2013 Bentley Continental GTC V8

2013 Bentley Continental GTC V8 2013 Bentley Continental GTC V8
Instrumented Test

For entry-level—but hardly base—versions of its Continental GT line, Bentley installs a V-8 in place of the usual W-12. Big B says excising four cylinders improves fuel economy, but we suspect its aim is mostly to sell more very expensive cars to more very wealthy people. La Bonnotte po-tay-toes, La Bonnotte po-tah-toes. Either way, the V-8 model is no ­penalty job—think IWC Schaffhausen case with an ETA Valgranges movement.

Like the 12-cylinder, the Audi-derived eight-holer is strapped with two turbos, packs the output of a nuclear sub (500 horsepower and 487 pound-feet), and shoves you in the back like a schoolyard bully. “Distinctive V-8 growl” is listed as standard, but that sells it way, way short. With the top down in this GTC, the noise under full boot was so monstrous we checked our blind spots to see if someone had released a kraken.

This furious sound comes from a tech-heavy marvel bristling with direct injection, alternator-based energy regeneration, active engine mounts, cylinder deactivation, a “hot-V” placement for the turbos, and possibly a couple vials of HGH. Note, though, that the tune here leaves something on the shelf: The same basic engine makes 520 horses in the Audi S8. When it’s not proclaiming itself aloud, a black grille and red Bentley badges announce the V-8 model.

And it’s actually quicker than the twelve. In this droptop, 0 to 60 mph took just 4.2 ­seconds, 0.2 better than we recorded from a 567-hp W-12 coupe that weighed some 300 pounds less. The V-8 GTC could deposit a person a quarter-mile away in 12.7 seconds, were that person cool with being chucked from a car going 113 mph. The times might be improved with quicker, harsher shifts, but that would be uncouth; if the automatic engages gears softly, it selects them flawlessly. Fuel economy indeed improves, meaning 15 mpg in this GTC versus the 14 we saw from the W-12 coupe.

Outside the engine room, this Bentley Continental remains a decadent piece that embodies its GT nomenclature while dabbling in outright athleticism. In spite of the folding top, structural rigidity is incredible—Bentley claims that it’s the world’s stiffest open-roof car. Understeer remains a Continental trademark, though this second-gen car’s all-wheel-drive system funnels 60 percent of the torque to the rear.

What really ups the dynamic ante, though, is the V-8; it’s 126 pounds lighter than the W-12, reducing the front axle’s share of the weight from 57.6 percent to 54.9 percent of the total. As a result, this better-balanced car runs willingly toward the inside of corners. The hefty steering still keeps most information to itself, but less mass up front makes it more talkative than in the W-12.

If there’s a caveat, it’s that the lower price of entry and fearsome statistics probably will make it even more popular among the ­moneyed set, where Contis are already as ubiquitous as pants with embroidered l­obsters. The full gamut of customization options helps V-8 Conti buyers who feel a need to stand out from the herd. For example, our test car had sumptuous porpoise leather. (Settle down: The name describes only the hide’s color, not its source.)

So this is how Bentley does downsizing: The V-8 model looks largely the same as the W-12, offers improved dynamics, starts some $23,000 less, and (at least this example) is quicker. Now the one-percenters can suggest they’re buying only as much car as they need—as if anyone “needs” a Bentley—while still getting all that they want, except perhaps bragging rights.