Bentley Continental Supersports

British luxury grand tourer gets turned up to eleven

GED BULMER

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

THEY say that nothing succeeds like excess, but even the great W.O.

Bentley, founder of the storied British luxury marque and a man not known for his willingness to die wondering, would be proud of what the crew from Crewe have conjured this time around.

Building on the potent platform laid down by the original 2009 Continental Supersports and more recently with the GT Speed, Bentley has turned the dial up to 11 in reviving the Supersports moniker in a car it’s heralding as “the fastest and most powerful luxury four-seater in the world”.

That’s courtesy of the latest iteration of Bentley’s venerable twin-turbo W12 engine and its outputs of 522kW and 1017Nm.

Those numbers are enough to overcome the coupe’s hefty 2280kg kerb weight to rocket it from 0-100km/h in just 3.5 seconds, on its way to a 336km/h top speed.

The extra mumbo comes thanks to a reworking of the W12 (see sidebar) while the eight-speed ZF transmission also came in for engineering attention, adopting a new torque converter that’s softer initially to allow the turbos to spool up, but which then locks up faster and across a wider rev range to allow the car to make best use of its huge torque, thus enabling even more rapid acceleration.

About 40kg has been stripped out of the Supersports when compared with the GT Speed, which isn’t huge but is significant when you realise that about 25kg of that is unsprung mass.

The combination of massive power, reduced unsprung weight, torque vectoring and the Continental’s standard 40:60 rear-biased permanent all-wheel-drive system gives the Supersports a surprising degree of agility and balance.

However, as we discovered over the course of several fast laps at Portugal’s famed Estoril circuit, the Supersports is no track-day racer. It’s simply too big and heavy to be precise enough on what is a particularly challenging track.

At full throttle down the main straight the guttural roar of the Supersports’ W12 sounds like an enraged bull elephant, the speedo nudging 240km/h before pizza platter-size carbon-ceramic brakes are forced to earn their keep.

In these conditions you have to respect the sheer weight of the car and the prodigious speed it’s carrying, washing off velocity and settling the coupe before getting back on the loud pedal, at which point the immense punch of the reinvigorated W12 comes firmly back into perspective.

None of this is any use if the stability control is all over you like a wet nanny state, so the ESC has been recalibrated to make it less intrusive and allow enthusiast drivers to extract maximum handling attitude from the car.

As rapid as it is on the racetrack it’s out on freeways and more open backroads that the Supersports really shines. No-one understands the Grand Tourer ethos better than Bentley, and the Supersports is the consummate GT.

On tight backroads, of which there are plenty in Portugal, you’re very much aware of the car’s physical presence. At 4818mm long, 1944mm wide and weighing almost 2.3 tonnes, the Supersports commands its share of road. But it’s precisely this imposing heft, coupled with its generous 2746mm wheelbase and that unbelievably flat torque plateau, that gives the Supersports such rock-solid stability at high speed.

Rocketing along the autostradas outside Lisbon, the big Bentley felt utterly unfazed at numbers that would see you publicly flogged and locked up back home, yet it still has massive pace in reserve, should you feel game.

Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Bentley Continental Supersports 5998cc W12 (72°), dohc, 48v, twin-turbo 522kW @ 5900rpm 1017Nm @ 2050-4500rpm 8-speed automatic 2280kg 3.5sec (claimed) 15.7L/100km $569,522 April

PLUS & MINUS

Excessive weight still undermines agility and precision; scary fuel bill Massive shove; gorgeous interior; power-down ability; a touring supremo

Dash for cash

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