The legendary Bentley Motors Limited was founded in 1919 by W. O. Bentley, an aircraft engine designer. For much of its history, from 1931 to 1998, the company was owned by Rolls-Royce. Currently, Bentley is one of Volkswagen's premier marques. Although James Bond became associated with Aston Martin because of the movies, Ian Fleming wrote in his novels that he drove a 1930 Blower Bentley, a supercharged 4.5-liter car.
Bentley has come a long way since James Bond owned one, with the 2010 Bentley Continental Supersports being the fastest Bentley ever. This car is based on the Continental coupe, but tweaked for performance.
As a very high-end luxury brand, Bentley puts the base price of a Continental Supersports at $267,000, which, fortunately, includes plenty of standard equipment. Strangely, a rearview camera, included on our car, is one of the few options.
Part of what makes the Continental Supersports so remarkably fast is this twin-turbocharged 6-liter W-12 engine, with an output of 621 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. In our testing, the Continental Supersports made it to 60 mph from zero in just 3.67 seconds. This car is also intended to affirm Bentley's green credentials, as the engine can run off E85, a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
The Continental is a coupe with 2+2 seating, a grand tourer designed for short trips where the roads wind. But in Supersports form, the rear seat is removed to save weight. Likewise, the front seats are manually operated, saving the weight of seat motors.
With this much power, the Continental Supersports needs massive brakes. Standard are 420-millimeter carbon ceramic discs on the front, and 356-millimeter carbon ceramic discs on the rear wheels. The stopping power is excellent, and the brake pedal offers a lot of room for modulation.
The Continental Supersports comes with an air suspension, which can be set by the driver for sport or comfort. The car is also all-wheel-drive, with 60 percent of torque biased toward the rear, although the torque split will adjust for driving conditions.
Even stripped for performance, the cabin of the Continental Supersports shows true luxury, with leather, suede, and carbon fiber elements. As mentioned above, these seats are manually adjustable, but they in no way feel down-market.
Bentley puts a padded shelf where the rear seat used to be, providing more storage area than we are used to seeing in a coupe. There is also a carbon fiber bar running across the back, increasing body rigidity.
The standard six-speed automatic transmission is every bit a match for the engine and handling, in Sport mode delivering aggressive downshifts. During manual shifting, gear changes feel solid and engage quickly.
One of the worst features of the Continental Supersports is the navigation system. The maps don't look this bad in real life, but the screen is such low resolution that our photographer's very expensive camera couldn't quite capture it.
An iPod interface is included, with a pigtail in the glove compartment. The onscreen interface is terrible, as it lists albums and artists in an alphabetical list, forcing you to scroll through hundreds of list items to find what you want to listen to.
Although the audio interfaces were poor, the audio quality was supremely good. The Continental Supersports comes with a 10-speaker system, with a 15-speaker Naim system an option. But even with the standard system, this stereo reproduced our music near perfectly, bringing out layers that we only rarely get to hear.