In today's age, not too many carmakers combine luxury and bling in the automotive space better than Bentley and that’s why the company’s approach to the new Continental V8 S is so refreshing. Rather than spend a lot of time and advertising budget on changing the styling, Bentley let the engineering do the talking, and in the case of the new V8 S, the results are like Frank Sinatra in full flow.
In fact, it’s only if you notice the 'S' on the badging that you will look again at the slightly reworked front grille, new blacked out front splitter, side skirts and reworked rear diffuser. The 20-inch 'open spoke' design alloy wheels and distinctive red brake calipers are also unique to the V8 S, while the whole car has been lowered by 10mm.
The V8 engine has also been tweaked with both power and torque outputs rising to a peak 521bhp at 6,000rpm and 69.34kgm at 1,700rpm. Bentley claims a 0-100kph time of 4.5 seconds and top speed is electronically limited to 308kph. Switch the eight-speed ZF gearbox to Sport mode and it holds on to gears longer to squeeze even more performance out of the engine. However, it is that defining Bentley characteristic – the 'torque plateau' that Bentley likes to refer to – that still makes the most immediate impression. Rapid acceleration is available at your beck and call, irrespective of what gear you are in. The V8 S continues to use the twin, figure of eight tailpipes that characterise the Continental V8 range and in Sport mode, the optional sport exhaust adds a lovely soundtrack to the sense of occasion.
But more than the engine, it’s the thoroughly reworked suspension that defines the V8 S’s sharper character. The aluminium double-wishbone front suspension has been lowered by 10mm while the spring rates have been stiffened by 45 percent and at the rear, the multi-link air suspension’s spring rate is stiffer by 33 percent while the rear anti-roll bar is stiffer too by 54 percent. What all the numbers translate to is a 2.3-tonne, over two-metre wide car that now handles like it is a lot smaller and lighter. With its four-wheel drive system and recalibrated steering, the V8 S was a hoot to drive on the twisty mountain road section of our test, cornering sharp and flat while also sending the driver a lot of feedback from the steering. It made such an impression that we actually went back up and down the twisties a few times.
The Continental, though, is a grand tourer at its core and the rest of our drive on wide open California freeways only highlighted that aspect of the car’s character. Despite the sportier suspension, the ride quality is still exceptional. The lavish cabin still pampers its occupants like you would expect from a car that will set you back by over Rs 3 crore. A worthy addition indeed to the Continental line-up and arguably the best iteration of the Continental V8 yet.