2010 Bentley Continental Supersports

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.

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

Exquisite yet badass.

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