Bentley gets frugal V8

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The Bentley of old has always had the creamy-smooth yet powerful 6.0-litre W12 engine under the bonnet, producing huge swathes of torque, a huge top speed but with a somewhat disappointing mile per gallon figure.

But that is all about to change, thanks to a new V8 that I have driven recently. Having just 500 horsepower, it also has the ability to run on just four cylinders (two from each bank that shut down) on a lightened right foot and thus enabling it to have a dramatic effect on fuel returns and emissions.

These days, the twin-turbo V8 has to have all that power to push the Bentley’s vast bulk around, and with it have a torque figure of 487lb-ft at just over 1,700 revs per minute. Despite it having twin blowers there is no turbo lag whatsoever, just a seamless, effortless amount of power.

Talking of which it still harnesses it to the road via a rear-biased four wheel drive set up which gives Crewe’s supercar a handy, welcome advantage when the going gets slippy. Advanced ESP stability control helps in ‘sport traction’ mode allowing the driver extra scope to enjoy the handling, with the safety net still in place.

The Conti GT still uses the eight-speed transmission built by ZF, and can be used as a full automatic or by paddles behind the steering wheel.

Top speed for the new V8 here is 180 miles per hour, with 60 taking a scant 4.8 seconds. But it’s the fuel savings that is the real plus point here; the previous W12 would see single figures quite easily when pushing hard, perhaps mid teens on a decent run. Here, the V8 still has all the power and panache an engine has to have to be installed in a Bentley, yet delivers an astonishing 26 miles to the gallon, with the emission figure set at 246g/km.

This, as I’m sure you are aware is a remarkable achievement in a car that is synonymous with power, performance and luxury.

I just love the styling cues the V8 has also – the black grille is unique to the car, and if you were to raid the options list you could have larger alloy wheels, again painted black for a very special-looking car indeed. I smile when I walk around the back of the Bentley and see unique exhaust outlet pipes in the shape of an ‘8’ layed on one side – a real touch of class and elegance that tells you this is the V8 model.

The matrix grille seems to stand more upright now than slanted, and the lights are new bejewelled around their circumference with eye-catching LED daytime running lights. The fit and finish is exemplary of course, and the signature ‘floating’ LED lamps extend around the wings, giving meaning to the car’s purposeful, somewhat wide stance.

The hand-crafted interior remains sumptuous with acres of veneer, leather and woods; the fascia has been designed with a notion of symmetry, the centre console rising up to divide two epic paths of veneer, resembling the Bentley logo itself. It still is and remains a proper four-seater car with the transmission tunnel making its way down the centre of the car.

Price-wise it now undercuts the £137,000 W12 by a staggering £14,000 and the desirability of owning a Bentley has seen the residuals get even stronger.

Latest technology has prevailed here then, and given the glittering heritage that Bentley has, many more years to come of producing sports coupes looks well and truly assured.

Nick Jones