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First look: Bentley Supersports cabrio beats them all

Jaw dropper: Not content with the GTC Speed, Bentley has upped the high-end cabriolet ante with the 463kW Supersports Convertible.

Bentley expands Conti Supersports stable with world’s fastest four-seat convertible

Bentley logo18 Feb 2010

By TERRY MARTIN

AS FIRST deliveries of the awesome $525,000 Continental Supersports coupe are being made to Australian customers, Bentley Motors has taken the covers off the convertible version ahead of its world premiere at the Geneva motor show on March 2.

Just as the hard-headed Supersports was billed as the fastest and most powerful car in the hallowed British car-maker’s history, the soft-top version – using the same 463kW/800Nm 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbocharged petrol engine – has emerged as Bentley’s most incredible cabriolet and, it claims, the fastest four-seat convertible in the world.

The extra engineering and materials inherent in creating a convertible version means that it is not quite as quick as the Supersports coupe, but it does improve on the outstanding performance of its own 449kW/750Nm Continental GTC Speed – Bentley’s fastest-ever convertible, up until now.

Whereas the two-seater coupe accelerates from 0-100km/h in a claimed 3.9 seconds, and the GTC Speed reaches the mark in 4.8 seconds, the 2395kg Supersports Convertible – which is 90kg lighter than the GTC Speed but 155kg heavier than the coupe – slots in between the two with a 4.2-second time, on its way to a top speed of 325km/h.

This is just 4km/h shy of the coupe’s maximum speed, and a little better than the 322km/h the GTC Speed can manage. Bentley is still to provide a figure for terminal speed with the roof down, although this is likely to still be around the 320km/h mark.

Other performance figures of note include 0-160km/h acceleration in 9.5 seconds, and a less impressive combined fuel consumption figure of 16.7L/100km. CO2 emissions are listed at 388g/km.

As they have in the past, figures such as these have prompted Bentley to hasten to add that the vehicle – and, indeed all models in the Continental range from June 2010 production – is capable of running on E85 bio-ethanol fuel, and that the manufacturer remains on track to make its entire model range biofuel-compatible by 2012.

54 center image Left: Supersports Convertible and (bottom) the Continental Flying Star by Touring.

According to Bentley, ‘FlexFuel’ technology offers a reduction of up to 70 per cent in CO2 emissions on a ‘well-to-wheel basis’, which is a measure of a fuel’s net contribution to the atmosphere, rather than just tailpipe emissions.

The onboard fuel supply system is designed to detect the blending ratio of fuel in the tank, ensuring that power and torque remain constant regardless of the petrol-to-biofuel ratio.

As with the coupe, the Supersports Convertible’s 6.0-litre W12 twin-turbo churns out a massive 463kW of power at 6000rpm and 800Nm of torque at between 2000rpm and 4500rpm, driving all four wheels through a revised ZF 6HP26 ‘Quickshift’ six-speed automatic transmission that more than halves shift times (to 93 milliseconds) and allows double downshifts.

A 40/60 rear-biased AWD torque split is designed to reduce understeer, while a host of chassis enhancements include stiffer suspension bushes, retuned Continuous Damping Control (CDC) system, uprated rear anti-rollbar, 50mm wider rear track (to 1657mm), retuned steering, and a more advanced electronic stability control program.

Lightweight 20-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels (saving 10kg) are wrapped in 275/35-section ZR20 Pirelli Ultra High Performance tyres, while carbon-ceramic brakes contribute a 20kg reduction in rotating and unsprung mass from the front axle.

The large-diameter (420mm front, 356mm rear) lightweight rotors and eight-piston callipers are said to offer fade-resistant braking.

“The new Supersports Convertible blends thrilling performance and dramatic styling with luxury and practicality in the Bentley open-top tradition,” said Bentley chairman and CEO Franz-Josef Paefgen.

“Extreme power combines with pioneering FlexFuel technology, now shared with all Continental models, reflecting Bentley’s ongoing commitment to more environmental motoring.”

Among the exterior elements that make the Supersports immediately identifiable on the road are a more purposeful front-end and bonnet and more muscular flanks (accommodating the wider rear track), while a fixed rear bootlid spoiler is designed to improve aerodynamics.

The cabin includes carbon-fibre front sports seats (weighing 21kg each and saving 45kg in total) and is finished in Alcantara, carbon fibre and ‘Soft Grip’ leather.

As GoAuto has reported, the Supersports name was chosen in honour of the original two-seater 3.0-litre Supersports model introduced in 1925, which was a lightweight evolution of the 3.0-litre Speed Le Mans winner and the first production Bentley to reach 100mph (161km/h), despite producing only 85 horsepower (63kW).

The emergence of the Supersports Convertible also heralds a host of changes across the 2011 Continental range.

In addition to the aforementioned E85 standardisation, six new colours have been added to the palette (Citric, White Satin, Kingfisher, Magenta, Orange Flame and St James Red Pearl), a dark grey metallic bonnet is now available on all convertible models, and the ‘Powerboot’ automatic opening/closing bootlid is now standard on the Flying Spur and GTC models (sans Supersports).

A Premium Pack for Flying Spur is now available and includes veneered picnic tables with vanity mirrors, a Mulliner alloy fuel filler cap and chrome inlay strips to the door waistrails.

Convenience Packs are also offered across the range and add features such as Adaptive Cruise control (with ‘Follow to Stop’ feature), an iPod interface, front seat massage function, telephone handsets, rearview camera and Valet key.

Another Continental to feature prominently at the Geneva motor show next month will be the Flying Star by Touring, a teaser photograph of which was released earlier this month.

Based on the GTC chassis, the car was designed by the Touring Superleggera design house and is said to combine “the functionality and elegance of the shooting brake body with the driving experience of Bentley”.

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