been enchanted with the ‘S’ treatment. Power is up by 21PS and 20Nm of torque for a sum of 521bhp at 6,000rpm and 680Nm that can be summoned from a mere 1,700rpm. Explosive, more so when the engine is paired with the proven ZF eight-speed automatic. The drivetrain is also said to produce no more CO2 than the standard V8 and can still run 805km before needing to be fed dinosaurs. Which doesn’t really mean much on a racetrack. 
It will do naught to a hundred in 4.5 seconds, 0-160kph in 10.2 seconds and 80-120kph in 2.9 seconds. Top speed is clocked at 309kph and if you’ve ordered the GT V8 S with the Lower Body Styling Specification, the car will come with a front splitter, side sills and a rear diffuser that improve front aerodynamics and reduce front-end lift to give stability at very high speeds. Not that I could enjoy that ‘very high speed’ because I have just completed about two-thirds of the speedometer and have used up all of the road. It’s the first set of three corners; two corkscrew tight with the third a sweeping right hander.
It is a marble-shrinking, eye-ball dilating experience coming down from speed. It would seem a huge ask whenever the entire weight of the car shifts to that singular point in the front. Did I miss the brake point? Did I hit on the discs too early? Or, too late? Will I beach this barge and walk the mile of shame?
Maybe I erred too much on the side of caution but even so, each corner is taken without the wrong kind drama. The continuous all-wheel drive would always give me a good balance. The aluminium double-wishbone front and trapezoidal multi-link rear give me the precise handling needed to hit the apex on its head. It’s lowered by another 10mm from the already lowered Continental V8 for more stability. The entire chassis has been hardened too. Spring rates are increased to 45% at the front and 33% at the rear. The bushings and anti-roll bar are stiffened by 70% and 54% respectively. 
Yet, as I feed in the responsive and very talkative steering, I can still feel all sorts of ‘natural laws of the universe’ trying to unseat the car from the road and beach it in the gravel. The weight is, in all honestly, immense. The Convertible that I’m driving tips the scales at 2,470kg (the Coupe weighs less at 2,295kg). That’s two and a half tonnes, mind you. Battling that villainous force of nature is the Continuous Damping Control, henceforth known as CDC, which tries very hard this car on an even plane. There is a bit of a roll, initially, before the car quickly pulls back to default.
Let it not be said that the Continental handles like a whale. The largeness of its size belies its agility. You can swing it around corners, chuck it into bends and drag it past long sweeping corners and the V8 S handles better than it should for a supersized car. Spirited too, the Electronic Stability Control has been dialed back to return more control to the driver. Should the system intervene (read: muck up), the engine torque cuts back in quickly letting you get up to speed as if it is all part of the plan. 
The rest of the GT V8 S is a thoroughbred Bentley, which means a car that does not compromise anything. Take for instance, that flesh-and-blood hands are still needed to put this car together. The stitching you see – yes, that’s hand stitched. The engine is also assembled by hand. In fact, everything apart from applying glue in precise amounts in specific points, which are done by robots, are done by the crew in Crewe. 
And then, there’s the quality. 17 hides are needed to wrap the interior. That’s 17 perfect hides because slight blemishes are unacceptable. So who knows how many cows are discarded before finding the perfect 17. The buttons are made to feel mechanical with each push and pull, in spite that everything is electronically-controlled. Perhaps it may seem over the top, superficial even, but this is a Bentley and specific criteria must be met.
So, perhaps this attention to detail is part of the reason why Bentley is enjoying increasing sales all over the world. In the microcosm that is South East Asia, Bentley sold around 299 cars last year, approximately 100 of which are in Singapore. In Malaysia, 33 models left the showrooms. Fortune continues to smile on them this year. Already, the region has recorded a 45% increase in sales this year compared to the same time last year. And it looks like Bentley wants to continue to record big, shouty numbers with the Continental GT V8 S.
The question remain, do Bentley really need an S variant of the Continental V8? Well, apparently, they think so.  Market research has shown that ‘S’ models tend to sell better because of the significant performance gains for not-so-much money over the standard models. Maserati did it, Porsche went down the same route and even Aston Martin has an ‘S’ car in the stable. Now, Bentley wants a piece of that pie. Now with more horses in the mix, it would seem that Bentley will carve out its own healthy slice. After all, the Continental GT V8 S is opulence and superiority done the right way.

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