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Bentley Continental GT and GTC at Detroit

... slicing off four cylinders from its W12 engine has resulted in a 40 per cent fuel saving and emission reduction.

The Koreans starred, the Japanese mounted a comeback, and One Ford hit the headlines with an extended family of Focus-based newcomers that it is certain to make a big hit in Australia. But it was one car and the commitment of its company chief that made the most impact as America fought back on the opening day of the 2011 North American International Motor Show.

Bentley’s bi-turbo V8 engine sets a new, downsized standard for the company as Detroit previews two cars with its new powerplants.

The Volkswagen-owned luxury car maker claims slicing off four cylinders from its W12 engine - Bentley is the UK’s biggest 12-cylinder engine manufacturer - has resulted in a 40 per cent fuel saving and emission reduction.

Yet the 4-litre V8, which is related to the family’s Audi 4.2-litre engine, pumps a hot 373kW and 660Nm. The engine debuts this week at the Detroit motor show in the Continental GT and the convertible version, the GTC. The W12 engine will remain an option.

Features of the V8 are direct injection, two turbochargers and intercoolers, and the ability to switch to become a V4 when coasting to reduce fuel use.

It is bolted to a new close-ration eight-speed automatic transmission and drives to all wheels.

Bentley says: “The arrival of the new V8 Continental models fulfils Bentley’s environmental commitment to produce a new powertrain that delivers a 40 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions.’’

“The instantly recognisable growl of the new 4.0 litre V8 engine sets it apart from its Bentley stablemates.’’

The V8 models of the Continental are distinguished by a black grille with chrome frame and centre bar, a red enamel Bentley ‘B’ badge, and a black matrix three-segment lower front bumper divided by body-coloured strakes.

At the rear, the pair get chrome “figure eight’’ exhaust tailpipes, a dark lower valance and red enamel ‘B’ bootlid badge.

Both models have 20-inch alloy wheels as standard with an optional 21‑inch six-spoke design which is available in dramatic Diamond Black (exclusive to the Continental V8) or Diamond Silver finishes.

Inside the cabin, an Eliade cloth headlining, new contemporary Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus veneers, optional two-tone leather colour split and short centre console continue the fresh, sporting design theme.

Since the launch of the original GT in 2003, the W12-engined Continental range has recorded over 50,000 sales worldwide.