Driving the fastest Bentley ever from the Spanish town of Seville with all the speed restrictions is simply out of the question. But Bentleys have always been a treat to drive, slow or fast, and so I soak up the ambience of this otherwise 621bhp rocket sled of a car.
Unlike the regular Continental, that is all but inaudible at slow speeds, there’s a pleasurable boom from the exhaust pipes of the Supersports every time you step on the gas. Though the volume is well-contained, the noise this car makes is expansive and large. Best of all, however, is that the Bentley with very little encouragement is willing to race for pace in an instant. All it takes to bare the fangs of this sea-smoothened rock sculpture is a mere tap on the accelerator pedal. And, then wham, it changes from Persian kitty to African wildcat in a second.
In the mood to cruise around at first (strangely), I select the softest suspension setting. And, though I can feel the stiffness in the chassis and suspension, ride quality is surprisingly good. Sure, the presence of some of the larger and sharper-edged bumps can be felt, but the suspension isn’t thrashy or uncomfortable. And that, when you think about the low 30 profile tyres and huge 20-inch rims, it is just amazing.
While the insides of the Supersports have been stripped down to make the car lighter, Bentley has managed to keep the essence of the car intact. The twin cockpit arrangement of the dash still looks extra special, the sunken dials give this car a solid look and the very generous splashes of chrome add to the already appealing ambience of the cabin. There’s also generous amounts of quilted Alcantara and the heavily machined all-alloy gear selector just looks like a million bucks.
To cut weight, there are no rear seats and the oak tree that moonlights as the dashboard has been replaced by lighter carbon fibre paneling. The traditional powered front seats have also been done away with. The clamshell-backed race car-like seats are beautifully finished, and when the car is being cornered, feel more comfortable than the regular seats.
With a torque curve as flat as the Deccan plateau, you don’t need the massive 6,000cc twin-turbo W12 to spin really fast for some spine-crushing acceleration. The 3500rpm is more than enough to exercise your nerves, and once you reach 4500rpm, the performance from the now fully-charged, fed and boosted motor is so strong, you wonder what the rest of the powerband must be like.
Both the considerable increase in power and the reduction of 110kg make their presence felt as even with a kerb weight of 2.2 tonnes the car now boasts a 277bhp per tonne power-to-weight ratio.
Long sweeping corners that tighten on themselves a bit and the longish straights are right up this car’s alley. It’s possible to use large amounts of the 621bhp to accelerate out of corners because the traction offered by the re-tuned four-wheel-drive system is unreal. Sixty per cent of the power now goes to the rear wheels and that means that the car feels better balanced. And staying flat on the throttle, till you reach the silly speeds this car is easily capable of dishing out, is a real rush.
A massive amount of work has gone into making this the best-handling Bentley ever and the car feels agile and ever willing to change direction, however much the tyres yell in protest. What little understeer there is disappears once you switch off Stage One of the ESP and the message from the car is clear — you can push harder.
Under the skin the rear track is wider, the Torsen four-wheel-drive system has been altered to send 60 per cent of the power to the rear wheels and the steering is very accurate. With lighter forged wheels and considerably lighter carbon ceramic discs, the reduction in unsprung mass also adds to the overall agility of the car.
The last part of our day-long drive was conducted on the Monteblanco circuit near Seville, which consists of a very long straight, some long sweeping corners as well as a blind rise up a little hillock. Using all 6500rpm and 621bhp regularly, the Supersports starts to make the track feel extremely short. The long straight is rapidly sucked into the lower slat-like grille as the speedo crosses the 220kph mark, there’s no letting up on the throttle and the tyres get a good scrubbing around the corners.
The agility is perplexingly good, the locomotive-like motor never seems to run out of steam. The brakes are so strong that it seems like they can knock a 100-odd kilometres off the speedometer in only a couple of seconds. The brake pedal doesn’t have all that much feel initially but use it hard and experience the no-drama, no-fuss performance.
The Continental has been around from 2003, but this is by far the best version yet. The new vertical slats in the nose and the bonnet louvres look special, the dark smoked grille and headlight surrounds tell you the car means business.
If you are looking for a car that will withstand a long test of time, is brutally fast, comfortable and useable, this is definitely it. What we in India will need to be wary of though are the low 30 profile tyres.
And no, you can’t get smaller wheels. Anything less than 20 inches won’t fit, the Supersports has the world’s largest brake discs.