The Continental Supersports Convertible further strengthens Bentley’s supercar range, following the introduction of the Continental Supersports Coupé in 2009. The new Supersports Convertible, with the same 630PS (621bhp/463kW) twin-turbocharged W12 engine, is the fastest, most potent droptop Bentley has ever built, offering the ultimate Bentley driving experience in the world’s most dramatic convertible.
The inspiration for the ‘Supersports’ name is the 1925 Bentley Supersports, a race-bred version of the iconic Bentley 3-litre, that delivered 85bhp when more ordinary cars were equipped with a modest 15bhp. It was also the first production car to reach 100mph – extreme performance in its day.
The new, muscular four-seat Supersports Convertible is unmistakably Bentley in its design and craftsmanship but its interior signifies a dramatic re-interpretation of Bentley luxury. Satin-finished carbon fibre, Alcantara™and ‘Soft Grip’ leather create a unique ambience with a distinctly sporting and contemporary style.
All models in the Continental model range, including the new Supersports Convertible are now capable of running on both petrol (gasoline) and E85 bioethanol or any combination of the two, reaffirming Bentley’s ongoing commitment to make all its cars bio-fuel compatible by 2012. Pioneered by the Supersports Coupe, this FlexFuel technology offers a reduction of up to 70 per cent in CO2 emissions on a ‘well- to-wheel’ basis, a measure of a fuel’s net contribution to the atmosphere, not just tailpipe emissions.
To ensure seamless power delivery, the on-board fuel supply system detects the blending ratio of the fuel in the tank and ensures that power and torque remain constant regardless of the ratio of petrol to biofuel.
Bentley Chairman and Chief Executive Dr Franz-Josef Paefgen welcomes the new addition to the Bentley range, as well as the standardisation of the FlexFuel W12 engine on all 2011 Continental models:
“The new Supersports Convertible blends thrilling performance and dramatic styling with luxury and practicality in the Bentley open-top tradition. Extreme power combines with pioneering FlexFuel technology, now shared with all Continental models, reflecting Bentley’s ongoing commitment to more environmental motoring.”
The new Continental Supersports Convertible is a car that must be driven to be fully understood. Behind the wheel it is immediately clear that a Supersports Bentley is a ‘fusion of extremes’ – the ultimate in extreme performance, every day practicality and unrivalled hand-crafted luxury.
Bentley’s Supersports programme began as an ‘under the radar’ project exploring the possibilities of weight reduction on the Continental GT Coupé but with more power and torque. The largely experimental project soon crystallised into an official new car programme, driven by the passion and enthusiasm of a small group of Bentley engineers and designers. Now the Supersports Convertible has received the same focus and the results are equally dramatic. Dr Ulrich Eichhorn, Member of the Board, Engineering explains the thinking behind the project:
“The ‘extreme’ Bentley stable now has a new occupant in the form of the Supersports Convertible – a car every bit as purposeful and potent as the Coupé but with the panache of roof-down motoring.”A highly focussed, pure Bentley driving experience
With 630PS (621bhp) and 800Nm (590lb ft) of torque from its pioneering FlexFuel engine and new ‘Quickshift’ transmission, the Supersports Convertible is the fastest drop-top Bentley has ever built. It accelerates from 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds (0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds) and, conditions permitting, can continue onto a top speed of 202mph (325km/h).
The increased power and torque are transmitted to the all-wheel drive system via an uprated and rapid six-speed Quickshift transmission, which more than halves shift times (to just 93 milliseconds) and maximises the new Convertible’s enormous potential. The revised gearbox also has the ability to deliver double downshifts (sixth to fourth gear, for example) and improves acceleration across the entire gear range. To cope with the additional power and torque, the planetary gear set of the ZF transmission is also strengthened.
Positive torque during downshifts is achieved through engine and gearbox electronic controller interaction for extra throttle and fuel injection during the overrun. During transmission upshifts, fuel and ignition are cut momentarily to give faster mechanical shift times through torque reduction, also improving shift quality and durability.
The extreme performance of the Superports Convertible is matched by precise, agile handling, while retaining class-leading levels of ride comfort and refinement. Developed from the GTC Speed, chassis enhancements include retuning of the electronic Continuous Damping Control (CDC) system, stiffer front suspension bushes and uprated rear anti-roll bar. The Supersports Convertible also shares its ride height with the GTC Speed, sitting 10mm (0.4in) lower at the front and 15mm (0.6in) lower at the rear than the standard GTC.
The front suspension trailing lever features a new design of hydraulic bush, 33 per cent stiffer than those of GTC Speed, for improved steering response while the uprated rear anti-roll bar provides improved body control and turn-in response.
The retuned CDC system provides enhanced control of body movement to strike the optimum balance between agile handling and ride comfort during all driving manoeuvres. Agility is further sharpened by a 40:60 rear-biased torque split for the all-wheel drive system which reduces understeer during hard cornering and allows the experienced driver to modulate the car’s line and balance via precise throttle control.
The 9.5Jx20-inch forged alloy wheels, shared with the Supersports Coupé, offer a weight saving of 10kg (22lb) per car, reducing unsprung and rotating mass while the open 10-spoke design offers superior brake cooling. The rear wheels have a 25mm (1 inch) greater offset resulting in a 50mm (2 inches) increase in the rear track, further benefiting handling and stability.
The lightweight wheels are fitted with 275/35 ZR 20 Pirelli Ultra-High Performance tyres, providing excellent steering response. The standard-fit tyre monitoring system allows the driver to select tyres type and speed range parameters. As well as monitoring pressures, the system warns drivers if their speed is too high for the tyre pressures or if tyre speed ratings are exceeded on winter tyres.
The Supersports Convertible features an advanced electronic stability programme (ESP) that moderates intervention at low speeds, exploiting the potential of the more powerful engine and enhanced chassis, improving driver interaction and control. The new ESP also provides faster reinstatement of engine torque after intervention, giving the spirited driver greater control. The target slip is increased at greater than 90 per cent throttle to utilise all available longitudinal grip. Corner exit agility is thereby also enhanced for increased driver involvement. Together the chassis, tyre and track changes deliver improved grip, turn-in and agility.
Carbon ceramic brakes are standard fitment and provide a reduction in rotating and unsprung mass of 20kg (44lb) from the front axle, benefiting steering response, grip and ride comfort. The large diameter (420mm front, 356mm rear) lightweight discs and eight-piston calipers offer fade-resistant braking performance with minimal disc distortion under high thermal conditions. Pedal feel is also improved with shorter travel, high effectiveness and a precise pressure point. Designing the ‘extreme’ Bentley convertible- where form follows function
The evolution of the Supersports Convertible’s design is very much a case of form following function, with new purposeful sculptural forms signalling the engineering changes beneath the skin. Key engineering-led design changes to the Supersports include:
- Revised front air intakes and new bonnet vents to improve airflow and cooling
- Flared rear wings to accommodate wider rear track
- Discreet bootlid spoiler benefitting aerodynamic balance at high speeds
The increased power and torque of the W12 engine necessitated an additional 10 per cent airflow to the twin turbocharger intercoolers and cooling system. With extensive use of Computational Fluid Dynamics techniques, Bentley’s designers responded with a purposeful and dramatic style, featuring large vertical intake apertures. Twin bonnet vents were added to ensure positive air extraction.
Similarly, all-new flared rear wings that accommodate the 50mm (2 inches) wider rear track are designed to emphasise the powerful stance of this ultra-high performance Convertible. The resultant Supersports Convertible style combines the looks of the graceful Continental GTC with a wide, low and muscular appearance that reflects its more extreme character.
The Supersports Convertible, in common with its Coupé stablemate, occupies a position within the Bentley portfolio which is all its own, as Raul Pires, Head of Exterior Design, explains.
“The Supersports Convertible and Coupé are the ultimate driver’s Bentleys and that is reflected in unique design cues that provide a bold, sporting look, from whatever angle the cars are admired. Even from 50 metres behind on a dark road, you can just tell it’s a Supersports.”
From the front, the radiator, lower grille and dual bonnet vents are finished in a striking Smoked Steel finish. Derived from an innovative technology normally used to apply a coating to luxury watches and specialised industrial tools, Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) is a complex and time-consuming process that involves vaporised metal being deposited onto the surface of, in this case, stainless steel.
Giving a darker, more solid appearance, it is the first use of a PVD finish on stainless steel in the car industry. In addition to the Smoked Steel finishes, a gloss black finish to the headlamp casings and rear lamp clusters gives the Supersports convertible’s distinctive face and muscular rear additional visual impact.
Restyled – and more aerodynamic – door mirrors match the exterior paint choice and the window and door surrounds replace polished stainless steel with a Smoked Steel finish to match the front grille. Eye-catching, black gloss Bentley-branded brake calipers act on the carbon ceramic brakes. Surrounding the brakes are the unique 20-inch, forged alloy wheels with Smoked Steel-finish which are exclusive to Supersports models. Large diameter tailpipe trims round out the car’s purposeful stance when viewed from the rear. Beneath the bonnet Supersports badges grace the cover of the 630PS (621bhp) W12 engine.
The Supersports Convertible has an electrically operated, three-layer fabric hood with advanced acoustic insulation to provide superb levels of refinement and comfort when raised. A choice of eight hood colours are available, including a new Dark Grey Metallic option, which is achieved by weaving a 'grey' acrylic fibre with a semi-transparent 'metallic effect' fibre in a twill weave construction to create a directional colour effect.A re-interpretation of Bentley craftsmanship
Inside the Supersports Convertible, the cockpit is a dramatic execution of iconic Bentley design displayed in its full glory every time the roof is lowered. Dirk van Braeckel, Director of Design and Styling, describes the approach taken by his interior design team:
“The design team has fully embraced the spirit of Supersports to create a dramatic interpretation of Bentley luxury for the new Convertible where traditional craftsmanship and fine detailing are given a very different interpretation. Leather hides combine with new materials for Bentley such as satin-finished carbon fibre and Alcantara™ to create a unique ambience with a distinctly sporting and contemporary style.”
Lightweight carbon fibre is featured throughout the cabin, from the unique carbon-weave treadplates with Supersports script in both doorwells to the sculpted lightweight sports front seats, which feature a carbon fibre clamshell back and Diamond-quilted Alcantara™. Each seat weighs just 21kg and, in a typical example of attention to detail, the visible weave in the carbon fibre has a ‘Bentley-specific’ density to ensure the perfect visual finish.
The Continental Supersports is the first Bentley to offer a combination of soft-grip leather and performance-enhancing Alcantara™ alongside the leather hide. Alcantara™ is favoured by racing teams for its ability to provide additional grip under extreme conditions, such as cornering. But it is also sensational to look at, as well as being immensely supportive on the road or track.
The Alcantara™ applied to the rear compartment, door panels and seat facings is quilted and in the Supersports marks the return of the much smaller ‘diamond’ upholstery pattern from Bentleys of old. To further highlight the car’s sporting nature, the steering wheel and gear lever are trimmed in new ‘Soft Grip’ leather with extra grip for a supercar feel, and drilled alloy sports pedals stand out in the driver’s footwell.