Bentley's new GT V8 S and Mulsanne Speed offer power in a plush package
Another brace of Bentleys is making its way onto our roads, cementing this grand, old British brand's status as the ultimate creator of luxurious grand tourers (underpinned by German engineering and management nous). There are many claimants to this prestigious title, especially in a car market that feels saturated with high-end, big-cost cars pitched at the swelling wealth pool of the world's emerging markets.
The Continental GT V8 S is a recent addition to the range. Bentley has always suggested that the hefty GT model would persist as a 'living classic', just as Porsche has continuously evolved the 911 over half a century. The GT has only eleven years under its belt, but in that time it's been subject to substantial tweaks and revisions. In-car technology has altered beyond recognition since it originally debuted, and engine technology has come on in leaps and bounds.
This particular model, the V8 S, swaps out the 12-cylinder lump found in the first GTs. Back then, all that power was needed to shift the Bentley's substantial bulk. It may only be a two-door coupe, but the Continental GT has always had a rather tank-like image, bolstered by its vast wheels and imposing profile. When the car was given a visual overhaul in 2011, a V8 was introduced, saving weight and fuel consumption and giving the car a sportier, slightly more aggressive image.
The new V8 S is even more sporting, yet it can still be operated in the wafty, carefree driving mode that suits big Bentleys so well. The company makes much of its 'effortless' power delivery, so simply brushing the throttle allows you to drive as if gliding. Switch the car into sport mode or pump the gas with more gusto and a brasher character instantly emerges.
Surrounded by all this metal, leather and wood, the question you have to ask is whether the extra power is needed, for the standard GT V8 wasn't exactly a slouch. But to someone, somewhere, that little bit extra is always desirable, as evinced by another new model breaking cover this week.
The Mulsanne never lacked pace, but in its new 'Speed' configuration this monumental limousine is taken to another level. Bentley has always been helmed by a big, bruising saloon. The Mulsanne was the most technically advanced Bentley ever built when it debuted in 2010. It was also a platform upon which the craftsmen and women of Crewe could be truly unleashed, lavishing bespoke detailing upon every inch of the interior.
The Mulsanne Speed throws in some subtle, exclusive detailing, but for those who choose to drive themselves (and Bentley notes cattily that, unlike in certain rivals, its owners are never mistaken for the chauffeur when they get behind the wheel) the big changes are under the bonnet and in the 'brains'. Some engineering jiggery-pokery has upped the top speed (189mph, since you asked) and boosted the range while giving the driver a more involved experience at the helm (snappier acceleration, steering and gear shifts).
This is a king-of-the-hill car, a drag racer in hand-tailored racing overalls for big personalities. As automotive statements go, the Mulsanne Speed leaves very little unsaid.