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2017 Bentley Continental Supersports first drive

Bentley's 2017 Continental Supersports is a striking balance of speed and splendor

You’ll need to sell some organs to afford it, but the Continental Supersports might be the best damn Bentley ever.

In the world of Bentley, there are two main factions. On one side, you have the classic Bentley owner, one who prefers three-piece suits, crisp newspapers, and comfort suspension settings. On the other, you have the motor sports enthusiast, the adrenaline junkie that orders an Apple Green Continental GT3-R and never takes it out of Sport mode.

The 2017 Continental Supersports allows you to be both. An elegance balance of speed and splendor, the Supersports can coddle you in luxury just as easily as it defies the laws of physics, making it the perfect farewell for the current Continental platform. Before the new model shows up, though, let’s take a closer look at one of the most beautiful swan songs ever sung.

What’s New

The 2017 Supersports is not an all-new model, in fact it shares much of its architecture with the original Continental GT that debuted way back in 2003. Don’t let that fool you though, because the Continental wears its years well.

The Supersports can coddle you in luxury just as easily as it defies the laws of physics.

Compared to the first-generation Supersports from 2009, the 2017 model benefits from a variety of enhancements to the powertrain, including bigger turbos, revamped intake and exhaust systems, and a new torque converter that allows the eight-speed gearbox to transfer the 6.0-liter W12’s might to the ground more quickly. How much power, you ask? How about 700 ponies and 750 pound-feet of torque, which allows this 5,027-pound grand tourer to accelerate quicker than a Mercedes-AMG GT R.

The Supersports’ performance enhancements are reflected in the car’s design, because it looks sharper, meaner, and more contemporary than its predecessor. I’m on board with nearly all the changes — the hood vents add a dash of attitude to the vehicle’s grace and the bodywork overall has a higher level of contrast than before — but the rear wing looks very out of place here. It does help counteract aerodynamic lift at high speeds, but personally, if anyone compared by Bentley to a Subaru WRX I would be very disappointed. Thankfully, it’s optional. Other changes include model-specific 21-inch wheels, tri-tone interior upholstery, and an 11-speaker, 900W Naim audio system, which is bespoke for the brand, of course.

Trim Levels & Features

The new Supersports comes in two body styles — Coupe ($293,300) and Convertible ($322,600) — the latter of which will arrive as a 2018 model year vehicle. With Bentley, though, the level of customization is nearly endless, so there aren’t really trim levels per se. Instead, the brand offers a swath of individual options to make your Bentley feel truly yours.

Going over each would take more time than we have here, so here’s an overview: Bentley offers 90 exterior paint colors, or if the customer wishes, they can create one of their own. There are 17 flavors of interior upholstery as well, along with 10 unique finishes to the center console and fascia panels.

An “X Specification” pack is also available, which includes eight two-tone exterior treatments, an array of carbon fiber trinkets, and titanium exhaust. If none of that is unique enough, you can hand over your Supersports to Bentley’s Mulliner coachbuilding division, which responds to individual customer requests. Want a custom pearl inlay in the dashboard or a fish tank in the back? Mulliner can do that. Probably.

Technology Overview

As romantic and exciting as the Supersports is, delving into the car’s technology brings you back to the real world. The interface is decidedly old school, and the software is overall pretty bare bones.

As romantic as the Supersports is, delving into the car’s technology brings you back to the real world

You have a standard map display on the 8.0-inch touchscreen along with basic vehicle information, but there isn’t much else to play with. The voice commands and Bluetooth controls are hit and miss as well, and features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and head-up displays are noticeably absent.

Here’s hoping the next-gen Continental and all its variants will get some upgrades from Volkswagen Group’s massive tech library. On the positive side, the Bentley offers a 30 GB hard drive for all your playlists and a six-disc CD changer.

Interior Fit & Finish

Despite its failings on the technology front, the Supersports’ cabin is one of the nicest places you could ever plop your caboose in. The overall build quality is absolutely first-class, and the leather seats are some of the most comfortable and supportive on the market. They’re also incredibly attractive, with a sexy diamond quilt design and a tri-tone color scheme that makes you feel like you’re in a bonafide race car. Of course, there are several hide options to choose from (17, to be exact), meaning you could outfit your interior to look like anything from the Union Jack to the McDonalds logo if you so wanted.

The standard dashboard is adorned with a checkered carbon fiber design that is just lovely to look at, but buyers can opt for a more traditional carbon fiber finish or wood veneer made from Burr Walnut, Eucalyptus, Madrona, or Ash. As for the the rear seating area, it’s just as luscious as the front, however rear leg room isn’t amazing at 32.5 inches. Boot volume (always wanted to say that) is rated at 12.6 cubic feet, which is about the same as a new Honda Civic Coupe.

Driving Performance & MPG

Driving the Supersports at full tilt simply doesn’t make sense. The vehicle is massive, and yet there’s not a single thing about the experience that feels cumbersome. The steering is incredibly light even in Sport mode, and through the use of torque vectoring — a feature inherited from the track-focused GT3-R — the Supersports can more than handle itself on a twisty track.

After the car’s acceleration rearranges your organs, the massive brakes will help put them back into place.

Physics certainly get in the way on low-speed switchbacks and whatnot, but on the whole, the Continental is far nimbler than anyone would expect by looking at it.

With a 0 to 60 mph time of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 209 mph, it’s clear the vehicle can get where it needs to quickly, and it does so with an incredible soundtrack. The monstrous W12 barks ferociously under full load, harmonized with a beautiful exhaust crackle that sounds like a 21-gun salute. But how does a 5,000-lb luxury car stop?

To address that, Bentley fitted the Supersports with the largest brake discs ever fitted to a production car, and each one is the size of an extra large pizza. So after the car’s ridiculous acceleration rearranges your organs, the massive brakes will help put them back into place.

Put all this together and you have the fastest four-seat coupe and four-seat convertible in the world. The convertible tacks on another 400 pounds of so, but the performance deficits are negligible with this much firepower onboard. 0 to 60 and top speed figures slump to 3.7 seconds and 205 mph in the droptop, respectively.

As for fuel economy, the car is officially rated at 11 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the freeway, but I can tell you I used a quarter tank after about 70 miles of driving. Turns out turbocharged W12s are quite thirsty.

Safety

Like its infotainment offering, the Supersports’ safety options are underwhelming. You won’t find automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, or driver attentions alerts here, rather a suite of airbags for the driver and passenger. That’s pretty much it.

Conclusion

In the end, the Bentley Continental Supersports is an incredibly impressive machine that overcomes its age and weight with brute force, undeniable style, and some of the highest-quality materials you’ll find on any car. It’s a stunning intersection of comfort and capability, and driving it makes you feel like nothing else on the road. That’s not always a positive, though. There are other high-performance grand tourers on the market that are lighter, more efficient, and more modern all around, including the Aston Martin DB11 and Ferrari F12Berlinetta. Fun fact, the DB11 is comparable in acceleration and dimensions, but weighs 1,000 lbs less and has much better tech courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. The Bentley’s interior design is much more fashionable though, so you have to give it that.

Just 250 examples of the new Supersports are coming to the U.S., which will make way for an all-new Continental GT built on the same platform that underpins the new Porsche Panamera. So while I firmly believe that the 2017 Supersports is the best Bentley you can buy right now, the next one has the potential to be even better

Highs

  • Physics-defying acceleration
  • Ungodly stopping power
  • Beautiful exhaust note
  • A cabin fit for royalty
  • Gorgeous designs all around (save for the boy racer wing)

Lows

  • Yeah, that wing
  • Infotainment system is showing its age