Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible (2011) review

Published:14 April 2011

Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible (2011) review
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Bentley’s Continental Supersports Convertible takes the flex-fuel, high-performance Supersports specification and applies it to that sun-loving celebrity’s favourite, the Continental GTC convertible.

Does the Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible retain the performance and dynamics gains of the coupe, or is this just a cosmetic exercise to attract fresh customers to the portly cabriolet? We sent Jethro Bovingdon to find out. Read on for our review of the Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible.

Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible: why should I care?

The Continental Supersports is, frankly, a stunning piece of kit. It’s absurdly heavy – especially for a ‘stripped-out’ lightweight – obscenely powerful, irresponsibly consumptive and yet somehow its magnificence washes away your scepticism without a trace. Even when somebody tells you it costs £182k. If someone hands you the keys to this car and you don’t let out a little whoop of joy on the inside then you are dead or so tired of life that you should do the decent thing and make yourself so. Obviously I planted a dozen sequoias in the back garden when I got home. Anyway, the Supersports really does look special, every crease and curve tightly defined, every carbon detail deliciously evocative. It’s fair to say I feel ashamedly smug. 

Back down to earth, Jethro! How does the Supersports Convertible differ from the coupe?

The Supersports Convertible is a strange beast. The coupe version of this car is actually quite an extreme exercise in making the Conti GT a purer driving machine. It saves 110kg of weight over the standard car by fitting ceramics as standard, ditching the rear seats (a structural carbon brace sits back there instead) and a host of other detail changes. There’s a wider rear track, retuned suspension and a 40:60 front-to-rear split for the four-wheel drive system. Believe it or not, but the end result is astonishingly effective and hugely enjoyable. 

Of course the Convertible is already at a disadvantage because the Supersports’ hard won rigidity is thrown out with the roof and rather than flog a dead horse Bentley has reverted to 2+2 configuration. It’s also heavier than the coupe at 2395kg and the aggressive suspension has been dialled back a notch or two – it’s still 10mm lower than the GTC Speed, fitted with 33% stiffer bushes and tighter damping, though. 

However, the 50% faster shifting six-speed auto is pure SS, as are the 420mm ceramic brakes and, crucially, the more rear-biased four-wheel drive system. Not to mention the sledgehammer 6.0-litre W12, all 621bhp and 590lb ft of it. Bentley claims 0-60mph in 4-seconds and 202mph. This is the fastest four-seater convertible in the world. A trite little niche that hardly conveys quite how immense is the performance it offers: it’s off the scale.

Does the Continental Supersports Convertible still waft and cruise like a GTC?

At low speeds the Bentley feels terrific. The steering is surprisingly light, wonderfully precise and there’s no hint of that disconcerting steering column wobble that blights most open cars. The car rides with a firm control, connected but sophisticated enough to filter out unnecessary information, but it’s the way it responds to direction changes that is truly surprising. There’s little hint that this thing weighs 2.5 tonnes or more two-up, loaded with gear and brimmed with unleaded (it’ll also run on bio-ethanol) and the front and rear of the car are so in tune that the Supersports seems to do everything just as you ask it, no slack, all of a piece. And it’s so easy to drive.

With the hood down there’s just a pleasing ruffle of cool air swirling around, the big W12’s deep howl bleeds away leaving just a faint, deep hum almost imperceptibly underscoring the seamless progress. This is when any Bentley is at its best. They do effortless, refined potency like nobody else and the Supersports is no different.

Encounter a corner of sorts – barely requiring a lift of the throttle and nothing so vulgar as a manual downshift on the long, spindly steering-column mounted paddles – and the effortlessness suddenly becomes an alert tension. The Supersport Convertible is a compact car (although admittedly a very dense one), and when you guide it through a turn it feels precise and lean. Some trick.

Does the Continental Supersports Convertible lose the plot when you deploy all 621bhp?

It may be based on a celebrity conveyance rather than a supercar, but in a Supersports you won’t get bored. Dial the dampers into Sport, start using that surprisingly agility, begin to pour all 621bhp to the tyres right in the middle of a corner. And you’ll be thankful for those ceramic brakes, because this thing really is epically fast. The W12 produces peak torque from 1700-5600rpm, so the Supersports has a spooky relentlessness about the way it accelerates. You hear the upshifts because each one is signalled by a sonic boom, but the ‘box is almost seamless at speed with just the odd clunky downshift around town to break the magic. Whatever, progress is assured, phenomenally violent at times and yet laced with subtlety and finesse in the way the chassis bends huge torque to its own ends with a real lightness of touch.

What about when you point the Continental Supersports Convertible down a winding road?

Once you learn to trust that it can turn-in accurately and resists understeer determinedly you can really commit the Supersports, loading up front and rear with one swift steering input and then instantly opening the taps to sling it out of a corner like a popped champagne cork. Now, finally, you sense that some of the rigidity has disappeared, the steering just rattling back at you as you up the ante. It’s a tiny hint that the structure is compromised and it’s followed by a scrap of understeer here, a feeling of runaway momentum that even the ceramics are working furiously to contain… eventually the Supersports’ mass does catch up with it. But you really have to go searching for chinks because for the most part it feels agile, secure, adjustable and keen. And fast. Really, really fast. 

Verdict

So what’s not to like about this car? Except the very notion of a sportscar that weighs more than a Porsche Cayenne… Well, the sat nav is pretty awful.

I can see the faults, I understand the ‘footballers car’ jibes hurled at it, but I don’t care. It’s a magnificent car. Of course it’s my duty to say that the coupe is better. But you already knew that, right?      

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Specs

Price when new: £182,100
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 5998cc 48v W12, 621bhp @ 6000rpm, 590lb ft @ 4500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 4.1sec 0-62, 202mph, 17.3mpg, 388g/km CO2
Weight / material: 2395kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4804/1945/1390

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  • Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible (2011) review
  • Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible (2011) review
  • Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible (2011) review
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