Bentley Continental Supersports - what is it?
On first acquaintance with the Bentley Continental Supersports, it’s hard not to be mesmerised by its power and speed. The ordinary Continental GT coupe is impressive enough in the poke department, but this new one has its power boosted by 13 per cent and its kerb weight cut by 110kg, which means its power-to-weight ratio jumps from 238 to 271bhp per tonne, its 0-100mph time is cut from 11.1 to 8.9sec and its top speed climbs from 198 to 205mph.
In short, the Supersports is as fast as any of us could want to go. It should not be lost, in all this, that the Continental Supersports is Bentley’s idea of an economy car. It has been painstakingly engineered to produce its 621bhp whether burning E85 (15 per cent petrol, 85 per cent ethanol) or pure pump petrol, or any combination of the two.
Making the engine management system versatile enough to cope is a more important engineering achievement than is generally perceived – apart from which, ethanol-based fuels are inclined to attack conventional plastics and rot fuel lines and gaskets. You must practically start again.
Even so, Bentley says its entire range will have this capability by 2012, bringing a CO2 fleet reduction of 15 per cent. Bentley insists that on a ‘well to wheel’ basis for all calculations an E85 Bentley’s emissions are around 70 per cent lower, not so far north of a Toyota Prius’s.
Bentley Continental Supersports - what’s it like?
Many experts disagree with the green hypothesis associated with the Bentley Continental Supersports, as you can imagine, but it does allow Bentley to claim that “cars can be green without being small, slow or boring”.
None of these three adjectives springs to mind when (with rising excitement) you scan the elegant grey-green flanks of the Supersports you’re about to drive, complete with an extra expanse of meshed grille, two no-nonsense extractor gills on the top surface of the bonnet, a complete lack of shiny trim and a set of the most beautiful gleaming black alloys, forged for strength and light weight.
Slip into the uncharacteristically firm, enveloping leather bucket seats, frames by Sparco, hand-trimmed at Crewe, thumb the starter button and the engine starts with a smooth, all-powerful thrum.
Snick ‘D’ with the knurled gear lever and you’ll be surprised as you pull away by the firmness of the suspension, oddly unaccompanied by surface jiggles that usually go with cars as stiff as this, riding on 20-inch wheels. At 40mph this car just glides.
Double, then treble the speed and it still glides, its powerful, adaptable dampers translating even the most body-heaving hump into a controlled, passenger-friendly movement. This is one of those mythical cars whose suspension is stiff and wheels are huge but which insists on riding brilliantly.
Cornering meets the same exalted standards. This big, heavy car eats corners like 2200kg coupés almost never do. On neutral throttle in bends it’ll understeer slightly.
Give it big power in faster bends and you can make it tighten the line by increasing the slip angle of its rear tyres, without encouraging the admirably laissez-faire ESP to intrude unless the surface gets slippery or you’ve made a truly hideous miscalculation. Come off the power and it’ll restore you to the line you first thought of.