Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off for summer weather here in Upstate, New York. What better way to celebrate the long weekend than with a convertible? Some top-down fun in the sun was on the menu, but we wanted to do it right. Not just any convertible would do. We wanted it all. We wanted an open-top, sporty grand tourer – a car to see and be seen in. If we were going to do it, we were certainly going to do it right. That’s why we opted for the Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible.
Driving a Bentley is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; an event we never imagined would be afforded us. The long weekend, after two initial days of rain, brought fantastic weather. For us, it was a dream come true. Going anywhere or doing anything in this car becomes an occasion. The GT is a spectacle to behold, especially with the top down. It draws attention from everyone, and you best pray that the music you’re listening to is appropriate because everyone will hear you coming. The Naim for Bentley audio system is absolutely superb. With the top down, the Bentley is capable of providing concert-level audio to an entire parking lot. Dropping the cloth top takes mere seconds and can be done at speeds under 11 mph. Doing so allows for a grand experience with very little wind buffeting. It was the only convertible we’ve experienced where our hair was “not too bad” by the time we got off the highway and arrived for dinner. Even with the windows down, the Bentley doesn’t disturb its occupants.
When you’re done being the center of attention and you really get to grips with the V8 S, you come to realize how good this car really is. The twin-turbo V8 offers up plenty of power with less weight than the larger W12. Bentley quotes it at 521 hp and 502 lb ft. torque, but after a few days of driving we suspect there’s more power than that hiding under the hood. A cousin of the Audi S8, albeit with a lower redline, the 4.0L V8 pulls strong and propels you to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The thing is, you don’t realize how fast the Bentley is moving until you’re definitely speeding. Nothing weighing over 5,400 lbs should gain speed this effortlessly. The best part of it, though, is the exhaust note. Under acceleration, the V8 burbles pleasantly through its sports exhaust. That burble crescendos, without becoming excessive, into a lovely bellow. But find yourself an overpass or a tunnel. With the echo bounced back towards you, the sound totally changes. The Bentley’s exhaust thunders from the tailpipes with an exquisite, boisterous roar. We made repeated trips through such structures, breaking into maniacal laughter at the noise erupting from the V8. It’s a noise that would alarm fellow motorists or nearby pedestrians. It’s all-the-more rewarding to know that it comes from such a work of automotive art.
The ‘S’ of the Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible comes into play when you tire of parading down main street and decide to take some corners in a sporting manner. Stiffer front and rear dampers and a 10 millimeter drop in ride height allow you to have a seriously good time in a seriously heavy car. Physics are tossed to the wind just like the 5,400 lbs Bentley is tossed through corners like a sports car. The adjustable suspension has 5 settings of minimal impact. The ride never wavers from being comfortable-yet-connected, with only a reduction in body roll coming as the settings climb higher. The steering is slightly vague and comes with an enormous sense of weight. That weight plays on the mind, and on the front axle, but you never lose confidence in the machine’s ability to stay its course. If anything, the sumptuous exhaust note and supple ride keep egging you on to go faster and faster.
On the outside, our tester arrived with a few options to set it apart. First off, the V8 Bentley’s all have the “B” emblazoned in red on the hood, trunk and center caps. If that wasn’t enough of a separation from the W12 models, the V8 models also get black grilles and “figure eight” tailpipes. The V8 S takes things a little further with a black front lip, side sills, and rear diffuser. The upgraded 21″ wheels, part of the optional Mulliner Driving Specification, looked absolutely stunning with their black highlights against the Glacier White Solid paint. Behind those 7-spoke beauties were blazing red calipers biting onto 16″ front and 13″ rear rotors. Other perks of the Bentley’s most expensive option are the two-tone quilted seats, jewel fuel filler cap, stitched Bentley logos in the headrests, and drilled aluminum pedals. Excessive? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.
If you somehow grow tired of the outside, the interior of the Continental GT V8 S Convertible is just as stunning. The two-tone Linen/Beluga interior exuded sophistication and class. Unlike nearly every other car we’ve ever experienced, every surface on the inside of the Bentley is real. In most cars, the “metal” trim is actually plastic, the “wood” is actually plastic, and the “leather” is actually plastic. In a Bentley, that “metal” is real aluminum, that “wood” is real piano black trim, and every other surface is covered in hand-stitched leather. At a shade over $252,000, only the finest, hand-crafted quality is to be expected. There are other treats as well. The neck warmer allows for top-down comfort even on chilly Spring evenings and all the stress of the day melts away with the aid of the optional massage function. You’re paying for automotive perfection and Bentley does deliver. Nearly. If we’re allowed to be picky for a moment, the interior of the Bentley is the only place with which we could find fault. The 8″ infotainment screen is not all that inspiring and the heated steering wheel didn’t provide much heat.
We have never experienced an automotive work of art like the Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible. Until last week, it’s something we couldn’t have imagined, and we’re not entirely sure that it could get any better. The combination of great weather, great friends, and a great car will stick with us for a long time. After a few days of admiration, our journalistic senses returned and we took a hard look at the Bentley. The above complaints are the only two holes we could pick in this finely crafted suit of armor. The V8 S would, without a doubt, be the Bentley to have provided you have the income. It bridges the gap between the “entry” V8 and the larger W12 pefectly. We aren’t so deep-pocketed, so we can only extrapolate from our 360 mile experience. For those who do, and aren’t entirely worried about the sub-200 mph top speed, then look no further. The majesty and opulence of the Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible is unmatched.
|2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S Convertible
|Contrast Binding to Carpet Overmats||$220|
|Contrast Binding to Boot Carpet||$100|
|Stitching to Steering Wheel in Contrasting Color||$200|
|Mulliner Driving Specification||$8,435|
|Beluga Gloss Exterior Mirror Housings||$640|
|Deep Pile Overmats||$410|
|Heated Single-Tone 3-Spoke Steering Wheel||$480|
|Massage and Ventilated Front Seats||$950|
|Storage Case with Centre Console||$615|
|Adaptive Cruise Control||$2,730|
|Naim for Bentley Premium Audio System||$7,300|
|Power Boot Opening and Closing||$955|
|Rear View Camera||$1,215|
|Dark Tint Front and Rear Lamps||$1,735|
|As Tested MSRP||$252,275|