The current Continental sounds its last hurrah with this 700bhp beast. Time to put on a brave face and get behind the wheel
When a model nears the end of its production life most manufacturers will produce a limited-edition runout version.
Bentley, of course, isn’t most manufacturers and the Continental isn’t most models so its runout version, after 14 years of sterling service, was always going to be a bit special.
Step forward the Continental Supersports. Like a Continental GT Speed with everything turned up to 11, this is the most powerful, quickest, most spectacular road-going Continental ever.
Bentley Continental Supersports
Price: £252,000 as tested
Engine: 6.0-litre, W12, twin-turbocharged, petrol
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 209mph
0-60mph: 3.4 seconds
Economy: 18mpg combined
CO2 emissions: 358g/km
How quick?, How powerful? How about 0-60mph in 3.4 seconds, 0-100mph in 7.2 and a top speed of 209mph. All in a car that weighs nearly 2.3 tonnes. That’s thanks to a retuned version of the Continental’s twin-turbocharged 6.0-litre W12, which now puts out 700bhp and 750lb/ft of torque.
The performance is, quite frankly, mind-blowing. Set the adjustable suspension to sport, step hard on the throttle and your entire world changes. There’s the briefest moment where the car and gravity seem to be debating who will bend to whose will before you’re pinned back in your seat and the car spears towards the horizon.
It doesn’t matter what gear you’re in or how fast you’re going, sink the throttle and you’re suddenly going a lot quicker.
That progress is made all the more dramatic by the noise. The W12 emits a constant, pleasing bass rumble like a snoring bear. But poke it and, like the bear, it starts to roar and snarl ferociously. As the revs rise it gets louder and angrier giving fair warning of its brutal strength. It’s phenomenal and, for a childish show-off like me, what’s even better is the cacophony of pops and crackles from the Akrapovič titanium exhausts. Lift off at high revs and it sounds like there’s a small war going on in the taipipes.
As well as massaging an extra 60bhp out of that glorious W12 engine, Bentley’s engineers gave the standard Continental’s suspension a thorough going over, stiffening its springs and anti-roll bars substantially.
“As well as being a ferocious performance car, the Supersports manages to be a quiet, refined grand tourer”
The results are a car that surprises with its agility. It’s too long, wide and heavy to be considered nimble but it’s still staggeringly capable through corners. It changes direction rapidly and positively, helped by wonderfully weighted, natural-feeling hydraulic steering. Combined with this are a tricksy torque vectoring system, a rear-biased four-wheel-drive driveline and 275mm-wide tyres that channel that 750lb/ft onto the road without wheelspin or torque steer. Hauling it all back in are gargantuan 17-inch carbon ceramic brakes.
What’s almost as staggering as the Supersport’s raw performance is its breadth of talent. At first glance I wasn’t sold on our test car’s two-tone finish. A white body topped with a black bonnet seemed a bit over the top. But the more time I spent with the car the more I realised it perfectly reflected the Supersports’ character.
As well as being a ferocious, focused performance car, the Supersports still manages to be a quiet, refined and smooth grand tourer.
A sleeping beast
At low speeds and gentle throttle it feels docile – not something you’d necessarily expect from anything packing 700bhp. As long as you’re sensible it’s as easy to drive as any other coupe. It cruises nicely with a pleasant, unobtrusive bass note from the exhausts, the steering has just the right weight and it never feels like it’s straining at the leash, despite what lurks beneath that long black bonnet.
What’s more, the agility and fearsome performance aren’t at the expense of the ride. With the suspension set to the comfort end of the scale it glides over poor roads with limo-like calm, not the harshness you would expect from a 700bhp monster.
As befits a Bentley, even a hardcore version, the interior is magnificent. From the supremely comfortable quilted leather and Alcantara seats to the metal finishes on every piece of switchgear it’s the epitome of class and craftsmanship. It’s beautifully quiet too, and spacious. Two people could traverse continents in this car without feeling the effects. Just don’t try to use the rear seats.
The exterior looks aren’t quite so serene and it’s certainly not for the shy or retiring type. The Continental’s already forceful appearance has been enhanced and exaggerated by newly sculpted bumpers, a carbon-fibre splitter and diffuser, sill extensions, black-finished brightwork and 21-inch black forged alloys. The test car also featured the optional carbon fibre spoiler which gives some welcome extra definition to the car’s rear.
Only 710 Supersports are being built, only 150 are coming to the UK and half of those have already been sold.
Given that rarity, many examples of the car are likely to be bought as investments and squirrelled away. That’s a crying shame as this is a car that begs to be used on a regular basis thanks to its staggering and commendable breadth of ability.
If you want a ballistic cross-country missile that will tear up the road in a frenzy of snorting, snarling drama then it will oblige and leave you with a huge smile on your face. But when you want a relaxed cruise to the other end of Europe it will lope along quietly and comfortably, eating up the miles as you luxuriate in the classy, comfortable cabin.