Test Drive: 2011 Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible

Super rapid fresh air transport ? the sky?s the limit?

Last year, the folks from Crewe gave us their fastest, most powerful Bentley ever produced with a top ? the extreme Continental Supersports Coupe. For the 2011 model year, Bentley introduces the ultimate in fresh air motoring ? the Continental Supersports Convertible ? an example of extreme engineering and execution in a superlative topless transport ? their most potent drophead ever.

Essentially, the 2011 Continental Supersports convertible employs the same basic mechanicals as its Coupe counterpart, while adding rollover protection and torsional body stiffening in the form of strengthened ?A?-pillars, sills and underfloor cross bracing.

The convertible hood (top) constitutes the obvious differential from the coupe. The top features a low stack height when lowered made possible by an 8-inch drop in the rear suspension setup. The 7-bow top is constructed from the inside out of: a header with Cantrail trim, interior fabric, seals, a latch and striker, the primary frame with a micro-switch and potentiometer, hydraulic controls, electricals including an interior lamp, padding, and the fabric outer. Top operation is controlled by a single switch that allows the top to be lowered (or raised) in 25 seconds at a vehicle speed of up to 20 mph.?

Now, back to the mechanicals? Power for the new Supersports Convertible comes from the same 6.0-liter W12, twin turbo engine that propels the coupe. It produces 621 brake horsepower at 6,000 rpm, while generating 590 pound feet of torque in a range from 2,000-4,500 rpm. The Flex-fuel engine is oriented longitudinally up front and is capable of operating on anything from gasoline to E85 bio-ethanol. It is coupled to a ZF six-speed ?Quickshift? automatic with wheel mounted paddle shifters that deliver shifts in 93 milliseconds. Motive force is delivered continuously to all four wheels with a 40/60 rear bias and Torsen center differential. The all-wheel drive features reduced power on understeer along with a throttle balanced line control. Top speed for the Continental Supersports Droptop is limited to 202 mph and it is capable of launching from 0 – 60 mph in a mere 3.9 seconds (2 mph and .2 seconds slower than the coupe).

The chassis benefits from a lower ride height (-10mm) with a stiffer anti-roll bar (+8%), increased bushing rates (+33%), retuned damper strategy and retuned?servotronic steering up front and a 10mm lower ride aft along with a wider rear track (+50mm), an updated roll bar and retuned damper strategy.

This extreme Bentley rides on 9.5 x 20-inch forged alloy wheels featuring a 25mm increased rear offset, and shod with Pirelli Ultra-high performance tires. The wheels are finished in gloss black by a process called Physical Vapor Deposition, which is an ultra-high temperature procedure that is also used on the grille and other black trim accents. The Bentley ?B? is featured as wheel centers, and there are even matching ?B? valve stem caps.

In terms of styling, the appearance falls into the elegantly gorgeous category. The exterior is contemporary but exquisite. The front fenders are gracefully rounded with quad projector-style headlamps flanking the one-piece integrated grille/bonnet with a central character line, hood side grilles and winged Bentley logo. Beneath the mesh grill which is executed in the unique black chrome-like?finish, is a wide lower horizontal air intake with vertical outboard air intakes, which also feature the black mesh inserts. The windshield is sharply raked, and there is no ?B? pillar, due to the convertible configuration.

A pronounced character line runs from the front wheel well arch, fading just before a similar character line off of the rear wheel well arch. A rocker trim black accent travels from the front wheel well continuing to a rear edge that continues around the rear end to the license well. The deck lid, with integrated spoiler lip, picks up the subtle accent lines featuring another Bentley logo. Dual, horizontal exhaust tips reside in a recessed, black, full width housing.?

Moving to the interior, the front sport seats are based on a carbon fiber shell and are highly supportive covered in leather with quilted seating surface inserts featuring stitching to match the base leather color. Carbon fiber accents abound, complemented by chrome trim. The pedals are done in aluminum, and there is a purposeful ?dead? pedal. The Bentley winged logo graces the three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel, along with embossed logos in the seatbacks. Supersports script is featured on each sill plate as well as being integrated into the rocker trim piece. The Breitling chronometer adds a nice touch as well.

My test 2011 Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible wore a rich Silver Tempest metallic exterior coat, with a Dark Grey metallic cloth top. The interior was a combination of Linen and Porpoise leather, with carbon fiber and chrome trim accents. The base price was set at $280,400. While the price as tested after?adding options, came to $297,295. before tax and license. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ??

SUMMARY: ?The 2011 Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible is a phenomenal and wickedly fast grand touring automobile that rips at the pavement with all four corners when nailed, while managing to evoke a graceful and stunningly beautiful persona. Not everyone on the block will be able to own one, and even those who are fortunate to acquire stewardship, won?t necessarily be able to successfully master the car?s performance capability to the fullest level. The Supersports is truly not a vehicle for the masses, given its intended purpose in life, the ransom required for ownership not withstanding.?

Once one slides behind the steering wheel into position in the highly supportive sport seats, and faces the deeply recessed analog gauges, the reality that this is no ordinary ride takes over ? it is truly something special, and should there remain even the slightest modicum of doubt, nail the throttle, and any possible misgivings are instantly eliminated. The Bentley Continental Supersports convertible is an elegant, athletic machine with unbridled power and polish. If only I had the wherewithal, It is a car that I would own in a heartbeat. The ride quality is superb ? a harmonious blend of both firm and compliant. Handling attributes are simply amazing for a vehicle with the Supersport?s mass ? it is extremely athletic and nimble, delivering instantaneous response to one?s inputs

When making gear changes, the driver may override the automatic function at will via the column-mounted paddle shifters. When in Sport mode, gears are also changed automatically as appropriate, or by shifting via the gearshift lever and paddle shifters when in the right side manual gate.?

The car?s uniqueness seems to fall into the proper perspective with a darker colored exterior, fulfilling the role of an extreme Supersports Convertible.

What can Bentley possibly have up their sleeve to surpass the Continental Supersports Convertible? The executive team wasn?t talking, but rest assured, there will be something, as Bentley never rests on its laurels. For now, the sky?s the limit.

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