By: Grant Davis
What do you do with a $286,000 Bentley Continental Supersports, a supercar powered by a 621-horsepower, twin turbo-charged V12 capable of a NASCAR-like 204-plus mph that comes with with all-wheel drive and swaddles the driver in hand-stitched bespoke leather trim and seats? You drive it with unabashed joy. Let’s get real here: The two-door Supersports is one of the most ridiculous, grin-inducing drives on earth right now, and once you get over the fact that you’re driving the cost equivalent of a nice 4-bedroom ranch house in St. Louis, you start appreciating what Bentley’s done—married a pure luxury car to a Formula 1 racer.
It’s a typical British approach to sportscars, and I believe it comes from the same English trait that spawned James Bond, the signature Brit superhero. In a culture whose biggest badass is a guy who rocks a tuxedo and patent leather shoes while saving the planet, the Bentley Supersports makes perfect sense. Granted, Mr. Bond has been seen behind the wheel of Aston Martins of late, but I think if Bond had access to this 2010 Supersports, he’d grab it. With apologies to Ferrari and Porsche, if being a Master of the Universe means you wear a tailored suit and tie (Do they come any other way in England?), then a British supercar is what you need to drive.
The 621-horsepower W12 engine
Bentley was able to take its V12, or W12 as they refer to it, and tune it to deliver 621-horsepower and then drop it under the hood of the Supersports. The resulting 590-pounds of torque will catapult the 2.5-ton car to 60 mph in 3.7-seconds and to well over 100 mph by the time you reach the end of most freeway offramps.
The 6-speed quickshift transmission is controlled by the smoothest and most satisfying paddle shifting technology in the business—each shift takes 200 milliseconds to execute according to Bentley. In real terms that translates into “before you’re done thinking about shifting, the car has already shifted.” Instead of lurching with each downshift, the car melts into a lower gear. And while redline is at 6,500 rpm, any upshift above 1,7000 rpm will smash you back into the seat thanks to the torque. I’m a old-school stick-shift lover, but spending a day driving through city traffic and over mountain roads flicking up and down the Supersports’ gearbox turned me into a paddle-shifting convert—at least when the Supersports transmission starts showing up in $28,000 sportscars.
To help you go nuclear, the Supersports rides on massive 20-inch wheels outfitted with grippy Pirelli tires. Indeed the wheels are perhaps the most aggressive-looking spec on the whole car. To stop it, Bentley uses t the world’s biggest ceramic brakes—the kind found on Formula 1 cars—which seem to be as wide in diameter as the entire wheel found on a Toyota Yaris at 16.5-inches. While I never had to come to a sudden stop from 210 mph, it’s nice to know the Supersports has the brakes to do it.
A Green Supercar
For the eco-conscious billionaire, Bentley spec’d this engine to run on E-85 “to reduce emissions” as it says on their website. That’s great when you’re driving in Brazil and need to fill up on their sugar cane-based ethenol, but I personally think it’s criminal to fill-up the Supersports with anything less than 92-octane premium. I mean, what’s the point of have over 600-horsepower on tap if you’re going to castrate it with a fuel that slashes performance by 30-percent?
I will give Bentley a high-five for the miles per gallon I got while logging 200 miles, a respectable 20 mpg on the highway at 80 mph—the sticker claims just over 24 mpg on the highway. Between the car’s heft, 6-liter engine and the gas-sucking rubber, I honestly didn’t expect the car to get better mileage than a Ford F-150 pick-up, but it did. Of course as soon as I started stomping on the gas at every green light, on ramp and passing opportunity, my mileage crashed into the 12 mpg range faster than Amy Winehouse falls off the wagon.
Bentley’s Saville Row Tailoring Approach to Coach Works
A huge part of Bentley’s approach to building cars—and one reason they’re so expensive—is that they build bespoke vehicles. Like a custom-tailored suit, every car is made to order with the paint, trim, and leather spec’d out to an individual’s desires. Want a pinot-colored Supersports with maple trim, burgundy leather seats and a carmel-leather trim? They can do that. Bentley maintains a small army of craftsman at their factory in Crewe to do the hand work—it takes three freakin’ hours alone for the guy to cut and stitch together the leather for the steering wheel, ferchrissake.
This luxury is what makes a Bentley a Bentley, and when you first sit down in the cockpit, you can feel this attention to detail and solid construction. The car fits you like the perfect suit and because it does, it gives you the confidence to tap into the monster under the hood with your right foot on the gas pedal. To help you stay glued to your seat, Bentley uses a brushed leather-like material that’s used in racecars—you won’t have to worry about sliding off your seat in a 1G turn.
Can a luxury car be a supercar? Yes
Most pure sportscar fans will hate this neutered approach to power—they relish the challenge of taming a beast that can send them smashing into a guardrail with one mistake. They love a car that looks like a fighter jet. They want to see that their seats are made from scultped carbon-fiber, not cover up the carbon-fiber with luxury-grade leather. I liken Bentley’s approach to the guy who carries a concealed 9mm in a shoulder holster under his dinner jacket—the beast is there, but Bentley guys don’t need to wear it on their sleeve for all to see. They know it’s there and that’s all that matters.