A while back, I spent a weekend with the 2012 Bentley Supersports Convertible, a neo-deco droptop that costs more than I paid for my house and is so ridiculously powerful, you half-expect to see Star Trek-style warp nacelles jutting off the quarter panels when you check the rearview mirrors.
I posted a photo of it to our Facebook page and a reader asked, "Why do you test things that we can never buy?" It's a fair question. And while I could concoct some elaborate autojourno explanation of how it's just essential to present a proper mix of the automotive marketplace's diverse offerings to readers, I'll spare you that.
Because the real reason is so much simpler: cars like the Supersports are FUN. Fun to drive. Fun to share with people. Fun to talk about. For four days, your garage turns into a wormhole that dumps you into a vehicular fantasyland. So let's look at some photos and chat about the car.
That's the first thng everyone asks anyway, so let's get it out of the way. The Supersports Convertible is the most expensive variant of the Bentley Continental GTC (GTC = convertible) that you can buy. Base price on this one was $280,400. The additional 25 grand comes via options, the gas guzzler tax ($3,000), and the destination charge ($2,595).
Most expensive option? That would be the Naim for Bentley Premium Audio System, at $7,180. Is it that good? Well, it's good, and at this level of Monopoly money, who's counting? The whole window sticker is posted later in the slideshow.
As you can see, the Supersports ditches the flashy chrome of the regular Bentley Continental in favor of sportier black accents -- the wheels, the grilles, etc. I prefer this look, myself.
621 horsepower and 590 lb/ft of torque
Those big rear haunches hint at the power, and while they suggest rear-wheel drive, the Supersports (and every other Continental-series Bentley) has standard all-wheel drive. To further highlight this (and ensure coverage on every car blog ever), Bentley took one of these cars -- a Supersports Convertible -- and set the ice land speed record with it: 205.48 mph. Don't try that at home.
All the power, none of the intimidation
You'd think that a car with 600+ horsepower would be scary. Except the Supersports is the opposite of that. It's big and comfortable, and is as easy to drive as a Camry. Or, a Camry that feels like it should have Chewbacca riding in the passenger seat, plotting the coordinates for the jump to hyperspace.
The steering's easy, the transmission's an automatic, the air suspension lets you dial up your preferred level of cushiness. My mom could drive this thing at 150 all day, it's so drama-free.
There are paddle shifters that let you shift manually, but don't bother. The car has so much muscle, you're better off putting the shifter in sport mode (as opposed to regular Drive) and letting it choose the gears. Smooth, endless power is always just under your right foot.
Yes, it's pretty deluxe inside
Bentley sweats the details on its cars' interiors, and this is no exception. In fact, this one's pretty reserved compared to some others I've seen. All black with leather-and-suede seats, contrast stitching, carbon-fiber inlays, and the expected raft of amenities, like front seat massagers. It's pretty quiet with the top up, and with the top down, the exhaust rumble surrounds you. Top down = more awesome.
Yup, the back seat's nice, too
It's pretty tight, though, if you're a grown up. Kids? They're fine. There are even LATCH anchors for both positions. I installed my two-year-old's seat in one. Not exactly easy, but not the nightmare that is installing one in the hardtop version of this car. That will make you break the Third Commandment repeatedly.
So if you hit Powerball, have youngsters, and decide to buy a Bentley, avoid the coupe. Buy the convertible or the four-door sedan (whose back seat has the approximate room of a U-Haul box truck), and you won't have to go to confession after you install the kiddie seat.
This is the worst cupholder of all time
Currently, the Supersports is based on the last-generation Bentley Continental. The people who engineered that car clearly felt that you shouldn't enjoy a beverage in it, even though you just dropped six figures . As such, the cupholders are this afterthought insert that goes INSIDE the center console. It's hilarious until you remember you have nowhere to put your coffee on the way to Bond Villain Lair office.
Of course, if you can drop 300 grand in cash on your ride, you can just hire someone to ride shotgun and hold your Starbucks.
(The redesigned Bentley Continental GTC has cupholders that you can actually use, so when the Supersports eventually gets upgraded and you buy the next-gen car, you can fire your coffee butler.)
That's a real ashtray and cigarette lighter
Remember those? The Supersports does not judge you.
(As long as your vice is of the tobacco variety, that is. You still have no place to put your freakin' coffee.)
The touchscreen interface is pretty big
Once you have all your radio presets in, it's cake to jump around between your stations. This screen also shows you the parking radar, suspension settings, etc. Brght sunshine makes it harder, but not totally impossible to see. The vehicle information display in the instrument cluster also shows you your radio stations, you don't really need to look down that often when you surf the channels.
Notice that the font is reminiscent of the one used on the London Underground signage. Bentley subliminally reminds you that it's a British make at all times (never mind that it's part of the Volkswagen Group...)
These are what make it stop
Gigantic carbon-ceramic brakes are standard. The front discs look like manhole covers with big red calipers clamping down on them.
Fun fact: On lower-echelon Bentley Continentals, these brakes are a $14,000 option. You can buy a Kia Rio for $14,000.
It's an attention getter
That's my barber, Tony. He's taking a photo of the car. Because that's what everyone does.
They take photos of the car. In the car. Next to the car. They ask questions. They chuckle at the price tag. They look longingly at the bodywork. They caress the seats. The steering wheel. They look at you googly-eyed when you ask if they want to go for a ride. Basically, people love the Bentley.
The best story of the weekend came when a young dad and his son pulled up next to me in their station wagon. "Nice car, man," the dad said. Then he looked back at his boy and said, "See that? That's why it's important to always work hard. You do that, you can have a car just like it." He smiled, waved and drove off as the light turned green.
I figured some people might look at the car with resentment, but the opposite was true. People understood the Bentley as something to aspire to.
In a nutshell...
So, the 2012 Bentley Supersports Convertible? It's obscenely expensive, cartoonishly powerful, and as docile and user-friendly as your grandma's old Buick.
No, no one needs this car. You can get plenty of luxury and performance for a lot less money. But that's beside the point. The Supersports doesn't exist to fulfill a need (beyond making Bentley a tidy profit).
It's a trophy. An aspiration. You work hard. And maybe, eventually, you grab it.
Or, you know, you win the lottery.
Either way, it's hard to get. Which is what makes it special.