The new Bentley Continental GTC has replaced the 6.0-litre W12 with a 4-litre V8 developed from the one we’ve already experienced in the new Audi S8 featuring direct injection and the ability to become a V4 under light loadings. It produces 500bhp (not a huge drop from the W12's 567bhp), helped by twin turbochargers as used on the W12. But here's the thing: it's claimed to use 40 per cent less fuel than the W12, with barely any pace penalty. With this heavy and hugely rapid car's CO2 rated at 275g/km, water is being turned into wine here.
The new engine is tuned to give the powerful wallop from low engine speeds that you expect from a Bentley, but there's a new crispness here and some excellent sound effects. The W12 was never the most sonorous of engines, and the V8 shows what we've been missing. There's a deep bass woofle at low speeds, with a sharp, percussive crackle overlaying it as the revs rise, and the new gearbox makes the most of the engine's efforts with quick, firm but smooth shifts.
And that 25kg slim-down feels more like 250kg, with the nose behaving as though much lighter and more sensitive. The steering feels properly connected to the road and this no longer feels like a heavy, high-momentum car. Instead it feels keen and agile, hooking enthusiastically into turns and proving supple and light-footed over bumps. It's the best-driving Bentley in history, no question.
Pricing starts at around 10 per cent less than the W12 version, which means it should retail at around £122,000 when sales start next month. Notional rivals are the Aston Martin V12 Vantage and the Ferrari California (there'll also be a GTC version), but the Bentley offers more space than either with no real loss of driving excitement.
The V8 is a much better car, to the extent that the W12's continued existence seems entirely pointless.