Posted Oct 4th 2012 12:00PM
The Bentley has always been the sport-infused alternative to the Rolls-Royce and the Supersports is culmination of everything the company has learned along the way. As insane an experience as the Supersports offers, there is still the limited to 100-unit ISR model that is even further uncorked. However, for the purposes of this test we were presented with the key to a Supersports convertible that offers all of the Bentley luxury appointments but packs 12 rapid-fire punches for anyone looking to antagonize it.
Related Gallery2012 Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible
Back in 2003, the Continental GT basically shattered the stodgy appearance surrounding Bentleys of yore. As the model has continued to evolve the lines of the car have progressively moved with the trends yet remain aggressive. Despite being a 2012 model, this Supersports was built on the previous chassis but the merits of the car have been amplified elsewhere.
Our Supersports tester kicked it up a notch with a stunning coat of Morrocan Blue paint, that will set buyers back a lofty US$4,225 but the shock value is free of charge. The immediate impact of the paint is backed up with massive 20-inch wheels in a mildly contrasting black smoke finish. And while we typically, leave the braking dynamics for later in reviews, we have to mention right up front that the carbon ceramic brakes with blazing red calipers are truly mechanical artwork and bump the visual impact up multiple levels.
While it may be a challenge to differentiate the fairly similar GTC from the Supersports, the changes are plenty and not easily deciphered. The rear track of the vehicle has been widened by 50mm with flared fenders to accommodate the 275/30R20 Pirelli rubber and alter the stance of the vehicle. The rear end of the car wears a fixed rear spoiler along with a restyled valance to manage airflow. The front end sees a ventilated hood along with larger front bumper intakes to allow 10 per cent more air to anoint the intercoolers with. All of the trademark flashy trim has been replaced with a smoked chrome throughout and a pair of elliptical tailpipes offer a more aggressive look over the GTC. The end result is nothing short of striking and from our perspective, a Bentley that we're content with from tip-to-tail.
While it may be a challenge to differentiate the fairly similar GTC from the Supersports, the changes are plenty and not easily deciphered.
Being a convertible and being that the weather during our test was searing, the top was peeled back nearly the whole time. Aside from the great open air motoring experience, part of the appeal for buyers is to be seen and driving around town was akin to being on a mobile stage for all to see. The top itself is a masterful piece of seamwork with impeccable stitching, multi-layer insulation and of course, defrosted rear glass. The operation was both smooth and silent during many times it was closed while the car was unattended. At speeds, the air flow around occupants was comfortable and there was no excessive noise or buffeting. Should it get chilly, flip the windows up and both the heat and audio remain remarkably intact.
Inside the cabin the Supersports continues to impress. Yes, the embroidered 'Supersports' on all four headrests might be a bit much but if you are going to drop $1,000 on that option, chances are you REALLY want people to know what you're in (well, that and it has no 'Supersports' badging otherwise). The beluga leather with white piping seats were well bolstered and extremely livable after long hauls and the massage function certainly took the edge off in that area.
Contrary to the GTC wood interior treatment, the Supersports carbon fibre goodness made us say "bring it on" without hesitation. Embedded in the carbon are striking bullseye centre vents with delicate instrument controls were a thing of beauty but also became one of our gripes with the interior. Being that are a hefty chunk of aluminum, they are attractive enough but when the AC is on they are covered in condensation, which formed water droplets that gently rolled down the dash. At the same time, the various controls, LCD nav system and the ergonomics around the cabin all are in perfect harmony. The Naim audio system was an acoustical wonder when the top was up and held its ground during open-air motoring.
The Bentley SS is powered by a massaged version of the 6.0L W12 producing a staggering 621 hp with 590 lb-ft of twist.
At the heart of this massive convertible is a technological wonder. The Bentley SS is powered by a massaged version of the 6.0L W12 producing a staggering 621 hp with 590 lb-ft of twist. The sound that this vehicle generates alone should have been an optional charge since it ended being one of our favourite features of the driving experience. A symphony of 12-cylinders, two turbos and twin exhausts never got boring and well, was naturally a crowd-pleaser driving downtown streets (yes, they cheered and clapped on the sidelines). The frightening acceleration of the Bentley SS is so effortless, the ride so smooth, that you have to stare down at the triple digits on the speedo to really make it register how fast you are actually going.
The W12 mill is connected to an all wheel drive system that adds gobs of grip and stability. Suffice to say that if you find the limits of the traction afforded by the 40:60 torque split, then you are probably going way too fast. The shifts are crispy from the ZF-sourced 6-speed winding past relatively tall gears for highway domination up to a terminal velocity of 325 km/h (202 mph). Not that we could confirm that since one would require a runway for that data collection but the way the car continued to charge forward under 100 per cent throttle and full boost, it seemed imminent. Out of the hole, this heavyweight can lug 2,395 kg (5,280-pounds) from a standstill to 60 mph (96 km/h) in only 3.9-seconds... a feat that appears to defy physics.
However, the performance of the vehicle was not by chance since Bentley put the GTC on a diet for Supersports version. The front seats can be ordered with carbon fibre structure saving in the neighborhood of 45 kg (100-pounds). The 20-inch wheel and tire package trims off 10 kg (22-pounds) of rotating mass to free up some power as well. Then there are the monster ceramic brakes on our tester that shave off an impressive 20 kg (44-pounds) of unsprung weight and rotating mass that get top marks in every conceivable way.
At the same time, this is still a vehicle that weighs in as much as some SUVs. Is that excessive? Of course it is but Bentley engineers have slaved over the details to bring a ride and handling quality that will keep owners content. The Supersports has a Continuous Dampening Control (CDC) system that reads the road and driving style to adjust accordingly. The mechanical parts have been fitted with stiffer bushings to cinch it all together and the rear roll bar is also notably thicker than that of the GTC. We did notice a bit of bump steer from the way the suspension is set up and would like to see the front absorb more road imperfections.
The Supersports has a Continuous Dampening Control (CDC) system that reads the road and driving style to adjust accordingly.
In open areas, switch on the Sport mode button and the Supersports excels by stiffening everything up. The steering has been tweaked for a sharper turn-in and the Pirellis are on-point making you almost forget what you are driving. And when the rear end steps out every so slightly, all of the luxury appointments become secondary and the beast comes out. The Supersports evokes our raw driver side too, an engagement that we didn't think we'd feel but its most certainly there and can hang with other supercars considering all that torque to slingshot you out of a corner. For a hefty car, it is well planted and composed, it possesses so much ability that it is almost taunting you to push harder at the risk of your licence!
If you've read between the lines, the Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible is an instant classic in our books. While we have driving all kinds of luxury and exotic vehicles, this one is hard to fault. Sure if we examined fuel economy or cost of ownership, most of the population would collectively fall off their chairs... it's nearly 25.5 L/100km (12 mpg) city and 11.6 L/100km (19 mpg) if you really needed to know. Starting at $339,240 (plus freight and let's not forget around $44,000 in HST) for the cost of membership, the Supersports Convertible club is not for everyone but Bentley has constructed a car here that attempts to do everything for the affluent buyer.
Supersports Convertible club is not for everyone but Bentley has constructed a car here that attempts to do everything for the affluent buyer.
Much like our experience behind the wheel of a Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport, the Supersports give off the impression of a "look what we can do" attitude of Volkswagen AG. The engineering, the style and the exclusivity of these cars has been solidified for decades and we applaud VW for not simply maintaining the marques with mediocrity but continuous improvement of future classics. In an era where gasoline-powered cars seem to be at their turning-point, cars like the Supersports appear to be their final opus of the fossil fuel legacy.
Image Credit: Copyright 2012 Dave Pankew / AOL
Check out the video below with editor Michael Harley, for a closer look at our Bentley tester.