Where the air is rare
Membership of the exclusive GT V8S club brings sublime comfort — and the clout of a private equity fund
IF A Porsche lacks panache and a Rolls-Royce doesn’t have the required windscreen rake, Bentley is your brand.
As much a fashion statement as luxury coupe, the Continental GT V8S is for the well-heeled buyer who desires a luxury grand tourer with very long legs.
A twin-turbo V8 shared with the Audi RS6 fires this 2.3‒tonne automotive titan to 100km/h in just 4.5 seconds, courtesy of an eight-speed automatic transmission and all‒wheel drive.
Apart from the intentional aural intrusion as the engine gives vent, the experience is ethereal as the speedo needle spins around the dial accompanied by an absence of lurching, wind noise or any standard barometer of pace.
Then again, for $405,600 so it should. That’s for starters — our test car came in at a firsthomebuying price of $502,055 before on-road costs.
The options are as expansive as the vehicle itself. Would sir like a sports exhaust and brakes and cabin bling made from carbon fibre? That’ll be $36,965.
Upgrading to 21-inch wheels with an admittedly exquisite “black diamond” finish, adding alloy pedals and jewel-finish fuel and oil caps, along with diamond-quilted and perforated leather, embroidered Bentley headrest emblems and “indented headlining hide” is another $16,916.
The premium audio adds $14,636, tinted front and rear lamps are a $3474 investment and contrasting needlework on the leather upholstery will stitch buyers up by $3810.
At this price one might expect a reversing camera as default gear. Sadly, no. It also requires an option tick, though at $2431 is a relative bargain.
The eye-searing yellow paintwork on the Carsguide review car adds $11,011 and is best reserved for those who delight in being the focus of attention (or are considering creating a fleet of taxis for the mega-rich).
If the latter is the case, it’s effectively a one-passenger conveyance. The rear seat is best left as somewhere to sit the Hermes handbag. It’s not an uncomfortable place to be (though legroom is limited) but there’s simply no decorous way to enter and exit the back. And that’s not in keeping with the glamorous nature of this machine.
A 14-way adjustable front seat and electrically powered steering column ensure it’s easy to find the optimum driving position and the infotainment menus and switchgear are as logical as can be expected from a fusion of German and British engineering.
The leather-clad paddleshifters (a $1422 option) are the only downside of the experience, being set too far behind the wheel to make changes an intuitive experience. Given the transmission’s preset shift points range from wafting smooth in drive mode to hammering race-blips in sport, there’s little occasion to use them anyway.
At pace or through tight corners the Bentley’s noseheavy bias is apparent, kept in check by all-wheel grip and a chassis hewn as if from granite.
The suspension can be adjusted via a virtual slider on the infotainment screen to step from soft and cuddly with utter disdain for road joins and potholes to a solidity that wouldn’t be out of place on a track.
Bentley ownership is an exclusive club — the Australian sales tally is about 10 a month. In the case of the GT V8S, that membership brings with it a sublimely comfortable cruiser with all the clout of a private equity fund. Price isn’t the issue, appearances are … and you don’t want the GT V8S appearing in your rear-view mirrors.