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Bentley bumps up its V-8 power in new Continental

Bentley adds another variant of the Continental at the Detroit auto show, with a more powerful version of its V-8 engine in the GT V8 S.

Wayne Cunningham

Wayne Cunningham

Managing Editor / Roadshow

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.

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2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S

Bentley Continental GT V8 S

Bentley offers a tuned up V-8 engine in this Continental GT V8 S.

Josh Miller/CNET

DETROIT -- Bentley gave its new Continental GT V8 S its North American debut at the 2014 Detroit auto show, rounding out the model line-up for its powerful and luxurious coupe.

The new model marks the fourth version of the Continental GT coupe Bentley has released. Previous models include the GT and GT Speed, both powered by a 6-liter W-12 cylinder engine, and the GT V8, with its 4-liter V-8 engine. Bentley engineering chief Rolf Frech told CNET that the new GT V8 S fills the gap between the GT V8 and the standard GT models.

With 500 horsepower, the Continental GT V8 is no slouch, but it is also the least powerful of the Bentley line-up. The GT V8 S increases power from the same twin turbocharged 4-liter V-8 engine to 521 horsepower. The big coupe sports car also features all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission from supplier ZF. An air suspension comes standard.

As part of the Volkswagen group, Bentley shares this V-8 with Audi. However, Bentley tunes this engine's peak torque of 502 pound-feet for a broader power band, beginning at 1,600 rpm.

The V-8 engine in the GT V8 and GT V8 S marks an attempt by Bentley to achieve improved fuel economy and lessen CO2 output. Bentley lists EPA estimates of 15 mpg city and 24 mpg highway for both vehicles.

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S (pictures)

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The GT V8 S shows the same unadorned, brawny coupe body style as the rest of the Continental line-up. Bentley applied different aero effects on the front and rear of the body to give it some distinction. Rather than black, the Bentley badges have a red background.

Cabin appointments are the same as in other Continentals, beginning with high-luxury elements, such as double-paned glass for superior sound insulation. Bentley offers a bespoke program, with a huge range of interior customization for customers.

British company Naim Audio supplies stereos for the Continental GT V8 S, resulting in audiophile sound in the cabin. Navigation and entertainment electronics are sourced from the Volkswagen Group, and share many functions and similarities to those found in Audi models. Although the system supports the same type of Google Earth navigation as seen in Audi vehicles, Bentley has yet to sign a mobile data provider in the US to enable the system.

With a price approaching $200,000, the Bentley Continental GT V8 S sits in rarefied space. The limited number of customers able to afford the GT V8 may find themselves swayed by the power bump of the GT V8 S model, but the luxury appointments remain a selling point across the line-up.