* The Bentley Continental.
Bentley Continental GTC V8 road test by Steve Rogers
The week of Storm Francis wasn't the best time to be spending a few days in the Continental convertible but it certainly proved the insulation qualities of the multi-layered fabric roof.
As I drove away from Bentley's headquarters at Crewe the rain was pounding down but the sound deadening was so effective I forgot I was driving a convertible. Bentley says today's convertible is just as quiet as the previous Continental coupe and I am not going to argue with that.
Continental first appeared in 2003 and we are now into the third generation which has a significant twist in the story.
It has always been powered by the mighty W12 six litre petrol... but what is the new badge that has appeared on the front wing? V8. Can this be true? A humble 4-litre V8 in a Bentley.
Too right, and before anyone thinks this is Bentley dumming down the Conti with a cheaper entry level model then think again.
True it is £12,500 less than the W12, £167,000 plays £179,500 but there is nothing as common as an entry level Bentley. Most of this is the difference in the price of the engine, the rest of the car is the same bespoke handcrafted opulence found in any other Bentley.
Yes but it won't be as quick as the W12. Yeah right, we lose three tenths in a sprint to sixty and top speed is down 9mph so we have to make do with the V8's four seconds to 60mph and a top end of 198mph. No too shabby then.
Now I have enjoyed the W12 in a couple of Bentleys, it is indeed a mighty performer, but I am going to put my head on the block and say the Continental is better suited to the V8. On the one hand we have unparalleled luxury and on the other an out and out sports drop top or coupe that will happily take on a McLaren, Ferrari or Porsche.
I recall feeling mildly intimidated by the McLaren 720S, which, granted, generates more power from its 4-litre V8, but felt quite comfortable and secure behind the wheel of the Conti even when I did feel the full force of the twin turbos and whopping 770 Newton metres of torque.
In truth this sort of power is not for our roads, the car is too quick and you could find yourself in a lot of trouble with the law if you exploit the performance. A ton takes a mere 8.4 seconds, and that is Bentley's figure by the way.
The best place to get maximum fun is on a track where you would no doubt feel the full benefit of Bentley's brilliant dynamic ride system, I should say that is an extra £4,000 and not really worth the expense unless you enjoy flat out track days.
Basically a 48 volt powered anti roll system makes suspension changes in milliseconds which makes the car feel as if it is stuck to the road in the same way as a roller coaster terror ride.
Performance through the eight speed automatic is immense with the V8 emitting a satisfying growl as opposed to the gentle burble of the W12.
Surprisingly it was not the performance or the utter luxury of the Conti's cabin that left the biggest impression, it was the economy.
Had this been the W12 I would have been lucky to break the 20mpg barrier yet I averaged 30mpg and some of that was down to cylinder deactivation which knocks off four cylinders on light throttle loads which covers 70mph motorway drives.
One small downside is the noticeable jerk as the other four cylinders engage when the throttle is floored at low speed but I can live with that.
Having said how impressed I was with economy sitting in the Continental' s cabin is pretty special, you can tell this has been put together with lots of tender loving care, much of this opulence coming from the special Mulliner specification which adds even greater detailing to the surfaces and stitching, and adds £12,535 to the price but as the Bentley PR people say no one buys a basic car and there are lots of packages and individual items that can be added.
My test car had 14 totalling £53,880 of which I would have gone for the front seat comfort spec with neck warmer, heated or ventilated and massage functions (£4,005) central 12 inch rotating touchscreen display (£4,770) touring specification (£6,290) and the Bang & Olufsen bespoke sound system (£5,075).
That came in handy when the roof was down. There is hardly any buffeting but the wind swirls around the cabin once passed 60mph and communication becomes a shouting match so a good sound system is essential if you like your music.
The bottom line is that Continental is a world class sports car especially with V8 power which is there on merit. Here we have performance, luxury and style in one fabulous package.
A little aside: Bespoke it might be but Volkswagen-owned Bentley does share some of the group's parts.
The headlight touch pad can be found in the new Golf 8 and the amber blind spot warning light on the door mirrors are also fitted to my Skoda Superb test car.
There are a few others but we will keep them to ourselves...
Need to know
£167,000 (tested £224,800)
8sp auto all wheel drive
4-litre V8; 542bhp
0-60mph 4secs; 198mph
1st year tax £2135 then £145pa
Boot 235 litres
Roof down: 19 seconds