Bentley Continental GT V8
It’s an old cliché, but the idea that dog owners unwittingly resemble their pets is largely down to confirmation bias - you only clock the matches made in heaven and discard the rest. Likewise, there’s a similar case to be made for car owners, only this time the pairings aren’t so much unwitting as carefully calculated by the owners themselves.
Fancy yourself as bold, sporty and outrageous? That’ll be an Italian sports car. Classy, traditional and tasteful? Perhaps something British. Although the analogy falls short in this age of multi-car garages - at the top end of the market, the well-heeled simply buy the lot and pick their daily steed in the same manner as some people chose their socks (according to occasion, mood or even weather) - yet there’s no denying an element of self-reflection in the cars that we drive.
So what to make of the owner of the Bentley Continental GT V8? Here is a car with a twin pronged sales pitch; by replacing the original GT’s 12 cylinder engine with a V8, it is now lighter and therefore more fuel efficient and less ponderous on twisty roads (Bentley quote an impressive 40% improvement in the figures).
Straight up, we can probably dismiss the relevance of the V8’s call to austerity. No-one buys a Bentley with a view to cutting running costs and it’s a safe bet that the V8’s improvements in this area get only a cursory grunt when perusing the specification. But even if frugality and cutting C02 aren’t one’s stated mission in life, the Bentley V8 owner can at least console themselves with a far longer range than the original 12-cylinder - all the better for putting some serious distance between Paris and piste, or Kensington and the Cairgnorms.
The new engine also gives the car a different character. It waffles and roars, whereas the original wafted and surged. Bentley is an age-old British engineering concern that has been given a thorough going over by the fine toothcombs of VW’s expansive car-building and brand-shaping experience. New Bentley tries hard not to over-egg the raw numbers, preferring to harp on about ’limitless power’ and the benefits of always having plenty in reserve. The company’s great racing heritage - which has continued well into the modern day - is best represented by the Speed models, pumped up W12 cars with body kits, stripped out interiors and a focus on raw power.
The V8 is a kind of Junior Speed, with subtle bodywork changes over the bigger-engined car and an almost imperceptibly improved sense of agility. The GT is always going to be a big car, regardless of how it is powered, and the V8’s 500 bhp output still places it firmly in the upper echelons of the car market.
Inside, all is as it should be. The GT’s comprehensive refresh last year saw parent company VW splice all manner of updated electronics, gearboxes and other elements into the traditional cocoon of leather and wood. All signs are that Bentley consider the GT to be their equivalent of the 911, a model that has stood Porsche in good stead for four decades, its endless variants all sharing a basically similar visual DNA. We can probably expect the GT to stick around for a few decades yet, and the V8 is a fine addition to an already noble family line.