Road Tests

Fastest Bentley is the new Continental Supersports

Supersports is an emotive badge for Bentley, and this is the first time it’s graced one of its cars since 2009. Back then, it was effectively the final iteration of the MkI Continental Supersports, and its 463kW, 328km/h top speed and 800Nm made it the fastest Bentley to date. The first Supersports, incidentally, dates back to 1925, when its 64kW and 160km/h potential were the stuff of fantasy.

While no one at Bentley would use a phrase as gauche as “run-out” special, an all-new Continental is due this autumn, so the return of the Supersports represents a robust last hurrah for the company’s imperious coupe. It’s also the new fastest and most powerful Bentley ever, and will be limited to 710 units, its power output in PS, coincidentally.

Visual differences run to gloss-black bonnet vents, new front and rear bumpers with carbon-fibre splitter and diffuser, a rifled exhaust tailpipe, and a rear spoiler (though not on the convertible). Even more arresting is the torque figure – 1017Nm from 2,050rpm – while the torque curve itself isn’t a curve so much as a lofty plateau high enough to induce nose bleeds. Compared with its immediate predecessor, the new Continental Supersports has an extra 60kW and 217Nm, of torque, which translates to zero to 100km/h in 3.5secs, 0–160km/h in 7.4, and a top speed of 336km/h. Given that it weighs 2,280kg (40 less than the GT Speed, whose suspension set-up it carries over), these are strong numbers, strong enough to outgun the likes of the AMG GT S and Nissan GT-R.

A certain heft is a key part of the Bentley experience, and travelling that fast in a car of these dimensions is a unique experience. Nothing else has doors like a Conti, for example, and they feel every gramme of the 54kg they individually weigh. But while the 2009 SS cut 140kg and junked the rear seats for pseudo-Clubsport kudos, it’s easier and more economic to extract more power than it is to remove fat, so the spotlight on the 2017-spec car is trained on the engine. New main and conrod bearings reduce internal friction, and a whole set of software tweaks to fuelling, ignition and cam timing help in the hunt for more grunt. Bigger turbos blow at 1.4bar rather than 0.9, and in Sport mode the SS emits a splenetic crackling cackle through its redesigned titanium exhaust (Akrapovič, as on the GT3-R).

This is a deeply impressive piece of engineering, and despite its name the Continental Supersports will do max waft in a way that is all but irresistible. Its ride, even on 21in diamond-cut wheels, is terrific, and it’s a peerless companion on the motorway. But it’s the Bentley’s mid-range that’s most seductive, as you’d expect with 1017Nm on tap. It’s more of a waterfall than a tap, in fact, although I found myself relying on the flappy paddles (mounted a little too high on the steering column) more often than I’d expected. The Bentley doesn’t quite vaporise overtaking moves, or hook up corners as though the straight bits aren’t there, but it still does a mighty effective demolition job.

It also handles. Torque-vectoring helps reduce understeer by applying the brakes to the inside front and rear wheels, thus promoting better torque distribution. The Bentley’s agility, adjustability and body control thrillingly defy the car’s mass. The carbon-ceramic brakes (420mm up front, 356mm at the rear) are monumental, but then they need to be. Problems? Only comparative. The 2009 Continental Supersports was a revelation – its front end had more bite than an FSB attack dog – where this one is merely very good indeed.

Bentley shifted 1,800 of the previous Continental Supersports model, and even at R4 450 000 for the coupe (R4 850 000 for the convertible) it won’t have trouble finding 710 buyers for this iteration. The usual bewildering variety of personalisation options are available, including a duo-tone exterior paint finish and tri-tone interior. The telematics are, euphemistically, old-school, although Naim’s audio system has magnificent power and clarity. Bentley knows its customers inside out and last year delivered 11,023 cars to them – a new record. Nor is it shy about indulging lairy colour and spec whims. As desirable as the new SS is, I reckon it too could have been a bit lairier. JASON BARLOW

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