In these more frugal times, even a brand like Bentley needs to steer away from conspicuous levels of consumption that used to be the watchword for high-performance luxury car makers. Statements such as “If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it”, have been replaced by “..it has quite a modest carbon footprint”.
And whilst Bentley still produce the 6-litre W12 Continental GT, the new V8 models are likely to become the biggest sellers in the range.
Both GT (coupe) and GTC (convertible) V8 models will debut at the North American International Auto Show, Detroit next January and offer exceptional power-to-emissions performance (for a Bentley), although interestingly Bentley fail to provide any specific numbers on what to expect. They do however state that the V8 model Continental is 40% more fuel efficient than the W12 flagship, which should be more than enough incentive to bring new customers to the brand.
With a power output of 500bhp at 6000 rev/min and peak torque of 660Nm (487 lb ft) which from 1700 to 5000 rev/min, the V8 engine is 67bhp and 29 lb ft down on its W12 sibling, but presumably the new engine will be slightly lighter even though both V8 and W12 powerplants share the same capacity.
Combined with a new close-ratio 8-speed automatic transmission, performance translates into a 4.6 second acceleration time for the 0-60 mph sprint and a top speed of around 188mph. So, with the W12 engined Continental quoted with a 4.4 seconds 0-60 mph potential and 198mph top speed, customers are unlikely to notice much difference on anything other than a 2-mile airstrip.
To illustrate the Continental GT V8’s new frugality, Bentley say it can travel over 500 miles (800km) on a single tank of fuel, which will come as something of a shock to past and present W12 owners who will have been more used to filling their tanks every other day.
The new V8 engine features what’s called a variable displacement, with a highly sophisticated engine management system ensuring a seamless and imperceptible transition from V8 to V4 mode under light throttle loads. The high-techn V8 also features high pressure direct injection, low friction bearings, thermal management, energy recuperation via the charging system, and innovative packing of the turbocharger for greater efficiency.
First and foremost, Bentley encourage us to point out how differently the V8 powered Conti sounds from its W12 stable mate – whereas the W12 is smooth and unobtrusive, there is more of a growl to the V8’s soundtrack.
The V8 powered Continental GT and GTC models are distinguished by a black gloss matrix grille with chrome frame and centre bar, a red enamel Bentley ‘B’ badge, and a black matrix three-segment lower front bumper divided by distinctive body-coloured strakes.
At the rear, unique chromed ‘figure eight’ exhaust tailpipes, a dark lower valance and red enamel ‘B’ bootlid badge emphasise the sporty, contemporary identity of the new V8s.
Both models are specified with 20-inch alloy wheels as standard with an optional 21-inch six-spoke design which is available in dramatic Diamond Black (exclusive to the Continental V8) or Diamond Silver finishes.
Inside the cabin, an Eliade cloth headlining, new contemporary Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus veneers, optional two-tone leather colour split and short centre console continue the fresh, sporting design theme.
Both new models continue to use the Continental’s all-wheel drive transmission system, which employs an advanced Torsen differential and a 40:60 rear biased power split.
Further details and UK pricing will be released in early 2012.