The Bentley Flying Spur sedan, long part of the Continental model line, has been separated out into its own model line for 2014. <p><p>Also this year (set to arrive late in the model year), a new Continental GT V8 S pushes the performance bar for Bentley V8 coupes and convertibles a step higher, with a new higher-output engine, a set of sporty cues and a full set of subtle but meaningful performance upgrades.
The 2014 Bentley Continental lineup now consists of three models: GT, GT V8 and GT Speed (and GTC convertible variants of each). The GT and GT Speed include a standard W12 engine (a uniquely configured 12-cylinder), while the GT V8 and V8 S get a more straightforward V8 configuration).
The mammoth 6.0L W12 engine that's standard on the GT makes 567 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque. Choose the V8 model and you get a 4.0L twin-turbocharged V8, making 500 horsepower and 487 lb-ft of torque. Bentley notes that the V8 provides its peak torque at as little as 1,700 rpm--which means it feels like a larger-displacement engine.
All-wheel drive is the key to how the Continental gets so much power and torque to the road so effectively, making this quite heavy coupe or convertible astonishingly quick. The engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Even V8 models can get to 60 mph in less than five seconds, with a top speed of more than 180 mph. GT W12 models can reach 60 in less than 4.5 seconds.
The all-wheel drive system helps in challenging weather conditions as well as challenging roads; it's capable of sending up to 60 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels when needed, to help it feel more nimble out of tight corners. All Continental models, no matter the engine or body style, also get an 'S' sport mode and steering-wheel paddle-shifters.
Continental GT V8 and V8 S models are also considerably better on gas than the other W12 models in the lineup, thanks in part to cylinder-deactivation technology that allows them to smoothly and almost imperceptibly switch off half of their cylinders when coasting, or cruising at lower speeds; they earn ratings 24 mpg highway, which allows a cruising range of more than 500 miles.
Whether it's the GT coupes or the GTC convertibles, all the Continental models are large, spacious 2-doors, with plenty of space for even the tallest drivers and front passengers to sprawl out in. There are two carved-out rear seating positions, and while smaller adults might find them fine, larger adults might have issues getting in and out especially. Coupe models are sturdy and tight, with the sound insulation of a luxury car. Trunk space is abundant, too. Most models come with a Continuous Damping Control air suspension system, which includes four different settings spanning the difference between comfort cruising and serious track driving.
The new Continental GT V8 S is offered in coupe and convertible forms and includes a stiffer suspension tune (lowered nearly a half-inch), sharper steering and a more vocal, sporty exhaust sound, along with 'S' styling cues throughout. All the V8 Continental models get special 'figure-8' tailpipe exits that are quite easy to pick out from a distance; other differences include a black gloss matrix grille with chrome frame, a red enamel Bentley 'B' badge and a dark lower valance in back.
For those wanting the top-performance model in the lineup, with no budget limitations, the GT Speed remains the one to have. It packs a special version of the W12 making 616-hp and 800 lb-ft of torque. It adds special adaptive control software for the transmission, to help get the most performance and extra grippy Pirelli PZero high-performance tires, as well as a number of visual changes like a dark-tinted grille and 'rifled' exhaust pipes. Altogether, it can get to 60 mph in just 4.0 seconds and to a top speed of 205 mph.
The GTC convertible comes with a folding soft-top arrangement that has excellent protection from the elements as well as quick and neat stowage (it folds in just 25 seconds). There's an available wind deflector that makes the highway ride in these drop-tops even more pleasant.
The list of choices for options, accessories, trims and customization extras is vast, and the price could easily rise tens of thousands customizing the car. The so-called Mulliner Driving Specification adds a set of great upgrades, like quilted leather, drilled-alloy pedals, painted alloy wheels and upgraded tires and a knurled gear lever. Other options packed in some of the pricier packages include adaptive cruise control, ventilated seats with massage and a rearview camera system. There are many chances to upgrade to real-wood veneers, or to upgrade upholstery, The pricey, but impressive Naim for Bentley premium audio system may be among the best in-car audio available.