Bentley Continental GT V8: The Jalopnik Review

4 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Bentley Continental GT V8: The Jalopnik Review
Bentley Continental

Bentley Continental

GT V8: The Jalopnik Review

Bentley’s seen eights come and go; the 8-litre coach of 1930, the cloth-seated Eight training Bentley of the 1980s, the Le Mans-winning Speed 8 prototype of 2003. Two of those even had V8 engines, like the new Continental GT V8. Can the more-fuel-efficient octomill match the mighty W12?

Let’s find out.

Full Disclosure: Bentley wanted me to drive the new Continental GT V8 so bad, they picked me up in front of a trendy NYC hotel, whisked me off to a morning track session at Monticello Motor Club in upstate New York, then gave me a GT V8 to take home for a split-personality weekend of highway pulls and hypermiling. Sybil Dorsett, call the front desk.

Buying a 12 cylinder is, by far, the most exclusory act of car ownership. In the U.S. new twelves start in the hedge-fund-o-sphere — $137,300 (for the BMW 760i) — and although Camry money will buy an older 12-pot Jag, Bimmer or Benz, keeping such needy bastards fed and clothed is best left to the rich or wrenchy. Either way, the 12-cylinder owner belongs to an exclusive League, populated to the rafters with Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Such has been Bentley’s gambit regarding the Continental — it’s the gentleman’s exotic. Continentals are so tightly associated with Volkswagen Group’s butter-smooth, twin-turbocharged W12, the very idea of an eight- zylinder version suggests government mandates enforced by helicopter gunship. But such are the times in which we live — strange times in which the fuel economy of a Bentley is something to consider with a straight face.

Here I am eking out a solid 22 mpg average, according to the GT V8’s dash screen. On the interstate ride back from Monticello, I’d set the active cruise control to 65 mph (which, in the Continental, feels like being stuck behind a mule team), and took a nap. No, not really. But damned if that number, and far better on flat stretches, persisted despite upping the cruise to 75. Hypermiling in a Bentley?

More like kicking in the teeth of a Cato Institute counter-conservationist scholar.

Thanks be to a tall eighth gear, cylinder deactivation — the V8 cuts four cylinders at cruising speeds — and other tweaks, which by increment add up to a 40% improvement in fuel economy over the W12.

Bentley Continental

Bored practically to tears, I plant my sneaker. The ZF box kicks down five gears at once . the twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8 emits a sonic boom and we’re out. Mwahahaha! Eat my dust, plebes!

Yes, it’s a Bentley, just as thrusty and embracing of weight and density as its W12 sibling. Like the W12, the GT V8 is a heavy car that can do things other heavy cars can’t. Like Fatty Arbuckle or the late, great Heavy D, it makes no apology for its bulk; rather, its weight is a primary characteristic — like a fin de siècle bank’s fortress-thick walls.

Since the GT’s ponderousness is a core competency, it’s well served by engineering decisions that come after the fact.

The GT V8 is the second most dynamically adept Continental, after the $300,000 Supersports. It must be driven with awareness of its size and weight, but if it’s not overdriven into a corner, it can do great things — and correcting a line is much cleaner a proposition than it was in Continental GT’s of the past. And the new engine is so good, with torque for days, there’s no reason to sweat the W12.

The only sacrifice, perhaps, is a good table at the Gentlemen Archeologists’s Club, which exists only in your mind.

The Continental GT’s exterior design tweaks, squaring off of the GT’s rounded edges, introduced in 2010 have worn well, though the design remains a vexing combination of beautiful and awkward angles — a postmodern take on a late-60s muscle coupe. Regarding the new engine, the GT V8’s visual cues are neither self-conscious nor boastful; it merely wears clever, in-the-know signifiers — like the ones bourgeois suburbanites have used for decades to tell each other apart (like Nantucket-airport-code stickers).

If you hadn’t noticed, the tailpipes form dual figures of eight. Sneaky.

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