Bentley Continental GT V8 S Coupe, motoring review: The NHS should prescribe this car as a cure for depression


PRICE £139,000

Here's the (philosophical) thing. If the 12-cylinder Bentley Continental GT did not exist, would we have to invent it? Would folk (well, wealthy folk) feel that the V8 version was in any way missing anything? After all, there are no V12 Jaguars any more, and no-one goes around whingeing that the XJ limo or XK sports car are four cylinders short of a picnic.

Just as no-one, I suppose, ever thought that a Reliant Robin should have an extra wheel. Actually, they did, back in the day, and so Reliant made a four-wheeler for a while, called the Kitten. Would Hitler have been better with a full complement of testes? I think David Hume said something about all of this, but it is a long time since I studied philosophy.

Anyway, driving the eight-cylinder version of the Bentley GT, I certainly did not feel short-changed. In engineering terms, there is more than sufficient torque, and this V8 power plant has had a twin turbo clamped to it, and is tuned so that its performance pushes at the limits of the laws of physics. The Bentley's only real flaw is its very long doors, possibly the heaviest on the market, which make it virtually impossible to get out of if you park it on a steep hill. Gravity, you see.

Turning now to history (see what I'm doing here?), there is no tradition of 12-cylinder Bentleys, and all Bentleys from 1959 to the turn of the millennium used a legendary Rolls-Royce V8, from the days when the two brands shared ownership and much else. For those interested in Business Studies, the V8 delivers almost everything the W12 does, for a substantial discount – about £12,000, which will get you a jolly Fiat 500 on the side.

Driving it, even just sitting in it, is a life-affirming experience, as all modern Bentleys are. The late actor Ian Carmichael, (you might recall him in I'm All Right Jack) once wrote in his memoirs that if he ever needed to cheer himself up after a movie had flopped he bought himself a new Rolls-Royce. That would still do the trick, I should imagine, and so would a new Bentley GT. In medical terms, and as a cure for depression, they should prescribe it on the NHS (though I guess Nice might veto it).

So thank you, Bentley, for your latest innovation. It's been an education.

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