Bentley Continental Supersports: Continental shift

With Gaydon shaking up the Grand Touring establishment with its DB11, Crewe had to come up with an answer. And that is the most powerful and fastest-accelerating Bentley of all time. But is it as good as the figures suggest?
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March 17, 2017
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As you’d expect from Bentley, the Supersports comes with a choice of 11 hide colours as standard along with 10 veneers, including Bright Tint aluminium and satin finish carbon fibre
As you’d expect from Bentley, the Supersports comes with a choice of 11 hide colours as standard along with 10 veneers, including Bright Tint aluminium and satin finish carbon fibre(8/13)
For all its supercar-baiting performance, the Continental Supersports gets a quintessentially Bentley cabin that’s bathed in opulence
For all its supercar-baiting performance, the Continental Supersports gets a quintessentially Bentley cabin that’s bathed in opulence(9/13)
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To add to the individuality offered by the carbon fibre wing, you can choose from exterior options like the Supersports side decals, chequered carbon-fibre side panels, and gloss black lightweight wheels
To add to the individuality offered by the carbon fibre wing, you can choose from exterior options like the Supersports side decals, chequered carbon-fibre side panels, and gloss black lightweight wheels (11/13)
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The 6.0-litre W12 squeezes out 60 horses more than what it makes in the current GT Speed
The 6.0-litre W12 squeezes out 60 horses more than what it makes in the current GT Speed(13/13)

Even as a seasoned automotive journalist and (semi-talented) driving enthusiast, getting into a big fast modern-era Bentley — especially the Continental GT — has always required me to reconfigure my brain somewhat. Big cars shouldn’t be this fast. Fast cars shouldn’t be this comfortable. Comfortable cars shouldn’t feel this aggressive. Aggressive cars shouldn’t feel this luxurious. Luxurious cars never have this much personality. Cars with personality never feel this solid. And solid cars are never this much fun. Yes, I said fun. Albeit in a unique Bentley approach to driver enjoyment. Obviously…

With the new Bentley Continental Supersports, these bewilderingly harmonious contradictions are amplified to a new level that teeters on the precipice of absurdity. The numbers involved are simply staggering and will almost certainly guarantee a win in any game of automotive trump cards no matter what the category. Actually, I still haven’t completely got my head around the numbers, so we’ll get to them later.

The name Supersports might suggest that this is a super sportscar, stripped-out and built for purity of driving pleasure at the expense of everything else. Well, it isn’t. Bentley hasn’t made a car like that in my lifetime, or even in my father’s lifetime, come to think of it. Maybe we’ll get one for the marque’s centenary in 2019 but, yeah, that’s too long to hold our collective breath in anticipation.

Maybe then it’s a nostalgic nod to the original ‘Super Sport’ from 1925, for which WO Bentley himself personally guaranteed a top speed of over 100mph (161kph) in an era when Mr Average was trundling around at 50mph (80kph) flat out? Nope, they were built on the shortened 3.0-litre chassis and intended for racing.

So obviously the connection is to the previous 2009 generation Continental Supersports? Not really. Bentley might want us to believe that but the concept behind the previous generation was very different. It was all about shedding 110kg, having only two carbon-fibre seats, firmer suspension, wider rear track, 40:60 front to rear torque split and a smattering of extra power. So what exactly is the new Bentley Continental Supersports?

In simple terms, the new Bentley Continental Supersports is the most ‘Bentley’ of any car that modern Bentley has ever made. Rather than sacrificing comfort for speed, or speed for luxury, Bentley has just thrown absolutely everything at the Supersports and (naturally) produced the fastest four-seater luxury sportscar in the world. The magic is that there really doesn’t seem to have been any compromises. None. It’s a fitting swan song for the big old Conti which, after  all, is 14 years old now and its replacement is allegedly imminent. The Continental GT was also the first model released by Bentley under Volkswagen management and arguably responsible for the renaissance of the brand. So it’s nice to see the folk at Crewe sending it off with a bang and cranking everything up to (and slightly beyond) 11.

Rather than sacrificing comfort for speed, or speed for luxury, Bentley has just thrown absolutely everything at the Supersports.

The exterior is still recognisable Conti, albeit beefed-up with new functional front splitter, functional rear diffuser and optional rear spoiler of slightly undetermined functionality. But this is a badass Bentley for the modern Bentley Boy with attitude, so all that chrome crap for the toffs has been jettisoned in favour of black accents and carbon detailing. The pipe and slipper brigade might not approve but me and my mate, Darth Vader, actually think this is the best-looking Conti yet and love the unashamed aggressive styling. It’s pretty rare for a Sith Lord and an automotive journalist to agree on anything so I would say that’s a positive result from Bentley. If you disagree strongly then feel free to write a letter for publication in our inbox section at wheelsletters@gulfnews.com but be warned, Darth reads wheels and doesn’t like to be contradicted. Expect a house visit.

If there’s a clear sign of the uncompromising nature of the Continental Supersports it is the ridiculously sumptuous interior with its four seats all present and correct. There is no trade-off here in comfort and luxury to enhance speed and handling via weight loss. In fact, Bentley has ramped up the luxury to 11 with, um, 11 veneers and technical finishes, new diamond-quilted design in Alcantara for the seats and door panels and a tri-tone interior that can be specced to your own good or bad taste. Fortunately, Bentley really knows what it is doing here and all of our test cars exhibited very stylish and refined interiors, lacking any ostentatious multicoloured accents. Obviously, as a customer you can ‘bespoke’ what you wish but our advice is to consult the Bentley experts and listen to their advice before ordering any outlandish requests.

Weight loss from both interior and exterior doesn’t really seem to have been on the agenda then during the board meeting in Crewe when the plan was hatched to produce the fastest Bentley ever. Any weight savings have been incidental and mainly achieved via the massive standard carbon ceramic brakes and Akraprovič titanium exhaust. The result is a shedding of about 40kg total, which no doubt left the engineers with the unenviable task of figuring out how to propel the remaining 2,280kg lump of luxury Conti.

The 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine in the Continental has never been accused of lacking power by anyone ever as far as I know, but automotive engineers can’t leave things alone and are always tampering and fiddling with stuff. For the Supersports, the Bentley boffins have managed to tease out 700bhp, which is over 60bhp more than the current Speed. But it’s really the torque figure that tells the true tale of this Bentley’s performance.

Slightly bigger parallel turbochargers spinning at 2,500 revolutions per second with direct intercooling and an increase in pressure from 0.9bar to 1.4bar assist the Supersports W12 in producing 1,017Nm of torque. And the result is extraordinary. Effortlessly shifting almost 2.3 tonnes of Bentley from 0-100kph in 3.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 336kph is an incredible engineering feat, and those are the figures most folk will focus on. But really, it’s the 0-160kph in 7.2 seconds that reveals the devastating ability of this behemoth to munch up the road. It took the previous generation ‘lightweight’ Supersports about 9.0 seconds to achieve that same result and it was 110kg lighter and devoid of all the luxury accoutrements and comfort of this latest Crewe’s missile.

But this is a badass Bentley for the modern Bentley Boy with attitude, so all that chrome crap for the toffs has been jettisoned in favour of black accents and carbon detailing.

Out in the real world on the roads around Lisbon in Portugal, you would be forgiven in thinking, then, that the Supersports would be a bit of an unruly beast with all them torques to play with. In reality, that familiar Continental character of effortless driving resplendent in luxury has still been retained, albeit with a lot more muscle to flex. The barely noticeable lag is inconsequential as all that torque makes itself known at 2,050rpm and quite violently lunges you towards the horizon. And this is when you really have to reconfigure your brain.

That combination of immense comfort and being cocooned in immense luxury while travelling at immense speed carrying immense mass means you really have to adapt yourself to driving the Supersports. The perception of speed becomes abstract and you really do need to pay attention to the speedometer. And just lifting off the accelerator will do little to curb 2.3-tonnes hurtling its mass onwards. Slow in, use the biggest disc brakes ever fitted to a passenger car and then back on the gas and fast out with great vengeance and furious anger. Drive it like a Bentley. Repeat. Drive it like a Bentley.

And yet, despite its mass and feeling quite large on narrow Portuguese backroads, the Supersports is surprisingly agile and almost playful in character. Torque vectoring — of the inside brake nipping variety — is no doubt at work and assisting on the roads. But I would be totally lying if I said I was acutely aware of it on my high-speed jaunt through the Portuguese countryside, such is the cocoon of opulence insulating you from reality.

A few brisk laps at Autódromo Fernanda Pires da Silva (Estoril), however, reveal how well the torque vectoring system contains understeer and also aids in propelling you out of the never-ending hairpins with fully sunken right foot. But this is no track car and doesn’t pretend to be. It isn’t a super sportscar either, full of performance compromises. It’s a vastly rapid luxury grand tourer that seats four people comfortably. It’s fast. It’s refined. It’s got all the torque. It is the ultimate Conti. It’s a Bentley.

Specs and rating

Model:Continental Supersports Coupé

Engine:6.0-litre W12 turbo

Transmission:Eight-speed auto, AWD

Max power:700bhp @ 6,000rpm

Max torque:1,017Nm @ 2,050rpm

Top speed:336kph

0-100kph:3.5sec

Length:4,806mm

Width:1,944mm

Height:1,394mm

Wheelbase:2,746mm

Weight:2,280kg

On sale:Now

Highs:Super fast, surprisingly agile, and ultra luxurious

Lows:Still a heavy old car