Driven: Bentley's fastest carhttp://news.drive.com.au/drive/motor-news/driven-bentleys-fastest-car-20091210-kl9s.html
$525,000 Bentley Continental Supersports sprints from 0-100km/h in less than four seconds and hits 329km/h.
No rear seats and no wood trim. It may not seem a great sales pitch for a luxury car that will set you back more than half a million dollars.
In reality it's all part of the niche appeal of what's described as the most extreme Bentley ever produced: the Continental Supersports.
It's loaded with carbon fibre, alcantara trim and black stainless steel that adds a sinister element to the svelte, muscular shape. If that's not enough in the way of bragging points then having the front seats from the 407km/h, multi-million dollar Bugatti Veyron should seal the deal.
Even better - I'm sitting behind the wheel of the Continental Supersports, the fastest Bentley ever produced. If its name doesn't give a clue to its intentions, a brief look at its vital stats will.
While the Supersports still aims to pamper those with a spare $525,000 (plus a decent small car in on-road costs) it can also top 329km/h and reach the 100km/h open road speed limit in 3.9 seconds.
Starting life as a Continental GT, the Supersports has gone on a diet and been given the obligatory power injection. Larger air intakes team with the bonnet gills to feed more fresh air to the 12-cylinder, twin-turbocharged engine that displaces 6.0 litres.
Massive 20-inch wheels are wrapped in sticky Pirelli rubber, while larger exhaust tips and smoked tail lights complete the more aggressive theme. When it comes to aggression, though, it's the engine that holds its head above the other go-fast goodies.
Power peaks at 463kW, which is more than double that of a traditional, grunty Aussie large six-cylinder and five times more than the entry-level Volkswagen Golf. Ample, in other words.
And even though the two-door, two-seater weighs 2250kg - more than some seven-seat four-wheel-drives - it's shed 110kg with the removal of the rear seats and adoption of carbon-fibre framed front buckets.
Each wheel is also 2.5kg lighter, while more resilient carbon ceramic brakes shed more kilos. Enough of the stats, though, because the Supersports is all about the drive.
Given its licence-losing credentials, having access to a private road for a brief - but fast - taste test is a great way to experience Bentley's exclusive two-door. Slipping inside reveals a cabin laced in carbon fibre and dark themed interior that suits the nature of the beast.
But the seat height is set by each well heeled owner and cannot be adjusted, something that leaves my head grazing the roof of the metallic white test car. At least the wings on the seat sides are promising to keep me well pinned.
Push the start button on top of the gear selector and there' s a delicate growl. Once you floor the accelerator it evolves into a more meaningful bellow befitting of the effortless acceleration. The chesty flutter on gearchanges - an updated six-speed automatic transmission means shifts now occur in just 0.1 seconds - is less subtle, while the burble when you lift off the accelerator seals its aural credentials.
The Supersports gets a new centre differential splits the perfect front-rear torque split to apportion 60 per cent of drive to the rear wheels in an effort to neutralise the tendency to push at the front end.
Light steering is direct and responsive (perhaps too much so for a car of this ability) and the adjustable suspension good at resisting lean through corners. Traction is brilliant, even out of tight corners, encouraging an early squeeze of the accelerator. Try too early, though, and the front wheels will push wide predictably.
But the Supersports is impressively more confident and capable than it deserves to be, biting the bitumen and hanging on tenaciously. As the huge low profile tyres start to squeal , the stability control system works to keep any slide under control, gently applying the brakes to tuck the car around the corner.
Drive more aggressively and it's less subtle in its assistance, quickly straightening what is a well behaved vehicle. It is ultimately supremely confident, belying its heft. At any speed there's an unending surge of energy - at any revs.
As trees rush by it pays to glance at the speedo as it sails past "150km/h" in a demonstration of effortless - and deceptive - performance. Time to halt proceedings. After some hard applications at speed the brakes let out a train station-like whiff.
But they never let up in stopping performance, continually surprising with their ability to abrubtly halt more than two tonnes at close to 170km/h. Bentley says that despite the focus on performance in the Superspsorts, it still blends the everyday luxury and comfort that's defined the Continental.
My brief drive is on some of the smoothest bitumen in Australia. Besides, my fun has come to an end just as I'm starting to feel comfortably hurling a beautifully natured car around a road that's ready to bite.