After establishing the Continental GT’s reputation as a luxury high-speed tourer with a 12 cylinder engine, Bentley switched the focus to a more fuel efficient V-8 motor with a world debut at NAIAS.
Bentley chairman Wolfgang Durheimer and five times Le Mans race winner and Bentley driver Derek Bell jointly introduced the new Continental GT V-8. Though it has ‘just 500 horsepower’ versus 600 in the 12 cylinder motor, Bell described the the newcomer as very exciting. “The car has lost some weight and with the new eight-speed transmission, the acceleration is impressive,” he said.
The new V-8 powertrain has a cylinder deactivation system which allows it to return over 30mpg while cruising around 70mph. The transition between eight- and four-cylinder operation is seamless, said Bell.
Under full acceleration, the GT can whip from 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds, and power on to a 188mph top speed, claims Bentley. Overall fuel economy is up 40 percent over the 12 cylinder.
Bentley has seen its sales recover from the 2009 recession with just over 7000 cars delivered worldwide in 2011, up 37 percent on 2010. Sales in the US were up by 31 percent. “We have a positive outlook for 2012,” notes Durheimer.
The new Continental V-8 in coupe and convertible form goes on sale this spring.
John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Insider and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org