British, Racing, and Green
First Drive of the 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports Biofuel
by Nick Kurczewski
The 2010 Continental Supersports is the fastest road car Bentley Motors has ever built. And because of its capability to run on biofuel, such as E85 ethanol, this is also the first Bentley with green credentials that go beyond a traditional ‘British racing green’ paintjob.
This nod to environmentalism is an interesting angle for a British company that prides itself on building some of the world’s fastest and most luxurious automobiles. With 621 horsepower and a top-speed of 204 miles per hour, this $267,000 coupe holds its own against competition like the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and Lamborghini Gallardo 560-4.
Of course, seeing “biofuel” and “Bentley” in the same sentence might seem as bizarre as hearing your grandmother refer to something as being “totally phat.” Environmental concerns don’t exactly spring to mind when thinking about the Bentley Motors lineup. So is the Supersports a sign of more eco-conscious times, or simply a fun excuse for Bentley to create a faster, lighter version of the already accomplished Continental GT?
From the spec sheet, performance appears to have been given priority. A lower ride height (0.4-inches) and the addition of larger grills and brake duct openings add exterior razzle-dazzle to the Continental’s lithe lines. But the real oomph behind the Supersports is found under the hood, with a more powerful version of the twin-turbocharged 6.0-liter W-12 engine used throughout the Continental range.
The Supersports now has an additional 69-hp over the stock Continental. Bentley has also chucked 243 lbs. from the curb-weight of the standard car. The most obvious weight saving has been done via the removal of the rear seat, which now makes the car strictly a two-seater. Even so, the Supersports tips the scales at a massive 4,940 lbs. To put that in perspective, a 2010 Ford Explorer weighs roughly 400 lbs. less than the Supersports.
On the road, the bellow of the engine and some sinuous country roads prove that – despite its girth – this Bentley has some serious sports car-like reflexes. The Supersports doesn’t just accelerate, it absolutely launches down the road like a jumbo-jet barreling down a runway. Hands gripped around the chunky leather-wrapped steering wheel, and shoved back into the quilted Alcantara sport seats, the world remains eerily calm despite the speedometer streaking higher and higher.
Punch the gas pedal, and the Supersports transforms from regal grand-tourer into a snarling British bulldog of a supercar. Acceleration from 0 to 60 miles per hour takes only 3.7 seconds, which is about one second faster than a standard Continental. Thankfully this power is coupled to a four-wheel drive system, stability control, and what Bentley Motors says are the largest ceramic disc brakes ever fitted to a production car.
That substantial safety net came in handy while hunting for a dry line on a damp track at Monticello Motor Club race-track in Monticello, New York. Powering out of a series of sweeping and highly technical corners, four-wheel drive kept things under control while the tiptronic transmission offered rapid shifts through the six-speed gearbox.
We kept it in full automatic mode to start, before clicking through the gears ourselves with the paddle shifters positioned behind the steering wheel. Such is the power and torque of that W-12 motor; you’d swear one or two gears would be sufficient for everyday use.
The handling of the Supersports is precise and comfortable, which was also helpful in keeping the big chromed nose of the car pointed in the right direction at Monticello. Back on public roads, the adjustable suspension felt noticeably firmer than stock, but even the sportiest setting never made the ride feel harsh or brittle.
As an all-out sports car, the Supersports is an awesome device. But at some point the conversation must turn to the car’s biofuel capability. Like an eco-conscious celebrity turning up at a movie premiere in a hybrid car, then driving home to a palatial 20-bedroom mansion in Beverly Hills, the Bentley isn’t always consistent with its environmental message.
The biofuel capability allows this big Bentley to run on renewable fuels, which sounds great on paper. But if you’re expecting this to translate to extra m.p.g.’s, think again. The Continental Supersports maintains a serious appetite for fuel, no matter how green the source. According to Bentley Motors, the Supersports averages only 13 m.p.g. in city driving – though this improves to a more respectable 23.8 m.p.g. on the highway.
Do we really think anyone is going to buy a Continental Supersports based on its eco credentials? Not a chance. This car is all about looking good and going fast – which, really, is everything you’d ever want in a Bentley. The biofuel capability is pleasantly topical, but you know Bentley’s engineers were much more interested in taking the fight to Ferrari than scoring invites to Sierra Club luncheons.
That is fine with us and, undoubtedly, not a problem for anyone capable of writing a check to put the world’s fastest Bentley in their garage.
Photos courtesy of Bentley