Bling may not be the obvious place to be for a luxury sports car maker today, but here's Bentley showing what the ultimate development of the Continental GT will be.
The Continental Supersports will be shown next week at the Geneva motor show as a production model. Its 630-hp turbocharged W12 will make it the fastest and most-powerful Bentley ever.
The headline figure is 204 mph, taking the Supersports into the stratospheric territory of production cars capable of eating up a mile in less than 18 seconds.
The Supersports can do this while drinking either standard pump fuel or E85, making it the first Bentley to be biofuel compatible, a step that all future Bentley models will make as the British company pushes toward a greener future.
Started as an under-the-radar project, the Supersports is likely to become the best-selling Continental GT if Bentley¹s experience with its Speed models is anything to go by--the Speed model now makes up 60 percent of coupe sales.
"The Supersports is something my engineers worked on amongst themselves, to create the ultimate Continental, and then we picked it up as an official project," says Uli Eichhorn, Bentley chief engineer.
The changes to make the Supersports run on E85 should not be underestimated, adds Eichhorn. As well as re-engineering the fuel system to cope with the corrosive ethanol, all the electronic subsystems had to be reprogrammed and revalidated.
With U.S. regulatory approval still to be cleared, the Supersports will go into production the fall, with North American cars becoming E85-capable by summer 2010.
The main change to the engine to increase power above 600 hp is extra boost from the twin turbos, whose airflow is eased by 10 percent larger intercoolers. The latest, quick-shifting version of ZF's six-speed automatic helps the higher-output engine deliver sharper performance. Bentley quotes a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.7 seconds and 50 to 70 mph in 2.1 seconds.
Billed as the ultimate "extreme" Bentley by the company, there are dozens of detailed underskin changes to ensure the Supersports delivers a special driving experience.
Most significant is a new, rear-biased 60:40 torque split from the center differential for the four-wheel-drive system, which is said to reduce understeer and increase chassis adjustability on the throttle.
But there's also a wider rear track, extended by 0.8 inch to enhance high-speed stability, and standard carbon-ceramic brakes to haul the Supersports down from its tarmac-ripping top speed.
Steering, suspension, spring and damper rates have all been revised, too, in line with the extended performance.
The lower front suspension arm is now made from aluminum, the antiroll bar is retuned and stiffer bushings improve steering responses.
Even Bentley doesn't describe the 4,938-pound Supersports as lightweight, but it is considerably lighter than the Continental Speed.
The rear seat is removed, a rear panel is made from carbon fiber and new lightweight 20-inch wheels save 5.5 pounds per corner. In total, the Supersports is 242 pounds lighter than the GT Speed.
There are styling differences, too. The wider rear track necessitates new rear body panels that beef up the Supersports's rear haunch. Extra cooling vents are needed in the hood and front airdam, features that increase aggressiveness.
A subtle change is new brightwork around the window openings, which now features a smoky-chrome look. Even this cosmetic change introduces new technology, the finish being applied for the first time to stainless steel using physical vapor deposition.
Inside is new carbon fiber trim, including a cross-cabin beam that looks like a body stiffener but is actually a luggage retaining bar.
There's plenty of substance to this reworked Bentley Continental, which is also reflected in a significant 20 percent price rise. The figure is not final yet, but if you've got around $250,00 to spend on a fabulous sports car, the Bentley Continental Supersports just jumped onto your wish list.
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