2010 Bentley Continental Supersports

December 4, 2009
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This is the first modern Bentley I've ever been excited about. Part of the appeal of the Supersports we're testing lies in the fact that virtually everything on the car is black, that the seats feature manual adjustments, and that the materials covering every inch of the interior are as soft and luxurious as it gets. The rest of the Supersports' appeal is apparent as soon as you put even the smallest amount of pressure on the accelerator pedal.
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Through some pretty standard engineering changes that include a lot of aluminum suspension components, antiroll bar changes, stiffer bushings, lower ride height, and lighter wheels and brakes, the Supersports feels far lighter than its 4939-pound curb weight suggests. Steering responses are excellent, and the ride is extremely firm, yet never harsh, over brittle pavement. It's a good thing this massive coupe is so easy to control, because there's an astonishing 621 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque available, and it pulls like the proverbial freight train at any speed.
I spent my evening with the Supersports doing as much driving as much as possible, which is a little different from what I typically do when I'm in possession of an ultraexpensive test car: hide it in the garage and pray no freak accident occurs while said car is in my possession. You never forget how much the Supersports costs ($273,515 in this case), but that price seems completely reasonable after a few minutes behind the wheel. This Bentley could be compared with a fine bottle of wine or a custom-tailored suit: those with the means will surely feel that the money was well-spent, and everyone else will be envious.
Detractors might point out the economy's demise, the gas-guzzler tax, and the supposed shift away from conspicuous consumption as reasons that the Continental Supersports shouldn't succeed, but there are still enough wealthy people to satisfy Bentley's limited volume requirements. For those who have worked their way to the top, this Bentley is an excellent reward.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
I shaved a few hundred minutes off my commute this morning. My stomach hurts. I used to be totally irresponsible, but now that I have a husband who reminds me every day when I leave for work that the insurance company wouldn't give us an umbrella policy until I cleaned up my driving record (which I finally did), I try not to drive over 80 mph.
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Oops.
How can a car that weighs so much go so fast so quickly when you merely breathe on the accelerator? Sigh. The jump from 80 to 100 mph happens with the teensiest bit of pressure on the accelerator and in the blink of an eye. All that lane jockeying that happens every morning instantly recedes in the rearview mirror, as if Lieutenant Sulu had set the controls for hyperspace. I'm in love. Except for the resonant buzz that shoots through the roof when the hammer goes down over 80 mph. Otherwise, the ride is as silken as it is swift.
There is so much leather in this cabin that it smells like you're in the middle of a tannery. The seat and door inserts are thick black suede, diamond quilted with cream stitching and piped in cream leather. What isn't leather is carbon fiber and chrome. It's lush in a very different way than a Rolls-Royce interior, and powerful in a different way than a Rolls-Royce. But this is the first Bentley I've felt wicked in.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
They have managed to introduce a surprising level of sportiness into this big, heavy coupe. The car feels very pared down in the way it drives. The cabin is absolutely gorgeous, with its black quilted leather and generous applications of carbon-fiber trim. Even the luggage compartment in place of the rear seats is exquisitely turned out in quilted Alcantara. There's also a tubular carbon-fiber crossbrace behind the seats: in addition to adding structural stiffness, it looks cool.
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The amount of power is mind-blowing. You can put the transmission into S for sport mode and use the paddles to shift, although I found the paddles to be positioned just a little too high and a little too far back; they are in the 10 and 2 o'clock positions and I would like them to be at 9 and 3 o'clock, but you get used to them.
The carbon-ceramic brakes have huge front rotors, clearly visible through the gorgeous black twenty-inch wheels. Absolutely no degradation of braking performance in a stomp from 115 mph to 45 mph. The powertrain sounds great, with a nice exhaust burble when you lift off the gas pedal.
Steering is perhaps a tad light but is very communicative. In low-speed maneuvers, the steering loads up too quickly and becomes too heavy. In the regular Continental coupe, you can feel the weight of the big lump of a twelve-cylinder engine hanging off the front end of the car (it's not positioned behind the front axle as is the case with most other exotic GTs these days). But here in the Supersports, somehow they've tuned the chassis so that the engine doesn't feel so ponderously heavy on the front end of the car.
There is lots of grip from the huge tires and the all-wheel drive. On a crisp, 36-degree fall morning, there's so much power going to both axles that the tires chirp as the car struggles to put all this power and torque to the cold ground through a cold set of tires, but it very quickly hooks up, and the grip is phenomenal.
This is a very compelling and very British alternative to an Italian exotic, and it looks different enough on the outside to distinguish it from workaday $175K Continental coupes. Who knew that this aging platform had so much driving excitement to be wrung out of it?
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
This must be the coolest Bentley ever -- or at least from the past fifty years (the 1950s R-type Continental was pretty sweet, too). The Supersports' quilted, carbon-fiber cabin is lovely, but the all-black exterior is truly breathtaking. I especially adore those luscious ten-spoke wheels, which are wrapped in Pirelli rubber and barely hide the hulking carbon-ceramic discs beneath.
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I didn't get to spend much time in the priciest Conti, but it struck me as possibly the smoothest superquick car I've driven. Indeed, for all its power (621 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque), it doesn't really feel high-strung or at all touchy around town. Fortunately, the engine, and its awesome turbo-whooshing accompaniment, still sounds great.
I'd love to have the opportunity to drive this car across any speed-limit-less continent. The Sportsports has a surprising amount of luggage space, what with its deep trunk and its package shelf where the vestigial rear seats once lived. The interior ambience is very nice, although the cabin isn't quite as elegant and well-wrought, in my opinion, as what you'd find in an Aston Martin. Having said that, the Bentley's organ-stop HVAC vent controls are a personal fave of mine. The superthirsty twin-turbo twelve-cylinder (EPA rated at 12/19 mpg city/highway) would necessitate fairly frequent filling of the Bentley's 24-gallon fuel tank, however, on any long-distance, high-speed journey.
Like Joe, I think the shift paddles are placed too high. In fact, I the entire steering wheel (which is almost as grippy as flypaper) was too high, even in its lowest position. The manually adjustable racing-style seat, with no height adjustment, is probably to blame. Also, this car must have the heaviest doors this side of an old Cadillac Coupe de Ville, and I noticed a creaking sound emanating from near the rearview mirror. Nonetheless, I classify these complaints as inconsequential British-car idiosyncrasies; the Bentley Supersports is a gloriously cool automobile.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I can usually approach these rare examples of rolling sensuality with a strong enough sense of reason that I can drive them without slobbering all over the steering wheel. The Supersports cracked me. I love this car, and I want one.
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The power delivery is absolutely astonishing, made even better by the amount of grip that the all-wheel drive provides. I loved hitting red lights, because it served as an opportunity to launch away at green in a dignified, powerful roar of W-12. The amount of stick is also what makes the handling so good; you can whip around corners without ever worrying about your $275,000 car becoming a 4939-pound telephone-pole eater.
With the Supersports, I was actually expecting fewer lavish features and was surprised at how well-equipped this car was, particularly the power-operated trunk lid. That said, there are plenty of places where you can see why this car is called the Supersports, namely the hyperfirm, manual-adjusting seats, the brace in the cabin, and the carbon-fiber panels. The few creaks in the cabin are a common result of adding (carbon fiber) plastic and removing the soft stuff that keeps it quiet. In this car, the rattles didn't bother me one bit.
I agree that the shift paddles are slightly out of place. Joe could be correct that they need to move down and closer to the wheel, but I think the biggest issue is that they radiate too far from the steering column. Tucking them in a bit would allow your hands to cup the wheel and hit the paddles, rather than keeping fingers rigidly straight to shift. Of course, leaving the transmission to shift on its own in sport mode is hardly a punishment.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
2010 Bentley Continental Supersports
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Base price (with destination and gas guzzler tax): $272,195
Price as tested: $273,515
Standard Equipment:
All-wheel-drive
Air suspension with manual adjustment
20-inch 10-spoke wheels
Carbon ceramic brakes
Infotainment system
-DVD satellite navigation
-10-speaker sound system
-Lifetime Sirius satellite radio
-Bluetooth connectivity
Dual-zone climate control
Keyless entry and ignition
Diamond-quilted Alcantara seating and door panel surfaces
Carbon-fiber center console and doorsills
Aluminum sport pedals
3-spoke multifunction leather steering wheel
Breitling timepiece in center console
Front and rear side curtain airbags
Tire pressure monitoring system
Options on this vehicle:
Rearview camera - $1320
Fuel economy:
(city/hwy/combined)
12 / 19 / 14 mpg
Engine:
Size: 6.0L twin-turbo W-12
Horsepower: 621 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 590 lb-ft @ 2000-4500 rpm
Drive: All-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 4939 lb
Wheels/tires:
20-inch 10-spoke smoked Supersports aluminum alloy wheels
275/35 Pirelli P Zero performance tires

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