Bentley reveals 621bhp, biofuel-powered Continental Supersports
25 February 2009

Bentley has launched its fastest car ever, the 621bhp Bentley Continental Supersports, and using it as the first step in its plan to make all of its models capable of running on biofuels by 2012. The car, tipped to cost around £150,000, will be unveiled to the public at next week’s Geneva show.

The Bentley Continental Supersports, which reprises the revered name of a high-performance ‘WO’ Bentley model from the late 1920s, shaves 110kg from the Continental GT’s 2350kg kerb weight, mainly by eliminating the rear seats and using of lighter front seats, trim materials, wheels and brakes.

Combined with the extra power (five per cent more than the GT Speed and 13 per cent up on the standard coupe) and a new ‘Quickshift’ transmission that halves gearchange times, the weight saving helps the Continental Supersports to accelerate from 0-60mph in just 3.7sec (0.9sec faster than standard).

But the most eye-catching gain is in its 0-100mph time; it falls from 11.1sec to 8.9sec, undercutting the Porsche GT3 by nearly half a second. Top speed rises from 198mph to 205mph.

Intelligent fuel sensors and engine controls, plus durability mods, ensure that the Continental Supersports’ 6.0-litre W12 engine can run as well on pure petrol as it does on an 85 per cent ethanol/petrol mix (E85) or any combination in between.

Bentley says only ‘well to wheel’ calculations make sense in today’s CO2-cutting culture, and it insists that burning E85 offers a real-world reduction in CO2 of up to 70 per cent compared with petrol.

All W12 Bentleys will use this approach. Bentley has promised to cut the CO2 emissions of its range by 15 per cent by 2012 and to introduce one new powertrain — possibly an Audi 6.0-litre V12 diesel — capable of a 40 per cent reduction.

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Bentley’s engineering director, Ulrich Eichhorn, is at pains to explain the thoroughness of the Supersports’ chassis development. The springs, dampers and many steering components have been retuned, and the car rides on stiffer suspension bushes. The brakes now use carbon-ceramic discs.

The Conti’s full-time four-wheel drive system now has a 60 per cent rearward torque bias, which goes with a 50mm increase in rear track and new flared rear wheel arches. The electronic stability control has also been retuned to allow a little more wheelspin and oversteer before it ‘saves’ the driver. The wheels are ultra-light 20-inch forged alloys, running bespoke Pirelli P Zeros.

The Continental Supersports also gets a new front bumper with bigger brake scoops, a set of bonnet ‘nostrils’ (which allow better airflow through the intercoolers) and a new rear bumper that incorporates new-shape central exhausts.

Inside, there are lightweight front bucket seats (they account for 40 per cent of the total weight saving), plus carbonfibre accents on the doors, console and fascia. A carbonfibre bar runs across the rear compartment to retain luggage, and all brightwork has been changed to a new ‘smoked steel’ finish.

Bentley won’t predict sales, but it has noted that GT Speed volumes rose to 60 per cent of the coupe’s total soon after launch, exceeding expectations.

The Bentley Continental Supersports will go on sale in Europe by the autumn, and in the US next summer.

Steve Cropley

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