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Living the Continental life
Bentley V8 Continental Coupe. Supplied picture

Doing the morning school run in a Bentley Continental is more pleasure than chore.

Set the suspension to maximum comfort mode, plant oneself in the firm leather seat and then turn on the in-seat massager. The child lucky enough to get the front passenger seat can have a massage as well.

Bentleys are renowned for their luxury, with a pedigree going back 93 years in Britain, sitting alongside former stablemate Rolls-Royce at the luxury end of the British car market.

However, under current owners Volkswagen, Bentley is trying to get noticed in a younger and sportier market with its Continental range of coupes and convertibles. Going by the looks the test Continental GT V8 Coupe drew, it is succeeding.

The young men erecting a limestone wall at a neighbour's house glanced up as the dragon red coupe approached. They stood, stared and pointed as the Anglo- German engineering cruised past their tradie chariots.

The night before, a young chap in a green Maloo ute sped up to take a closer look and then cruised alongside and slightly behind the Continental for a good 2km. No menace or thrusting challenges to race, just a respectful watching and parting nod.

Commodores might be more common than Bentleys around Perth but there is something familiar about the Continental as it is approached from behind.

It seems to have more of a nod to that magnificent Australian creation, the recent generation of Holden Monaro, than to the boxy square styling traditionally associated with Bentleys.

The Continental has a strong hint of muscle car, with flared guards and a big boot that is not only practical for fitting in the school bags but is aesthetically compelling.

To borrow an Americanism, this beauty has a magnificent booty. Yet it is so British, with power hidden behind impeccable manners.

It can be driven easily at anything from 40 to 100km/h behaving with the manners of a refined limousine, fit for cruising from the cottage in the Home Counties to the London office.

Yet with the flick of a couple of switches, there is a different car at one's service. The suspension can be adjusted by a button on the console through four settings from soft to hard sports. The transmission can be switched from eight-speed fully automatic to a quickshift mounted in the console plus paddle gearshift mounted on the steering wheel.

The interior is reminiscent of a traditional Bentley. Picture supplied.

Driving down the notoriously bumpy King Edward Road in Osborne Park with the suspension on full sports mode is a fairly rough ride, but rounding the bend at near 60km/h as the road turns into Hector Street West shows the car's true colours.

Most cars would be in danger of running off the road into the showrooms below but the Bentley's all-wheel-drive (set to 60 per cent power to the rear wheels and 40 per cent to the front wheels) takes the 90-degree, poorly cambered turn with almost excessive ease.

Put the foot down on the entrance to the freeway and the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine that provides such a smooth ride can be appreciated for its grunt.

The Bentley pushes from a crawl to the 100km/h speed limit before there is any need to think about merging. The paddle shift means both hands can stay on the wheel as the turbos turn the massage seat into more of a jet aircraft seat.

The exhaust, tuned by a bunch of wonks at the Bentley factory, has a rich, throaty sound.

The sad thing about this vehicle is that it can probably never be driven to its full potential on our roads, unless your thing is getting from zero to 110km/h in a little over five seconds.

The interior is a modernised version of traditional Bentley, including pull knobs on the air- conditioning ducts, leather trim and classic round instrument panels. In the cockpit and on the steering wheel, styling has overwhelmed practicality to some degree.

The indicator lights, mounted within the tachometer and speedo housings, are tiny by modern standards and the right flicker is hidden behind the speed arm when the car is at cruising speed of around 60km/h. The flicker lights are dim.

This test driver's problems with indicators unknowingly being left on were compounded by the car's stereo constantly being played at high volume. "Bloody tosser in a Bentley," I could imagine other drivers thinking.

Luckily, there were no cops around. Then again, if one can afford a Bentley, one could probably afford the occasional fine for dodgy indication.

LOWDOWN

Model Bentley Continental GT V8 Coupe
Engine 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 with cylinder deactivation
Outputs 373kW/660Nm
Transmission Eight-speed automatic
Driveline Continuous all-wheel-drive
0-100km/h 4.6sec.
Maximum speed 303km/h
Thirst 10.6L/100km (98 RON premium petrol)
Fuel capacity 90 litres
Weight 2750kg
Length 4806mm

PRICE ==

From $404,700 drive away
As tested $468,930

OPTIONS FITTED

Mulliner Driving Specification $24,038
Colour specification $8559
Bright-aluminium fascia panels $2595
Veneer centre case $1094
Extended paint range, Dragon Red $8465
Contrast stitching $4011
Deep-pile overmats $765
Space-saving spare wheel $1230
Massage seats with ventilation $1645
Coming home controls $758
Television tuner $2274
Six-disc CD changer $1230
Valet key $522
First-aid kit, warning triangle $243
Rear-view camera $2274
Standard brakes with red calipers $2725
Power boot open/close operation $1802

Mulliner Driving Specification includes 21-inch six-spoke black alloy wheels, embroidered Bentley emblems, jewel filler cap, knurled sports gear lever, quilted hide on seats, drilled alloy sports pedals