When I think of a Grand Tourer or GT car, the classic image of travelling down to the South of France or Italy comes to mind, on one hand comforted by the car’s luxurious cabin and effortless ride, while on the other being entertained by acceleration and speed when a little more pressure is applied to the throttle.
Bentley recently launched the new Continental GT V8 alongside the existing 12 cylinder version and I was thrilled when BQ arranged a weekend test for me. Like many, I’m addicted to the sound of a V8 engine and, with 500 brake horsepower on tap, 0-60 in 4.6 seconds, a new 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts and all-wheel drive, I knew the weekend was going to be exciting.
Accepting that JCT600 Bentley would probably not be happy with me driving out of their Leeds showroom and the car last being seen crossing the English Channel to France, I picked a route to drive around the North Yorkshire Moors.
In the true touring style and given the British heritage of Bentley, a picnic hamper seemed the most suitable choice for lunch. Settling in to the driver’s seat you cannot help but be impressed by the interior of the car.
It is beautifully designed with the shape of the dashboard resembling the wings of the Bentley badge, oozing luxury and style. As you would expect, very high quality materials are used throughout the cabin and if it can be trimmed in leather then it is.
Press the start button and the engine comes into life with a classic V8 burble. At motorway cruising speeds the car was exceptionally smooth and quiet and effortless to drive, but the slip road onto the motorway had given a hint as to the potential performance of the engine and I was looking forward to experiencing this further.
The opportunity soon came after passing Thirsk and heading on the road up Sutton Bank and on to Helmsley. Some extra pressure applied to the accelerator pedal and the car surged forward, pressing us into the back of our seats with the previous quietness replaced by a growl which left a smile impossible to remove from our faces.
Unfortunately it was over all too quickly due to the short time the car takes to reach road legal speeds, leaving no choice but to slow down and do it again! We progressed at pace along the B1257 to Stokesley, which is rated as one of the great roads in the North of England by bikers.
It twists and turns through some stunning scenery and the Continental gripped the road well, although for the first time I did become aware that this is a 2,750Kg car and is not as nimble as lighter sports cars.
The car allows you to adjust the dampers to change the firmness of the ride and the automatic gearbox offers a sport mode as well as paddle shifts for manual intervention, which together allow you to still enjoy a spirited drive.
Our journey then took us past Whitby and to a stop off at Robin Hood’s Bay. Here I was reminded of the physical size of the car as I manoeuvred around a small car park. We returned home via Pickering and York allowing further time to enjoy the two very different sides to this car.
Andrew Kilby is MD of Armstrong Watson Financial Planning and Wealth Management.
The Bentley GT V8 is priced from £123,850. The car was supplied by JCT600 Leodis Court Bentley, 102 Gelderd Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 6BY, tel: 08448 443117.