Well-heeled customers walking into Bentley showrooms already have quite a few grades of Continental coupe and cabriolet to choose from. Still, on the offhand chance the existing GT(C), V-8, and GT Speed grades don't completely appease, Bentley buyers will soon be able to pick from a fourth grade of two-door Continental: the 2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S.
It doesn't take a marketing wizard to decode the new suffix. The V8 S is, in fact, a sportier twist of the eight-cylinder Continental GT/GTC V8 range that launched in 2012. Like those cars, the new 2014 Continental GT V8 S continues to use a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 -- mechanically identical to the engine used in the Audi S6, S7, A8, and S8 -- albeit with a little more pep. While base GT/GTC V8 cars offer 500 hp @ 6000 rpm and 487 lb-ft of torque from 1700 rpm, the new 2014 Continental GT V8 S packs 521 hp and 502 lb-ft.
Other driveline elements, notably the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic and rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, remain unchanged, but the V8 S' additional power renders the car a bit quicker off the line. 0-60 mph launches in the Continental GT V8 S coupe take 4.3 seconds, three-tenths of a second faster than the Continental GT V8, while the top end is increased from 188 to 192 mph. The drop-top Continental GTC V8 S is slightly slower, but still sprints to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds and reaches a top speed of 191 mph. Fuel economy likely isn't a concern for most Bentley owners, but it doesn't suffer in the transformation from V8 to V8 S: Bentley says GT V8 S EPA ratings should remain unchanged at 15 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.
Predictably, there are a few suspension upgrades in store for Continental GT and GTC V8 S models. Ride height is lowered by 10 mm, while front and rear springs are 45- and 33-percent stiffer, respectively. Bushings are also up to 70 percent stiffer, and the rear anti-roll bar is 54 percent stiffer than before. Bentley claims to have revised the power steering to provide more feedback, and recalibrated the stability control parameters to allow a little more wheelspin when driven hard. The four-wheel disc brake system is left unchanged, and carbon ceramic disc rotors remain optional equipment.
Unlike the wild-looking GT Speed models, the 2014 Continental GT V8S advertises its additional power in a discrete manner. V8 S cars gain a unique front splitter, rear diffuser, and new side sills, and bathe them in gloss grey paint. Bentley also gives the Continental GT unique split-spoke 20-inch wheels are fitted, as are bright red brake calipers and badges on the front fenders. 17 "standard" paint colors are offered, but Bentley Design has a list of seven it "specifically recommends" for the Continental, including two hues -- Kingfisher Blue and Monaco Yellow -- crafted expressly for the range. Interior touches unique to the V8 S are few, but GT coupe models do gain a contrasting center stripe on the leather-trimmed headliner.
Bentley isn't discussing pricing for the Continental GT V8 S quite yet, but representatives insist it will offer a "competitive" price point. We imagine it will wind up fitting between the $176,725 Continental GT V8 and the twelve-cylinder, $196,700, Continental GT, but look for finalized figures in short order: V8 S cars should arrive in North America in early 2014.