2022 Porsche’s 911 Turbo S 992 and 2021 Bentley’s Continental GT V8
These four-wheel-drive GTs have both upped their driver appeal in their latest forms. Stuart Gallagher finds out which becomes our eighth finalist
Two technically similar but oh so different brothers from a different mother you couldn’t expect to meet when it comes to 2022 Porsche’s 911 Turbo S 992 and 2021 Bentley’s Continental GT V8. Both may owe their existence to the VW mothership, have four-wheel drive, eight-speed gearboxes and turbocharged engines, but really that’s where the faintest of family resemblances begins and ends. Which is why the decision on which of these two, if either, makes it through to Scotland won’t be determined by how they thunder around Anglesey for three days. Loudly in the case of the Bentley; blink and you’ll miss it when it comes to the 911.
Bentley’s new Continental GT V8 is at eCoty purely on its own merit. With a W12 behind its mesh grille the latest GT is such a leap on from its predecessor it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bentley had considered a name change. Now with the VW Group’s ubiquitous twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8 up front it has become arguably the best driver’s car Bentley has built.
It surprises you how adaptable it is to the situations it ﬁnds itself in, absorbing mile after mile of tedious journeys with its long-legged stride, soaking up the surface, isolating you from the white noise of society like few others. That it no longer falls over itself the moment the scenery turns interesting is where the GT V8 grabs you by the lapels and makes you take notice. Previously where you would resign yourself to wafting along with the occasional blast down a long, clear straight, you now plug yourself in and prepare to get involved.
The GT takes hold of any slack, tightens its resolve and indulges you in the action beneath its deep-pile carpets. It doesn’t all of a sudden become a Cayman GTS, but it enjoys being driven hard and yet at no time does this come at the cost of its luxury grand touring brief.
On track it’s a slightly different story, although not one where the Bentley understeers off the edge of the circuit into the Irish Sea. Its dynamics lose their focus and become a little one dimensional, and a driving style not far off that needed for a hot hatch is required to get the most from it. ‘Lift off on turn-in to unload the rear and encourage it to swing and help turn the car into the apex,’ was John Barker’s method.
Ultimately the mass that allows it to glide across the road struggles to be discreet on track. ‘That’s not to say there isn’t balance and some poise in there, far from it,’ explains Henry. ‘It’s just that such huge mass inevitably pummels the tread blocks and strains the sidewalls all too easily, which is not a very nice feeling.’ Adam is taken with how it isn’t shy to loosen its tie and roll up its sleeves: ‘It’s a right giggle how you can fling it around Anglesey, smoking the rear tyres if you provoke it and get on the power really early. Yes, it’s all a bit silly, and not what you’d buy one for, but this is a car with a spirit just beneath the surface.’ Quite.
It’s the Bentley’s spirit that got it this far and won it many admirers, bar John, who concludes: ‘It’s undoubtedly a better road car than track car but the Bentley leaves little impression on me.’ And while there were a few eyeing it up for the run to Scotland, hand on heart we are unanimous that it wouldn’t be in with a shot at the podium. However, like the DBX, it’s one of 2020’s surprises and one we’d secretly like to have ready access to more often than not.
Which leads us to the 911 Turbo S, which very nearly doesn’t make it to Scotland. Not sure if Porsche would expect us to return the brown envelope if it didn’t… Anyway, this is a 911 Turbo that impresses on every drive, regardless of the circumstances, as Dickie explains between mouthfuls of his kale and quinoa breakfast (or double egg and bacon bap as they call it at Anglesey): ‘The combination of genuine everyday comfort and refinement with the ability to up its game to GT3 RS pace – and possibly more – on track sets it apart. I think it’s the most convincing take on the 992 yet, and an otherworldly spaceship in the oldest Turbo tradition.’
Its blend of on-road usability and on-track adjustability and hooliganism makes for a compelling driver’s car, and an addictive one, too. You savour every rush of acceleration, the razor-sharp turn-in and that four-square, pawing-at-the- surface stance that 911 Turbos take up when you point them at the apex and let them loose. As with our three other supercars here, it is, of course, far faster than we all need for the road. But you could argue that all Turbos have been. That the 992 feels as much a track car as a GT3 is the more remarkable story. But also one that starts to cast a doubt. ‘The Turbo leaves me feeling a little underwhelmed on the road. On the track I think it’s fantastic… for what’s quite a heavy car now. It just shrugs off track work like it was born to do it,’ is Adam’s take. John’s? He’s equally floored by the Turbo S’s on-track ability and agility: ‘It’s astonishing. I was out in the worst possible conditions, when it was damp, and the mechanical grip it found was jaw-dropping.’ But after another drive on the road he returns with questions over the firm ride and wishing it was a little more easy going when you weren’t crashing into the horizon.
Was this really going to be the second year on the bounce that a 911 wouldn’t make it to the final of eCoty? It was a close call. So close in fact that Henry and I can’t call it and are sent out to make our minds up and told not to return until we’re ready to cast the deciding votes.
Both of us think it is outstanding on track. A more impressive track car than it is a road car in fact, helped undoubtedly because a circuit allows you to fall into the Turbo S’s performance and experience its full force without fear. And, also, experience a level of precision and agility that is totally unexpected. ‘I remember feeling the rear break loose in the most fabulously progressive yet still 911-ish way,’ explains Henry as we debate the Turbo’s merits in the car park of a garden centre (the glamour is never far away on eCoty). ‘It was so well telegraphed that you had plenty of time to have a ponder and decide whether you wanted to gather things up or perhaps see if you could keep the slide going.’ Both of us struggle to champion it on the road, though. I still think it’s the best 911 Turbo for a long time, one that finally feels like it has a purpose to its existence. Henry’s take is that ‘on the road there is so much grip that you can only marvel at its crushing capability rather than feel part of a really engaging experience’. It remains a brilliant allrounder, yet despite getting a ticket to the final there is a sense that, of our eight finalists, the 911 Turbo S will have the toughest job of all to challenge for the podium.