REVIEW DATE: 05 Mar 2009
Bentley has really pushed the performance boat out with the Continental Supersports. Steve Walker takes a look.
There are some thunderously fast cars in the current Bentley line-up but all of them retain at least a little of the brand's trademark reserve. Even the Continental GT coupe with its supercar performance plays things in a more understated fashion than the alternatives in its pace and price brackets. That's how it used to be anyway, before the Continental Supersports arrived on the scene.
Bentley has let its formidable Continental coupe well and truly off the leash in Supersports guise. The car represents this famous British marque at its most extreme and aggressive, terms which just aren't associated with the brand under normal circumstances. These are not normal circumstances. The Continental Supersports is designed to produce a far more focused driving experience than other Continental models and it sets out to achieve this with reduced weight, a revised transmission, improved chassis stiffness, firmer suspension and, of course, more power.
The twin-turbo W12 engine that powers the Continental GT develops 552bhp and in the Continental GT Speed, it has 600bhp but in the Continental Supersports it has been further tweaked to achieve 621bhp. That's a lot of power and cars that can match it are a very rare and select breed but it's not the power that will really define the Continental Supersports driving experience, it's the torque. With the aid of its twin turbochargers, the 6.0-litre engine can generate a huge 800Nm of torque but it's available from 1,700rpm all the way through to 5,600rpm. That's a recipe for massive in gear acceleration and imperious overtaking punch. Trying to marshal all that force is a Quickshift version of Bentley's six-speed automatic gearbox which has been specially strengthened and lives up to its name with gear changes that are 50 per cent faster than those of the standard unit. It will even execute throttle blips to match the revs on down changes, to underline its sporting flavour.
"Bentley has really let its hair down with the Continental Supersports"
The raw figures give some insight into the sheer pace of the Continental Supersports. The car can get from a standing start to 60mph in 3.7 seconds and will be bursting through the 100mph barrier in 8.9s. If you put the hammer down at 50mph, that monstrous torque and the four-wheel-drive transmission system will have you at 70mph in 2.1s. The top speed is 204mph.
The power of the Supersports is reflected in its styling but the modifications are not purely for cosmetic reasons: they work to ensure the car can make the most of its performance. The huge frontal intakes supply the extra air that the turbochargers need to function properly while twin bonnet vents allow hot air to flow away from the engine. The self-levelling air suspension system is lower than on the standard models and features stiffer bushes while the rear track is extended, necessitating the Supersports' wider rear wheelarches. With increased use of aluminium and carbon fibre around the car, Bentley engineers have managed to reduce the weight of the Supersports by 110kg compared to the Continental GT Speed model so that it tips the scales at 2,240kg.
The four-wheel-drive transmission system on the Continental Supersports has a 40/60 front/rear split to give a sportier focus than the 50/50 set-up on other models. There's also a quicker setting for the speed-sensitive power steering designed to give a sharper turn in and the CDC Continuous Damping Control system has been tweaked for better body control.
The Supersports interior ditches Bentley's traditional wood veneers in favour of carbon fibre and the soft touch leather you'd expect is accompanied by Alcantara furthering the more modern feel. The rear seats also get the chop in favour of a stowage area which is accessed by tipping the lightweight front seats forward. Bentley is offering a range of trim options with single or dual tone interior colour schemes. If the hard-top version isn't to your liking, a GTC convertible model is also available.
Even cars built for the express purpose of going indecently quickly need to keep half an eye on their environmental impact these days or at least be seen to be doing so. With this in mind, the Supersports model has been designed to run on any mix of petrol and E85 Bioethanol. Because it's produced from plants which take CO2 out of the atmosphere while growing, bioethanol is carbon neutral and owners using the fuel will take the edge off the Supersports' hefty combination of 388g/km CO2 emissions and 17.3mpg economy.
A special sensor detects the mix of petrol and ethanol being used, adjusting the parameters of the engine accordingly. As a result, there's no loss of power of torque even when running solely on bioethanol. Bentley has also taken extensive measures to counteract the corrosive effects of ethanol within the engine, upgrading a number of components.
Bentley has really let its hair down with the Continental Supersports, piling on a comprehensive package of revisions designed to turn the languid Continental GT coupe into a hard-edged supercar slayer. In terms of outright pace, only a select group of vehicles that can live with this ultimate sporting Bentley while the gearbox, chassis and suspension modifications promise a much sharper experience at the wheel.
Giving two tonnes of 200mph Bentley the capability to run on E85 bioethanol looks a little like installing a solitary solar panel on the roof of a coal-fired power station but at least it's a nod to the big green issue from one of the world's most luxurious car brands. It's still likely to be the prospect of 621 horsepower and 800Nm that gets Continental Supersports customers through the doors.
|For CONTINENTAL SUPERSPORTS|
|OVERALL||7.2 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||5|