SU­PERLA­TIVES

Does the fastest Bent­ley in his­tory have the han­dling to match its pace?

Car (South Africa) - - DRIVE - BENT­LEY CON­TI­NEN­TAL SUPERSPORTS COUPÉ PRICE: ETA:

THESE are mighty num­bers, even by su­per­car stan­dards: 522 kw, 1 017 N.m and 336 km/h. But in­stead of be­ing as­so­ci­ated with a mi­dengined Ital­ian, they are the out­puts of a four-seat, gen­tle­manly grand tourer de­vel­oped by Bent­ley in the spirit of its orig­i­nal 1925 Su­pers­port. At the time, its 3,0-litre, in­line, four­cylin­der en­gine pow­ered it to a true speed of 161 km/h, which was dou­ble that of any­thing the op­po­si­tion could muster. Can the mod­ern in­car­na­tion stay true to the legacy?

Press­ing the coupé’s starter but­ton pro­duces a sub­dued but pur­pose­ful rum­ble as the W12 en­gine catches. Hav­ing wit­nessed, as a pas­sen­ger, the twisty road sec­tion lead­ing to our lunch­stop venue, I make no apolo­gies for mov­ing the tall, shiny gear lever to sport and tog­gling the air-sus­pen­sion set­ting to firm; there is no do-it-all-in-one-go drive-mode se­lec­tor and it takes a while to ready the steed. Turn­ing out the gate, I drop the ham­mer and the re­spect­ful rum­ble from the ti­ta­nium ex­hausts turns into a roar as a vol­cano erupts un­der the bon­net.

With the four-wheel-drive sys­tem send­ing that gi­gan­tic torque fig­ure to all four wheels, the tyres bite the tar, cat­a­pult­ing the big Brit to the first corner faster than should be pos­si­ble given the hefty 2,3 tonne mass. Stomp­ing on the brake pedal forces the pads against the largest-di­am­e­ter (420 mm) car­bon discs in a pro­duc­tion car and ki­netic en­ergy trans­forms into im­mense heat as the Zf-sourced eight-speed down­shifts, with the over­run bur­ble mim­ick­ing the sound of heavy arms fire.

Un­less you like evok­ing ex­ces­sive tyre squeal and un­der­steer, care needs to be taken on turn-in; you need to al­low the front axle to set­tle and the corner to open be­fore un­leash­ing the power again. The torque-vec­tor­ing sys­tem does help with cor­ner­ing com­po­sure, but this is no hot hatch, and the cur­rent crop of hy­per hatches would run with this beast on a twisty sec­tion.

This, of course, is not what a so­phis­ti­cated GT is de­signed for (con­firmed on the Autó­dromo do Es­to­ril later in the day) and, as the cor­ners gave way to a de­serted stretch of mo­tor­way, I kept my foot planted. Any hy­per hatch on its tail would now be va­por­ised by the Supersports’ ex­haust wake as the speedo-

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