The 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports is to ultra-luxury performance cars what Shaquille O'Neal was to the NBA before he stopped taking himself seriously — big on the outside, small on the inside and overwhelming in just about any way that can be measured. Also, like Shaq, the Bentley becomes a lot more likable once one realizes it shouldn't be taken too seriously.
Anyone who witnessed Shaq Vs, the ABC reality show last summer in which the NBA superstar challenged other professional athletes in their respective disciplines, knows that Shaq is well beyond taking himself seriously these days. He's funny, amiable and even self-deprecating before and after having his ass handed to him by various experts in various sports. The 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports is much the same.
It might be the fastest and most powerful Bentley ever, but this outrageous machine is at once impressively serious and just plain ridiculous.
What It Is
In the 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports we have a more powerful, less heavy version of the Continental that includes a 2-inch-wider rear track, sharper steering and a stiffer suspension. Weight, of course, is a relative term in the ultra-luxury performance segment. For perspective, this "lightweight" Bentley brought 4,996 pounds to our scales — almost exactly the weight of two Honda Fits. For those keeping score at home, some 59 percent of this mass resides on the front axle.
Still, when there's much weight, there's much weight to be saved. Bentley claims a total weight savings of 243 pounds from the Continental GT Speed. The largest portion of this (99 pounds) is attributed to the use of sport seats with carbon-fiber shells. Another 44 pounds are saved by standard fitment of carbon-ceramic brakes, which also happen to be the largest brakes ever fitted to a production car (16.5 inches up front). And, believe it or not, the 20-inch wheels save another 22 pounds over those on the Continental GT Speed.
Output is up to a crushing 621 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 590 pound-feet of torque as low as 1,700 rpm — a significant jump over the Continental GT Speed, which is rated at 602 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. To the 6.0-liter W12 power plant Bentley's engineers upped the turbocharger boost by 10 percent and then increased airflow to the intercoolers and radiators via larger intake ducts in the front bumper to accommodate the increased thermal load. A six-speed automatic transmission divides the power between the front and rear wheels in a 40 percent front/60 percent rear ratio on this special model.
The aging W12 now has the ability to operate on ethanol biofuel as well as gasoline. The fuel system can adjust for any mixture of the two but yields a 70 percent reduction in CO2 emissions when operating solely on ethanol, according to Bentley.
Meanwhile, some fiddling with the front suspension geometry, suspension damping, antiroll bars and steering all help make the Supersports more focused on performance driving relative to other Continental models.
What It Isn't
What the 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports isn't, at least if your bank statements still fit in your mailbox, is a status symbol. Drive it into our decidedly middle-class neighborhood where Explorers and Scions fill the driveways and you'll be taken as seriously as if you rode in on a chrome elephant. It's silly. Even our persistently insipid neighbor cracked an Eminem joke as we wheeled the big red beast into the driveway.
Also, it isn't slow. We got the last laugh on that same neighbor later that night when we backed the massive coupe into his driveway, brought it up on the torque converter and unleashed all 621 ponies down the street. He wasn't so mouthy after that. At the track this very technique yielded a 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds (3.5 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like at a drag strip) and a quarter-mile time of 12 seconds at 116 mph. That friends, is fast. And by fast we mean only a few ticks off the highly focused Nissan GT-R.
Maybe even more impressive is the fact that the world's largest brakes were able to whoa this monster down from 60 mph in only 109 feet — exactly 6 feet longer than the last Porsche 911 Turbo we tested — an absurdly short distance for an even more absurdly heavy vehicle. Given this performance, we'd assert that the Continental Supersports also isn't a burden on its brakes.
She Turns, Too
Lift-throttle oversteer is the last thing we expected to experience while behind the wheel of a 4,996-pound Bentley, but that's exactly what we encountered after a slightly ambitious entry to the final gate of our 600-foot slalom course. This discovery came as an even bigger surprise to our videographer, who suddenly had to decide whether to hold fast and get the shot or abandon station to dodge the large orange pylon now rocketing at him from below the Bentley's rocker panels.
The 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports' final slalom speed justifies this mishap, as it's a staggering 67.8 mph — exactly the same speed as the lively (and 856-pound lighter) BMW M3 convertible. This is partially due to the car's adjustable dampers, which we set to the stiffest setting for this test. (Ride height is also adjustable.)
The car's 0.90g skid pad performance is equally striking. And like the rest of the Continental Supersports' test numbers, it is off the charts in comparison to the rest of the cars in this category — though this is a relatively frivolous point of pride, like saying you've got the fastest tugboat in the harbor. Still, this is one fast tugboat that goes, turns and stops in a league with far more focused performance machinery.
Hey, Look at Me!
But let's be honest, that's not why anyone buys a Bentley. Especially this Bentley. You buy this Bentley so everyone knows you've got an NBA contract, and to make an announcement when you arrive — something you'll more easily pull off in Brentwood or Newport Beach than in suburban Orange County. And what an announcement the Supersports makes — it's like driving a Roman candle through a prayer breakfast.
So it wasn't terribly surprising when rubberneckers looked on us with disappointment after rushing to catch up on the freeway. The slight, average-height white guy barely able to see over the wheel wasn't what they were expecting. It also wasn't what we were expecting. Climbing in the Supersports for the first time only to discover that its seats are not height-adjustable wasn't nearly as infuriating as the fact that we couldn't see well enough to drive while seated in them.
This experience did, however, serve to redefine our sense of humility. After all, there's nothing more humbling than driving a car worth more than the average American home while perched on a booster cushion. And that's how we spent every minute behind the wheel of this Bentley. So our ass — like our sense of importance — was artificially elevated.
Built Like a...
Here's the thing about this car that you can't know until you drive it. It is solid. Awesomely solid. Drop your butt into one of those way-too-low seats and you'll realize this when it hits with a reassuring thud. Click the shift paddles through the gears and you'll appreciate the fact that their action requires a deliberate tug. Or partially shut the door and notice that it seals the last few millimeters on its own.
Driving the 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports is the automotive equivalent of being sealed inside the bombproof government bunker at Cheyenne Mountain. It's tight, everything is precise and there's an unexpected sense of purpose here. The Bentley Continental Supersports might be driven by NBA players and rock stars, but Michael Schumacher would appreciate its impeccable precision.
Most interior surfaces are slathered in either carbon fiber or diamond-quilted artificial suede, which might just be the most pleasing fabric known to man. The rear parcel shelf (there are no rear seats), headliner, steering wheel, shifter and front seats all get the suede treatment. There's a carbon-fiber beam to retain luggage behind the front seats and a host of features that a car of this caliber should have.
One of those features, the navigation system, is dated by modern standards. The relatively small, low-resolution screen isn't on par with the equipment in many of the Supersports' competitors. Otherwise, this is as nice a place to spend time as we've seen in any modern car.
So what we have here is a car that's capable of generating near-supercar performance numbers in a stately package that looks more at home in front of Buckingham Palace than on any back road. And Bentley is prepared to sell you this exercise in self-indulgence for $273,515 with a straight face.
So if what you want is an insanely quick, stupidly powerful, all-wheel-drive coupe with an overdose of elegance, two sides of luxury and a helping of "Hey, look at me!" then the 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports is precisely what you're after. Shaq might not take it seriously, but we imagine he'd approve.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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