I know V8s, I've had a few. Some British, mostly American and I love 'em. The torque, the grunt, but mostly the noise. I think it might be a bloke thing, listening to the rumble on take-off, or positioning your head between the tailpipes for maximum burble. As she watched me squatting behind the muscular rump of the Bentley, my (much) better half gave me the kind of baleful look that I'd direct toward a copy of OK magazine or a £40 scented candle.
I'd always associated Bentley with the glorious Rolls-Royce slushbox powerplants of yesteryear or with the 6 litre V12s that came about following their acquisition by VW. So a titchy 4.0 V8 engine was something of a surprise, although knowing that it was derived from Audi's engineering dept gave me something to look forward to.
The delightful folk at Edinburgh Bentley gave me the guided tour. Lower stance, black badges, less chrome on show at the front, black gloss below the coach line and more power all define this as the S package. Mulliner options include contrasting stitched quilted leather, 21" gloss black alloys and auto cruise to name but a few. The car looks subtly more aggressive and purposeful than its forebears. No slush here.
I'm no expert, but my old V8s of 5.0-7.5 litres would produce 200-350bhp on a good day through their naturally aspirated set up and hit 60 anytime between 8 seconds and 10 minutes. The V8S shoves out 520 bhp and does it in around 4. Oocha! How do they dig out all of that power? I'm not qualified to drone on about torque, performance, understeer blah, blah - you can Google that and will find that the pundits like the car rather a lot.
So what does the punter say? I think its brilliant, looks and sounds amazing and delivers what you want and just when you need it. I'd suggest that the V8S moves Bentley firmly into the sports tourer camp.
I headed for Glasgow along the M9 in search of a Prius to upset. I found one drifting along at 60 and hit the pedal. I wasn't for looking down at the speedo as the S surged to an unmentionable speed with consummate ease and left the eco warrior rocking in the V8 slipstream. That said, Mr Prius would be pretty impressed - although my overall mpg was around 22mpg for the test owing to, er, congested traffic conditions, the car was hitting 30+ on the near-silent motorway cruise thanks to the ingenious technology that reduces the car to the equivalent of a V4.
Off-motorway, the car again displayed its Jekyll and Hyde characteristics. On light throttle the car is silky smooth and quiet, any request for power is met immediately with exhilarating acceleration, the growl, and seamless delivery through the autobox's eight gears with the assuredness of the permanent 4WD. In the city and on the winding roads north of town, I felt completely at home cruising or gunning the car. The steering is nicely weighted and it reacts very quickly with no discernible lag from turbo or transmission. Bentley advised that the V8S would feel like a much smaller vehicle and they were right.
For fun I took the car around town (with an assortment of passengers) to check out its kerb appeal. At rest, the car looks assured and quietly confident, on the cruise it sounds magnificent and reverberates nicely around city streets. Public response: excellent. For a laugh I took it through the Clyde Tunnel, rubbing shoulders with a Maserati GT on the way in. I gave it a blast half way through and I was laughing out loud as I shot out of the south side, pretty confident that the Maserati guy would've been reaching for his Viagra.
I'm not sure why buyers would go for the bigger V12 GTs. For me, the smaller, slightly less expensive V8S does the job. It looks sporty, yet magnificently Bentley and will dawdle or rush with equal aplomb, appealing to both racers and cruisers alike whilst delivering great performance and very acceptable fuel consumption. Oh, and the noise. If you go for a test drive, include a tunnel and you'll buy it.
Dave Quigley is a director and partner with Specsavers Opticians and Hearcare in Scotland. The company operates from 64 locations throughout Scotland and over 2,000 in another seven countries - and is No1 for eyecare and hearing.