The Bentley Continental GT V8 Is a Big Brute That Can Dance

A Bentley on a race track? Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

2020 bentley continental gt v8
DW Burnett

I had to leave very early in the morning to get to Road & Track 's Performance Car of the Year test at Lime Rock Park. I'm all for an early-morning drive, getting out before the rest of the world wakes up, but a 5:00 AM departure was a bit extreme. At least I was driving the Bentley.

It's the ideal car for the task. While the Continental GT V8 is Bentley's entry-level coupe, it certainly doesn't lack in luxury, especially as our tester was optioned. Those beautiful diamond-pleated leather seats give a lovely massage, and the central infotainment screen rotates away, three analog gauges taking their place. Not having a big screen staring back at you really does a wonder on the psyche, as well as bleary eyes.

But the Bentley isn't all gadgets—old-school luxury abounds in the smell of the leather, the shine of the burr walnut trim, and most importantly, the expertise of the chassis tuning. Sneaking out of New York City, I selected Comfort mode for a supple ride over our city's decaying streets. Out on the highway, I upgraded to Bentley mode, which ramps up body control and provides a mix of ride comfort and controlled handling that's ideal for long-distance travel. The best English cars nail this balance. They have to, in order to deal with that country's twisting, undulating, often ancient roads. Despite German underpinnings—the Continental GT shares a platform with the Porsche Panamera—this car embodies that English approach perfectly.

2020 bentley continental gt v8
DW Burnett

The route from my home to Lime Rock starts boring and gets really good as you draw closer to the track. It's on those winding rural roads that the Bentley really shines, with surprising agility and quiet, ever-present muscle from the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8. The engine comes from Porsche—though it sounds sweeter here—as does the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which moves through ratios with a crispness a torque-converter auto could only dream of. Couple all that with active anti-roll bars and a clever all-wheel drive system, and the Bentley reveals itself to be a surprise back-road weapon. You could have a lot of fun keeping up with hot hatches in this leather-and-walnut trimmed luxo-coupe.

At the track, the Bentley really gets to show its stuff. It seems a little ridiculous here; the sight of the big-body coupe clipping apexes will never not be amusing, but the Continental GT is perfectly at home. It's not the quickest car we have here, but it's precise and satisfying at speed. Credit the active chassis systems, which manage the car's prodigious weight with seeming ease. In Sport mode, the body control is excellent, the car barreling into Lime Rock's two big braking zones without nose-dive. Ample torque from the V-8 and quick shifts from the gearbox mean you're never wanting for power.

On track, the Continental GT is surprisingly intuitive, asking fairly little of the driver and giving predictable performance lap after lap. The brakes and tires stand up to high-speed abuse far beyond even the most aggressive street driving.

2020 bentley continental gt v8
DW Burnett

We had to drift it. When rain interrupted our timed laps , we took all the PCOTY contenders to Lime Rock's autocross course for a little low-traction fun. The Continental GT naturally tends towards understeer, but a little throttle will nudge the tail out, coaxing the coupe into a delightful slide on corner exit. The all-wheel drive system is well programmed, letting the rear wheels spin for a while before dragging you straight with more power to the front axle.

Over the course of the test, our whole staff grew fond of the Bentley. It's hard not to love something that looks this good and drives this well.

The Continental GT V8 is far better than it needs to be. Bentley would sell plenty of them based on its good looks and sumptuous interior alone. Instead, the company made one of the sweetest driving grand touring coupes on the market. No surprise there: Bentley has been making big behemoths dance since its first oversized brutes dominated Le Mans in the 1920s.

The Continental GT V8 didn't win the 2021 Performance Car of the Year title , but it did win a few hearts—including mine.


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