A few weeks ago here at the Square Mile offices, we woke up the entire neighbourhood. We didn’t mean to, but it’s what happened every time we started the Aston Martin Vanquish that was on test. It was very, very shouty and, OK, we loved the sound it made but after a while we have to admit that it did become a tad embarrassing.

So, we thought we’d look for something a tad more refined. We still wanted the performance and driving thrills, but it needed to avoid frightening all animals and small children every time we fired-up the engine.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the latest Bentley Continental GT. The Conti has been Bentley’s most successful model since it was launched in 2003 but, over the years, it has been steadily developed. The latest development is the gorgeous V8 S.

Bentley Continentals are a rather divisive car. You either love them or see them as being up there with Dallas wives or the domain of footballers who’re not very good but get a lot of money and want to let you know all about it. Some footballers have shiny silver Continentals which look like a mobile mirror. Others have them in matt black. One even had his car done in camouflage paint.

If you are looking for a top class coupé which is finished to an unbelievable standard, you’ll love this car.

Thankfully, you can also get some sensible colours which make the Continental look drop-dead gorgeous in an understated way. They’re the ones to get for two simple reasons. First, it suits the car. Secondly, you’ll be able to sell it.

What about the techy stuff. Well, the V8 S version of the Bentley Continental comes with a four-litre twin turbo V8 engine which develops 520bhp. You’ll hit 60mph in around 4.3 seconds with a potential to reach 200mph. As for fuel consumption, Bentley reckon on mid-20s mpg but, and we’re very proud of this, on a lazy Sunday we covered a very sedate 250 miles and managed nearly 30mpg.

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How can you squeeze that sort of figure from a 4.0 V8 engine we hear you say? Simple. If you just cruise gently, the clever electronics means only four of the eight cylinders are sucking petrol. But, put your foot down and the others burst into life instantly. You don’t know it, there’s no delay. It’s a neat trick which turns a serious sports car into something which is a lot less thirsty than you’d imagine.

The ride is uncannily smooth. It’s better than the Aston Martin. You can adjust the air suspension settings from between comfort and sport. The sport setting stiffens the dampers but in comfort mode this two-tonne Bentley is surprisingly smooth. Roadholding is outstanding, thanks to the all-wheel drive system.

The interior is a delight. It’s certainly up there with the neat touches of the Aston Martin and in many respects feels exceeds it. The seats are extremely comfortable – and you even get a couple of rear seats, large enough for small children. As for the level of kit, it’s best to say that you get everything you could possibly need. There’s also the option of a sport exhaust. You’ll want that.

What about other models in the Bentley Continental range? At the top of the tree, there’s the Continental Supersports which comes with a stonking W12 engine. 0-60 takes under 3.5 seconds and, at £200,000, it’s about the same as the Aston Vanquish.

However, if you want very similar ‘real world’ performance, stick with the V8. If anything, it sounds better than it's more refined bigger brother. The standard Bentley Continental GT V8 costs £140,000 but, if you go for this S model, you’ll need to find a further £9,000. We’d find the extra dosh because you get slightly better performance and the engine is even more flexible with most of the power available from under 2,000rpm. The ride height is a tad lower and the air suspension is a bit stiffer, all of which makes the Continental feel just a bit more sporty without ruining the ride comfort.

We accept that for some people, the Bentley Continental has an image problem. However, if you are looking for a top class coupé which is finished to an unbelievable standard, which comes with some occasional seats in the back, and fits into the classic Grand Touring mould, you’ll love this car. If you’re lucky enough to be able to have a blast down to the south of France, we couldn’t think of a better car to do it in. 

For more info, bentleymotors.com