The Bentley Continental Supersports Makes Algae Go Really, Really Fast
The Bentley Continental Supersports is otherwise a Continental GT that has gotten some face work done, gone on a diet, and gotten a new diet. We took a trip around the car in Beverly Hills with the company's Dealer Events Specialist, Jon DiVaio, who assured us this is just the beginning in a proper green strategy for the brand from Crewe. Our take on it after one go 'round was "Love the car, but the manual trunk, not so much..." Oh, and "Yes, we'll take it."
This is the latest vehicle clogging the intersection at Green Street and High Luxury Drive: the Bentley Continental Supersports. Admittedly, it doesn't have much company, joined only by the Mercedes S400 Hybrid and the BMW 7-Series Active Hybrid, and perhaps a 19th century Brougham. The first on that list are a third the price of the Bentley and not even half as luxurious. The latter comes with an owner's manual for a horse; it's green, but it's not exactly how you want to do luxury in 2009.
Luxury the Bentley way has been leather, aluminum, and steel, and a dash of carbon fiber. With the Supersports, you can add words like "algae," "switchgrass," and "cellulose" to the lexicon. Possessed of the ability to run on E85 and gasoline, and any combination of the two, the plan -- or so the company claims -- is to be a little kinder to the Earth at the same time you make the roads beg for mercy.
A quick survey of the car reveals several levels alterations. At the top are things like the vents in the hood, which are useful air extractors but were really put there to differentiate this car from its other -- never lesser, darling -- variants. Another one of those details is the Supersports script behind the front wheels, making this the first Bentley to wear its badges for public eyes. Otherwise the only other minor play in the looks department are the side mirrors, which are larger due to new UK regulations, and the new metallic treatment for the grille mesh.
The front of the car holds more substantial revisions as well. Unlike the standard GT cars, the Supersports' lower intake joins the upper bodywork in a smooth, contoured face. Glanced at quicky it's not too hard to anthropomorphize it, seeing dark, hollow eyes gazing out above mandibles and a jaw. It isn't unattractive. We do think it a bit intense.
The weight-saving regime is where things take bolder turns -- a 250-pound drop in avoirdupois makes this the first Bentley below 5,000 pounds and helps it get to sixty mph in 3.7 seconds. The interior comes trimmed in leather and carbon fiber, and about the only standard option offered with the car swapping the carbon for brushed aluminum... and a lot of added weight.
There are no rear seats, replaced by a parcel shelf that's front by a carbon tube. We were told it was for restraining luggage. And that makes us wonder what kind of luggage Bentley buyers are choosing.
Trunk operation is now manual, not automatic, and there's no scalloped area underneath the trunk for pulling it back down. Press the "B" and lift the trunk, then grab the trunk lid to lower it again... then call your valet to remove the evidence of your greasy mitts placed all over the metallic bodywork.
The engine is what makes all of this -- not just the car, but the entire exercise -- go. It's got 21 extra ponies even above the Speed series, for a total of 630 hp, and it's the fastest Bentley out there at the moment. The engine management system has been calibrated to maintain that same horsepower no matter what ratio of ethanol-to-gas in the tank. Fill up with E85, you get 621 hp. Burn through half a tank and fill up with premium gas, you still get 621 hp.
The real question, however, was whether this is really a ploy or if Bentley really does have a green strategy -- not just a car that run on the same fuels that Ford pickups have been doing for years. DiVaio assured us that "This is not a marketing exercise," and a long chat with Bentley's North American head, Christophe Georges, appeared to back it up. They wouldn't divulge what's coming, but they both touched on the fact that as part of the Volkswagen Group they are privy to a font of research and technology that makes greenwashing tricks unnecessary.
"You'll see," DiVaio said. "But even right now, we're the only ones out here doing this."
And for that, of course, you'll pay. Before you check a box, the Supersports is $267,000. But really -- isn't the Earth worth it?