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Geneva show: Bentley reveals its fastest car

Just super: The Bentley Continental Supersports can hit 329km/h.

Bentley increases power and cuts weight with 329km/h ‘eco’ Continental Supersports

26 Feb 2009

BENTLEY has revealed the fastest and most powerful car in the company’s history – the Bentley Continental Supersports – which will be open for orders from May.

First customer deliveries globally will be made in the third quarter of this year, but won’t hit Australia until early 2010.

Weighing in 110kg lighter than the Continental GT Speed, but still tipping the scales at some 2240kg, the new two-seat Supersports will accelerate from rest to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds, will reach 160km/h in 8.9 seconds and run out to a terminal speed of 329km/h.

The car’s 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine churns out a massive 463kW of power at 6000rpm and 800Nm of torque at between 1700rpm and 5600rpm, driving all four wheels through a revised ZF ‘Quickshift’ six-speed automatic transmission that is claimed to halve shift times.

Of course, it gulps petrol at a great rate – 16.3L/100km on the European combined cycle and 24.5L/100km on the urban cycle – and churns out a massive 388g/km of carbon-dioxide, but Bentley does not want you to think it is environmentally unsound because the Supersports is also the company’s first FlexFuel car, able to run on up to 85 per cent ethanol.

54 center imageThe company claims the car therefore “reaffirms Bentley’s environmental commitment” and represents stage one of a plan to make its complete model range compatible with renewable fuels by 2012.

Bentley claims crop-based E85 biofuel can offer a reduction of up to 70 per cent in CO2 emissions on a ‘well-to-wheel’ basis, including refinement, distillation and transport, not just tailpipe emissions.

In the Supersports, the fuel supply system detects the blending ratio of the fuel in the tank (from regular petrol to E85) and ensures that power and torque remain constant regardless of the ratio of petrol to biofuel.

However, we expect that Bentley owners and enthusiasts will be more interested in the performance and development of the new model, which the Volkswagen-owned company said began as an ‘under the radar’ project “exploring the possibilities of weight reduction on the Continental GT but with more power and torque”.

Bentley said what started as a largely experimental process crystallised over 24 months into an official new car program that company chairman and chief executive Franz-Josef Paefgen said was “driven by the passion and enthusiasm of a small group of Bentley engineers and designers”.

“The Continental Supersports is the fastest, most extreme Bentley ever, dramatically styled to underline its supercar character,” said Dr Paefgen. “Importantly, it also pioneers the use of FlexFuel technology in the luxury sector.” The Supersports name was chosen in honour of the original two-seater 3.0-litre Supersports model introduced in 1925, which was a lightweight evolution of the 3.0-litre Speed Le Mans winner and the first production Bentley to reach 100 mph (161km/h), despite producing only 85 horsepower (63kW).

With 463kW of power, the Supersports has 51kW more power than the standard Continental W12 engine and 16kW more than the GT Speed, apparently as a result of increasing the turbo boost and improving the breathing, with additional airflow to the intercoolers and cooling system from large vertical intake apertures beneath the headlights and twin bonnet vents.

Bentley claims these changes also helped to increase the aerodynamic downforce at the front of the car, which was balanced by the addition of a raised edge on the tail.

Developments to enable the use of biofuel, which is consumed at a greater rate than petrol and has more corrosive properties, included new O-rings, seals, gaskets and pipes in the fuel system, twin variable-flow fuel pumps, new valve coatings and hardened valve seats, a new closed-loop fuel rail design and spark plugs with a wider heat range for slower combustion.

More than a quarter of the overall weight savings were achieved by fitting special lightweight 20-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels (saving 10kg) and carbon-ceramic brake discs, said to be the largest and most powerful brakes ever fitted to a production car, which saved 20kg.

On top of the wheels and more purposeful front-end and bonnet, the Supersports is distinguished by fatter flared rear wheelarches that give the car a more powerful stance and, more practically, accommodate a 50mm-wider rear track designed to enhance handling and traction.

Other exterior changes include a unique dark-smoked steel finish to all exterior ‘brightware’, including front grilles, lamp bezels, window surrounds and wheels.

Bentley claims a car industry first in the use of a complex ‘Physical Vapour Deposition’ process that is applied to all stainless steel components to give a more lustrous and durable finish, a process normally used as a coating on industrial tools, watches and even hip replacement joints.

Complementing the car’s mighty performance is an array of chassis enhancements including retuned steering and suspension, using lighter components and stiffer bushes, retuned dampers and anti-roll bars, and a revised electronic stability control program.

The interior features two lightweight sports seats and is fitted-out with plenty of carbon-fibre instead of the usual wood veneer, including a carbon-fibre luggage retaining beam across the rear stowage deck, which replaces the rear seats of the regular Continental.

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