A Grand Tourer for the Modern Gent

Let’s get something straight. These days, everyone knows Bentley Motors is technically German, but so is the Queen, so in our books, Bentley is still as unequivocally British as tea & scones, cricket and complaining about the weather. Perfect. From the iconic Le Mans-winning Blower race machines, to lavish four-door limos and the latest stately offroaders, throughout almost 100 years of service Bentleys have come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Over the last few decades their core theme of opulence and comfort became a double edged sword that over time traded the soul of the brand for heavy luxo-barges that failed to excite. But we’re proud to announce, Bentleys of late have returned to the ethos the brand was proudly known best for; performance-derived luxury Grand Touring. We teamed up with Chellingworth Bentley for a test drive of their new Continental GTC V8 S. A car that is as elegant in its nature as its exterior is blue.

For those that are unfamiliar with Bentley's current range, the Continental is Bentley’s most popular platform. It comes in a svelte coupe or convertible form and has been a favorite among enthusiasts since the German-backed resurgence of the brand in 2003. The Continental can be factory specified and customised with an infinite combination of trim levels and accessories to craft the beast into whatever you desire. The range starts from the comfort-orientated GT and turns right the way up to 11 with the track-bashing, carbon fibre cottage; the GT3-R.

The car we are in here is the sportier version of the GTC V8 range; hence the “S”. What makes the ‘S’ differ is the sportier ride and the interior’s lavished trims and instruments which don’t make an appearance on the standard car. The engine remains the same fantastic twin-turbo V8, but the best upgrade in the entire car is the exhaust, a character-defining attribute that gives the Bentley a whiff of James Bond caddishness and mischief to its aristocratic facade.  

The exterior design follows suit with the upgraded shape of the Continental range. Much sleeker lines carry their way from the chiseled black radiator grille all the way through before reaching the rear wheel arch “hips”. A design tribute to the original Continental S2. The car is unmistakably pretty. The blacked out grille has taken away any notions of vulgarity with the chrome-intensive base model and makes the front end an aesthetically conservative masterpiece. The 21” sized wheels are wrapped in a set of Pirelli’s finest and behind that sit the creme-de-la-creme of carbon ceramic brakes. From the front of the vehicle to the rear, there are lots of little details that differ from the base model, the rifled exhaust, the lowered stance, the subtle badging and blacked out trim pieces that were once chrome. The GTC looks best with the roof down, and in profile is a proportionally elegant beauty, poised for a drive.

When sliding into the GT, the sports seats offer great bolstering and comfort. It's a win-win for chair design, here you essentially have a huge sofa of a car seat holding you in a snug grip of leather and steel. It’s perfect for a spot of heavy cornering, while offering the comfort required for long distance cruising. The seating position is low with high sills and raised centre console. All the controls fall to hand with ease and each button has a tactile click, pull or twist that has been crafted from finely machined pieces of steel, aluminium or composite.

The whole Continental range can be customised to whatever suits your taste. The showroom at Chellingworth is not only home to vehicles themselves, but a multitude of options at your disposal. Leathers, wood, metal, carbon, colours, patterns, stitching, wheels; almost anything is possible when choosing your options. This GTC’s interior beautifully compliments the exterior colour. Black quilted perforated leather with white stitching and finely milled alloy controls and buttons. A combination faultlessly married together through hand stitching by mastercraftsmen.  

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Starting the monolith is quite the event. The only word to describe it would be effortless. Despite the powerful V8 nestled away under the expansive bonnet, it doesn't cough and splutter into life like an old Mopar on a cold morning, the GTC is like listening to a great opera; everything is perfectly timed and does its role with utter smooth precision. It is the music of elegant refinement and clever engineering.

Cruising down Stirling Highway with the roof down, you don't get buffeted in the face by wind nor do you choke on the exhaust fumes. It is quiet, comfortable and powerful. Despite being the sportier version, you don't find yourself wanting to drive in maximum attack mode with the V8 pinned in the redline. Even with the fantastic exhaust note which bellows and sings as the throttle is pushed into the plush carpet, when driving on suburban highways, the GTC lulls you into a comfort that begs the driver to calmly waft along to their destination. It’s a true delight of a Grand Tourer.

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Through the sweeping bends and river-side roads, the steering is light, linear and almost telepathic. The body doesn't roll and handles bumps and the road's imperfections with poise and ease. Passing over a speed bump you'd feel more of jolt driving through a cheesecake in an S-Class. Spending sometime in this car, there is never a sense of discomfort or impatience to reach your destination, you find yourself enjoying the journey more than anything. The wind in your hair, the supple and precise steering, the smooth power delivery and Tom Jones for an exhaust. As a tool for enjoying a journey, the GTC is a beautiful instrument.

However, there is a Sports Mode on the car, and while this isn't a track vehicle, the personality transformation is like comparing Alfred the Butler serving you a glass of Chablis to James Bond punching baddies in the throat. There is still that British charm in its delivery, but its performance is alarmingly capable. To engage the ‘Roger Moore’ attitude to driving, simply hit the ‘Sports Traction’ button, change down a couple of cogs through the lightning quick paddle shift gearbox, open up the exhaust and give the twin-turbocharged V8 a tickle with the throttle. The delivery isn’t Ferrari in nature; it doesn't break your neck or empty your stomach, it effortlessly wafts you along post haste.

Boasting 0-100km in 4.5 seconds there is no doubt the GTC is a fast Grand Tourer, but behind the wheel it feels easy, manageable and unaggressive. Some cars encourage you to race, others put you to sleep but the Bentley is  simply an unrivalled instrument for enjoying a journey. We at The Garage Journal love the resurgence in the brand, because designing a car that encourages you to savour the journey is a skill that is being lost in the convenience-ethos of the modern era. The GTC V8 S represents a perfect blend of Grand Touring and cheeky British charm.

For more on the Bentley Continental range, head to Chellingworth Bentley.