Car reviews - Bentley - Continental - Supersports coupe
Awesome acceleration, phenomenal braking, cracking exhaust, muscular styling
Room for improvement
E85 capability means next to nothing here, gear change paddles feel awkward, weight is still an issue, outrageous paint option cost
8 Dec 2009
TO SIT in the Bentley Continental Supersports is a strange sensation, as it is unlike any other Bentley.
The supportive bucket seats are like those of a race car, only more comfortable, and there are no seats in the back.
The cabin has no woodgrain, replaced by lots of carbon fibre in the instrument binnacle and centre console, but Bentley has retained the leather-lined dashboard.
Fire it up by pressing the ignition button and the Supersports emits a gruff rumble that suggests it is meaner than your traditional Continental.
It sounds menacing, but not in an overt way, at least at low revs.
Accelerate hard and that all changes, with the larger rear pipes belting out an angry thunder that tells all and sundry that this is a serious piece of automotive hardware.
Then there is the gruff grumble it emits when you back off the throttle, which is just heavenly.
We tested the Bentley at private track an hour out of Sydney, which is classified as a private road and has very little run-off. This, the fact that the car costs $525,000 and that it is the only one in the country, have a certain effect on a driver.
Luckily, a fully-insured Bentley representative was able to unleash the car for a red-hot demonstration lap.
The Superspeed’s acceleration is simply stunning.
It has so much power that it slings this 2240kg beast forward with such phenomenal force that you look forward to the next corner just so you can slow down and accelerate again.
The powerband has no soft point, just an overwhelming stream of horsepower all the way to 6000rpm.
The automatic transmission takes a while to change in the regular setting, but can be set to shift faster. It will still override the driver in manual mode, but the changes are quick indeed.
The only problem with the paddles in that they are fixed and are in an awkward spot for my test drive. Their rectangular design feels strange and they can be clumsy to use.
The brakes leave even more of an impression than the engine’s fearsome acceleration.
Those carbon discs and the eight piston callipers do a simply remarkable job of pulling up this behemoth.
You expect that you have braked too late, but the anchors proceed to pull up the car with a level of ease that encourages you to brake later and harder into the next bend.
The steering is light, as is the case with most luxury cars at this end of the market, and that is disconcerting. Once you spend a little time in the car, it is possible to get used to it, but it never feels quite right.
The big Bentley does not suffer much body roll and it changes direction much more easily than its dimensions and weight would suggest possible.
It has an impressive amount of grip and the all-wheel-drive system allows you to put much of the power down fairly early in the turn.
The phenomenal acceleration was evident on my run, but the hot lap with the Bentley driver outlined just how fast this car can go.
The 40/60 torque split enables the driver to power through the bends drifting all four wheels slightly rather than being denied any fun by a handful of understeer.
In the hands of a talented steerer it feels much like a track race car, although its bulk is still evident.
The private track is covered in billiard table smooth tarmac, so there was no chance of testing ride quality.
It would be fascinating to experience the stiffer suspension on real roads spoiled by pot holes and tram tracks.
The Continental Supersports looks imposing. Those bonnet holes, wider rear wings, deeper bumpers and blacked out stainless steel bits all help hint that it is both expensive and fast. Lightly pimped is probably the best way to describe it.
It should be noted that the test car was running on E85 (85 per cent ethanol, 15 per cent petrol), as part of Bentley’s attempt to feel a little bit better about selling such a thirsty car.
It makes for nice pictures and slogans in the brochures, but the fact it can run on this mix of fuel means next to nothing in Australia. There are only a handful of E85 pumps across the country and that is likely to be the case for some time.
Ignore the spin and you see that this car is a big, heavy luxury muscle car that only carries two people and guzzles fuel at a startling rate. It is not green by any means.
The Supersports is a curious car, a 2200kg-plus two-seater luxury coupe that is actually a lighter, more hardcore, variation of an existing model.
It does make sense when you consider this is an extension of the existing range.
This is the car for the Bentley Continental GT or GT Speed owner who likes their car but wants to try something a bit harder and faster and doesn’t mind paying a seemingly ludicrous amount to do so.
These lucky people will have a hoot.
As for paying $60,000 for the optional matt grey paint? Well, that is just plain foolish.
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