Total Production: 1,736 1984 - 1992 The Bentley Eight was produced from 1984 through 1992 and served as Bentley's entry-level model. It was powered by a 6.75 liter Rolls-Royce eight-cylinder engine and the four-speed 4L80-E automatic gearbox gracefully sent the power to the rear wheels.
In comparison to the Mulsanne there was little to distinguish the two. The radiator was create from a wire-mesh material whereas the Mulsanne had vertical slats. The Mulsanne was better equipped.
The Bentley Eight was sold in the Europe and the United States with a total of 1736 examples being produced. By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2006When the Bentley Continental GT debuted in 2004, it was met with mixed feelings. The car's bold look had heritage in its veins, reminding the Bentley faithful of such legends as the R Type Continental. Its innovative 12-cylinder engine with twin turbochargers brought lively performance, and the dazzling interior was in line with prior Bentley cabins. Many purists, though, viewed the lower priced model as sharing too much DNA with lesser Volkswagen products.
Volkswagen had purchased Bentley in 1998. Up until the Continental's release, VW had been running Bentley free of controversy by producing cars very similar to those that left the factory before the days of Volkswagen intervention. The Continental GT, though, was a departure from the Bentleys immediately preceding it. Though clearly a Bentley in terms of style and performance, the Continental GT was manufactured more cost-effectively than other models had been. The 12-cylinder engine was amply powerful and smooth, but its roots were in the W12 engines used by VW and Audi. Additionally, the relative affordability of the Continental GT took away some of the Bentley brand's exclusivity.
Exactly two decades before the launch of the Continental GT, Bentley introduced a different kind of affordable Bentley. Called simply the Eight for its V8 engine, the bargain Bentley of 1984 was able to bring the famous marque to a host of new owners without generating the controversy of the Continental GT. Bentley accomplished this feat by basing the Eight off of an existing model and subtracting some of the extraneous niceties until the base price of the car was made significantly more affordable.
When Rolls-Royce and Bentley were under the same ownership, their customers tended to be very traditional. They accepted change only with difficulty, which was not surprising given that many of them had grown used to the familiar Rolls-Royce and Bentley products to which their families had been accustomed for generations. Products of the two kings of British luxury were sold chiefly to old money and aristocracy, and customers rarely bought just a single model but would return to the brands whenever a new vehicle was needed.
To prevent the alienation of its regular customers while extending its reach to new markets, Bentley used the Mulsanne as the platform for the Eight. The Bentley Mulsanne had been introduced in 1980 as a replacement for the T2. The Mulsanne had an attractive, well-proportioned look with a luxurious heft to its chiseled features. The styling was conservative with the traditional Bentley grille front and center with its curved edges and vertical vanes. The Mulsanne was effortless to drive and had an opulent interior with every comfort Bentley could fit.
When the Eight was introduced, it looked almost identical to the Mulsanne. Its most obvious distinguishing feature was the grille. The Eight used the same soft-edged surround as the Mulsanne's grille, but the vanes were replaced by mesh. The mesh insert was not an entirely new idea but a tribute to early Bentley models that featured the same grille material. Inside, the Eight shared a similar design to the Mulsanne's cabin. Mechanically the cars were nearly identical. The most important factor of the Eight's reduced price was its more basic level of feature content.
The Eight was still very well appointed, but it came standard with more mundane equipment than the Mulsanne, such as standard cloth upholstery and steel wheels (though alloy wheels were standard from 1988). Bentley was able to reduce costs by using the less exotic pieces. Other excessive items were trimmed from the Eight's standard features list, but even with fewer amenities the interior remained plush and comfortable, with lovely and abundant wood trim and subtle chrome details.
Bentley understood that many customers buying the Eight were moving up from smaller, more nimble cars. Accordingly, Bentley tightened up the front suspension to give the Eight better handling characteristics. With the handling dynamics of the all-independent, self-leveling suspension setup improved, the Eight became a better driver's car than other Bentleys of the era. Four wheel disc brakes helped keep everything under control, and the choice of only the shorter wheelbase (120.5 inches versus 124.5inches) also contributed to making the Eight a very manageable car.
Using the familiar all-aluminum V8 of 6.75-liters, the Bentley Eight was adequately powerful but not quick. It took about 12 seconds to reach 60mph, and could continue on to 126mph as it gathered steam. The transmission was a three-speed automatic. The engine and transmission were the same units as found in the Mulsanne, with the V8 initially using two SU carburetors for the home market and Bosch fuel injection for export markets. Bosch made reliable and effective fuel injection systems, and Bentley adopted fuel injection on all Eights for 1986.
The Eight's affordability was relative. It was still a very expensive car when new and exuded class and money just as any other Bentley would. It was successful, though, in offering the real Bentley experience to nouveau riche customers in a package that didn't upset the purists.
Dawe, Jason. 'Bentley Eight.' Times Online 17 Nov 2002 Web.3 Aug 2009. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/driving/used_car_reviews/article823822.ece.