GTs—or grand touring cars—are known for their comfort and luxury and, like muscle cars, are distinguished more by their straight-line speed than for their handling prowess. Yet this past year during our 2019 Best Driver’s Car competition, the 2020 Bentley Continental GT V8 and 2019 BMW M850i xDrive surprised us with how well they handled on the road. The big Bentley, with its Porsche underpinnings, drove like a luxurious Nissan GT-R on Highway 198, and the 8 Series made us forget that it wasn’t a real M8 (a car we’ll be sure to include in our 2020 Best Driver’s Car program). Thoroughly impressed, we chucked the keys to Randy Pobst to see how the two cars fared when well outside their respective comfort zones, on WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
In the tale of the tape, the Bentley Continental GT V8 is far and away the Laguna Seca favorite. Unlike the prior-generation Continental GT, the new one gains much from its membership in the Volkswagen Auto Group. Built on a shortened version of the Porsche Panamera‘s platform and, in this instance, powered by a Porsche-sourced V-8, the Continental GT is essentially the modern-day descendant of the old Porsche 928. Although the Continental GT is available with Bentley’s own W-12 under hood, we opted for the lighter, more power-dense V-8 for our tester. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 produces a healthy 550 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque, and it sends its power to a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system via a (Porsche-sourced) eight-speed twin-clutch automatic. The end result is a luxurious coupe capable of sprinting from 0 to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, from 0 to 100 to 0 mph in 12.2 seconds, and through our figure eight in 24.1 seconds while averaging 0.82 g.
With the BMW M8 unavailable as of last summer, it was up to the M850i xDrive to represent Bimmer’s flagship 8 Series lineup. Although it lacks its predecessor’s big V-12 and manual gearbox (and the hot-rodded 617-hp V-8 from the M8), the M850i still packs some serious heat. Under its hood sits BMW’s own 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8, which produces 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system. Its numbers for 0 to 60 mph and 0 to 100 to 0 mph lag a touch behind the Bentley at 3.5 seconds and 13.2 seconds, respectively, but it makes up some ground on the figure eight, lapping our course in 24.0 seconds at 0.84 g average.