Bentley boffins go to town in a groundbreaker
Born of the Continental GT Speed, a very fast car in its own right, the Continental Supersports is Bentley's first true supercar. It was developed as a personal project of Bentley engineers and designers in their free time before being given the production green light by the board of directors.
In the metal, it is a striking, muscular, even aggressive-looking car, particularly when viewed from the front, where extra vertical air intakes and twin bonnet vents help provide 10 per cent more airflow to the 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine, uprated to an epic power output of 621bhp and 800Nm of torque.
'This is Bentley's engineering statement - this is what we can do,' said Douglas Chau, general manager of Bentley Hong Kong. 'The Continental range did a very, very good job for us by expanding sales of the Bentley brand into a younger, more dynamic and much wider audience. This new product breaks ground for us. For one, it is an extreme Bentley. The most powerful in the 90-year history of the company and the fastest at 329km/h, it takes us into a new market sector of supercars.'
The GT Speed has almost the same power output and performance figures as the Supersports, so what sets it apart?
'The Supersports is a two-seater, whereas the GT Speed has four seats,' Chau said. 'Almost none of the parts on the Supersports and GT Speed are interchangeable. It was intended that the Supersports be lightweight, have higher performance, a quicker shifting transmission and better suspension. The Supersports offers supercar performance, but with great comfort.'
Apart from a shallow diffuser at the rear, there are no visible aerodynamic aids - a hidden spoiler at the base of the back window rises at speed for extra stability.
A notable styling feature is the complete absence of chrome trim. Instead, Bentley has developed a unique dark-smoke steel finish for the front grille, headlamp bezels and window surrounds, and thin-spoked, lightweight 20-inch wheels.
The interior is stunning. As one would expect from a Bentley, it is luxurious. But the design and materials used may cause Bentley traditionalists to raise an eyebrow or two. Carbon fibre replaces wood veneer on the centre console and facia, and it is also used for the back of the snug sports seats to save weight. There is extensive use of lightweight Alcantara for the headlining and rear compartment. Classy touches of brightwork complete the thoroughly contemporary and driver-focused cockpit.
Reaffirming Bentley's environmental commitment, the Continental Supersports is the first Bentley to incorporate FlexFuel technology in its engine. FlexFuel allows the engine to run on any mixture of bioethanol (fuel derived from plant mass) and gasoline.
'Our engine will operate on 100 per cent gasoline, E85 biofuel [85 per cent bioethanol] or any combination of the two. The engine mapping electronics are able to react instantly to any combination, without any drop in horsepower or torque output,' Chau said.
'Bentley intends to have the full Bentley range completely FlexFuel ready by 2012.'
Although biofuels are not yet available in Hong Kong, Chau believes the situation will change, just as the city's taxis converted from diesel to LPG years ago.
'It requires great co-operation between the auto manufacturers, the fuel suppliers and the government, as well as the further education of the next generation,' Chau said. 'We wish to reduce our CO2 emissions by at least 15 per cent across our entire range by 2012. That is our vision, and our corporate statement as well.'
The Bentley Supersports' price tag is HK$4.7 million. That's a lot of money for a car, even a supercar, but think of it this way: HK$4.7 million would buy only 53 sqft of a certain '68th floor' Conduit Road apartment.