2010 Bentley Continental Supersports: Evolution of Speed

Written by Brian Armstead

The “Supersports” name is inspired by the original 3-liter Supersports model introduced in 1925, itself an evolution of the 3-litre Speed. The lightweight, 85 horsepower Supersports was the first production Bentley to reach 100 mph and was also renowned for the application of Le Mans-winning race technology.

For 2010, a new, fastest ever Bentley Supersports is also an evolution of a “Speed” model, and enhances the legend of the original car. Commenting on the new Supersports model, Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen, Bentley’s Chairman and Chief Executive said at a recent press event: “The Continental Supersports reflects the passion and enthusiasm of Bentley’s engineers and designers. This is the fastest, most extreme Bentley ever, dramatically styled to underline its supercar character. Importantly, it also pioneers the use of FlexFuel technology in the luxury sector.”

Let’s cut right to the chase: The Bentley Continental Supersports is a sensational car, but is in need of diet. Even with lightweighting efforts that trimmed 230 pounds off the weight of the GT Speed model the car is based on, it still weighs in close to a portly 5,000 pounds. But this car feels and drives like a car that weighs 1,300 hundred pounds less (the Mercedes SLS AMG), leaving no doubt the Supersports is the most powerful Bentley ever, peeling off a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds all the way up to the top speed of 205 mph.

Powering the Supersports is the familiar 6.0-liter, twin turbocharged 12 cylinder engine, with the block sourced from parent company Volkswagen, but with Bentley specific heads. This is Bentley’s attempt at “green” motoring, as the Supersports is flexfuel capable, with the ability to run on E85 ethanol. I spoke to Brian Gush, head of Engineering for Bentley about the then upcoming Supersports at the Continental GTC Speed launch.

“We take great pride in the engineering that comes from Crewe,” said Gush. “While we share an engine block, everything about our 12 cylinder is infused with Bentley’s tradition of handcraftsmanship and great pride. That will continue with the Supersports.” Gush was right, as this car is screwed together with incredible attention to detail, fit and finish. Other driveline attributes include a six speed ZF “Quickshift” automatic transmission, continuous all-wheel drive with Torsen center differential, and air suspension with manual driver adjustment for ride height and damper settings. Ten spoke, 20-inch Supersports wheels complete the powerful driveline.

Supersports styling breaks no new barriers, and that’s just fine by me, but that doesn’t mean the Supersports is tame. My tester’s “Ice” (white) color combined with “Beluga” (smoked steel) wheels was truly “rude boy” style. Large, vertical bumper air intakes feed the dual intercoolers, while dual “bonnet” vents expel hot air from the engine compartment. Smoked steel finish grilles and headlamp bezels front the aggressive design. The car looks like it wants to pick a fight where ever it goes, and announced through its 621 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque that it has the goods to back up its menacing demeanor!

Inside, there are accommodations for two. Make that accommodations for two folks without wide rumps. The racing inspired bucket seats are made from Carbon Fiber, covered with leather and Alcantara, and they grip you tightly. The rear seat is deleted to save weight. There’s a carbon fiber package rail that runs from side to side, to keep your soft bags in place during spirited driving. Low gloss Carbon Fiber trim adorns the dash and console, and quilted Alcantara faux suede adorns door panels and rear cargo shelf. I did not like the low gloss covering over the Carbon Fiber trim. It looks like it was lacquered then sanded, and I found myself constantly trying to peel off what I thought may have been a protective layer of plastic film over the trim. When I discovered it was purposely done that way, it seemed a shame to hide such beautiful Carbon Fiber under translucent covering.

Other than that, all else inside it typical Bentley perfect. Nothing is out of place, and all vital parameters are communicated to the driver instantly. At 200 mph, communication is a key attribute!

Honestly, if you didn’t know the weight of the $273,000 Supersports before driving it, you’d never believe it weighed so much. Road manners are impeccable and even during aggressive driving the car never felt heavy, a tribute to the engineering of the car.

But is does make you wonder what it would be like sans 1,000 pounds. Are you listening Crewe?