A ‘rocket ship’ on the road

Speed like this from such a weighty ve­hi­cle comes thanks to tons of power

Austin American-Statesman - - STATESMAN CARS - By Pa­trick Ge­orge

The Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal Su­pers­ports Con­vert­ible may come from an ex­clu­sive and his­toric English lux­ury car com­pany, but make no mis­take: It isn’t about eat­ing caviar while your but­ler drives you around.

The Con­ti­nen­tal Su­pers­ports is about speed. Un­bri­dled, ob­scene speed.

The 2011 drop-top ver­sion, the only one of its kind in the world, was in Austin re­cently as it tours the coun­try look­ing for prospec­tive buy­ers. T.L. “Sonny” Mor­gan, the dealer prin­ci­pal who sells them through Bent­ley Austin, calls it a “rocket ship.”

That’s pretty spot-on, as this car is ca­pa­ble of 204 mph and can blast from 0 to 60 in 3.7 sec­onds, an im­prob­a­ble feat for a car that weighs more than 5,000 pounds.

That 3.7 sec­onds is slightly faster than the cur­rent Chevro­let Corvette Z06, which weighs 2,000 pounds less. How is that pos­si­ble? The Bent­ley gets its heft from its steel frame and all-wheel-drive setup, but it com­pen­sates by hav­ing loads of power on tap.

The car packs a twin-turbo, 6.0-liter W12 — mean­ing the cylin­ders are stacked on top of one an­other in two banks — that pro­duces 621 horse­power and 591 pound-feet of torque.

Putting pedal to floor in the Con­ti­nen­tal Su­pers­ports is kind of like strap­ping a cruise mis­sile onto the back of a “nor­mal” au­to­mo­bile. It bursts for­ward, never seem­ing to run out of speed or power. It just keeps go­ing as long as the driver has the stom­ach for it.

Hit 100 mph, and it’s as if the car says, “That all you got?”

The in­te­rior is loaded down with light­weight car­bon fiber and alu­minum. The model I drove fea­tured ul­tra-bol­stered Sparco seats. The backs were very hard, like a firm mat­tress, al­though Mor­gan says they are com­fort­able on long drives. More than any­thing, they do a good job of hold­ing you in place at high speeds.

The prob­lem is, they don’t move with elec­tric mo­tors. That’s right, this $280,000 Bent­ley

Con­tin­ued from D1 doesn’t have power seats. But opt for softer, non-Sparco ones, and you can have them.

On the road, the all-wheel-drive sys­tem sends 60 per­cent of power to the rear wheels, mean­ing there’s a ton of grip, but the ex­tra power go­ing to the rear al­lows for ag­gres­sive corner­ing. But han­dling is not the car’s strong­est suit be­cause of its sheer size and weight.

Sur­pris­ingly, the car is ac­tu­ally quiet, even with the top down — un­til you mash your foot on the gas, which re­leases a deep rum­ble from the en­gine.

Bent­ley says this car is the fastest four-seat con­vert­ible in the world. In a way, it’s like a mus­cle car for cap­tains of in­dus­try — full of lux­ury, very heavy, but in­sanely fast in a straight line.

Bet­ter yet, it’s a “green” su­per­car. Mor­gan says that when they go on sale next year, the Con­ti­nen­tal Su­pers­ports will be able to run on E85 ethanol, or bio­fuel, in ad­di­tion to gaso­line. This veg­etable-based fuel helps re­duce depen­dency on fos­sil fu­els and has fewer car­bon emis­sions.

So you can tell your bike-rid­ing, Prius-driv­ing friends you’re help­ing to save the Earth as you cover it in burned rub­ber.

Mark Mat­son pho­tos

Austin got a visit this month from the Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal Su­pers­ports Con­vert­ible as part of its tour of the United States. A twin-turbo, 6.0-liter W12 pow­ers the 5,000-pound ve­hi­cle, mak­ing it the fastest four-seat con­vert­ible in the world.

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