ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
Rocky Mountain High - Luxury Travel Magazine
Rocky Mountain High
|By: Sam Tinson, Issue 43 – Winter 2010|
|(Colorado, Bentley Supersports Convertible)|
|BUTCH CASSIDY’S OLD STOMPING GROUND IN THE COLORADO ROCKIES IS THE PERFECT PLACE FOR A QUICK GETAWAY – ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE AT THE REINS OF THE FASTEST FOUR-SEATER CONVERTIBLE IN THE WORLD.|
|On June 24, 1889, Butch Cassidy and his two-man gang rode into the town of Telluride, Colorado dressed up in brand new cowboy boots, polished spurs and ten-gallon hats. Fooling the townsfolk into believing that they were well-to-do businessmen, they held up the San Miguel Valley Bank and vanished into the Rocky Mountains with $20,000. |
That bank robbery was the first in a distinguished career of crime for Cassidy, and the tourist guides who today have replaced the gold prospectors on the streets of Telluride won’t let you forget it. These days one needs more than a pair of fancy boots to make an impression in this gentrified mountain enclave, where the winter sports, breathtaking scenery and prospect of sharing a zipcode with Tom Cruise have caused property prices to rise more steeply than the local ski lifts. If Butch and his gang were to pose as high rollers here now (and have an excellent getaway vehicle to boot) they could do a lot worse than turn up in a Bentley Continental Supersports.
When the Supersports was launched in coupe form earlier this year, its blistering performance and aggressive styling reaffirmed Bentley’s status as a builder of truly great sports cars. Taking a standard Bentley Continental GT as their starting point, the engineers at the brand’s factory in Crewe, England waved their magic wand. Perhaps a little sulphur got into the mix, because when the fairy dust settled the relatively genteel Grand Tourer had been transformed into the fastest, most powerful and all-round baddass Bentley the world had ever seen.
The Supersports is leaner (by 110kg over the standard GT), meaner (0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds, top speed of 329km/h) and greener (it runs on bioethenol, petrol or any combination of the two) than the GT, or indeed any Bentley before it. It sports twin bonnet vents, a lowered ride height and a wider rear track, and is shod with 20-inch, 10-spoke smoked alloy wheels furnished with the largest carbon ceramic disc brakes ever offered on a production car. The exterior brightwork gleams with menacing dark burnish, like metalised crude oil, and the headlights glower from twin black-rimmed sockets. Like a high velocity rifle, the Supersports gives you either an immense sense of power or scares you witless, depending on which side of the barrel you’re on.
The Supersports I’m in Telluride to drive has been transformed again, albeit in a less dramatic fashion. Bentley has added a folding fabric roof, and in doing so has not only created the fastest four-seater convertible on the planet, but also given this awesome car the one thing it arguably lacked: headroom. In the coupe the cavity behind the front seats was a rather gloomy place, whereas with the roof lopped off, sharing this car’s pleasures with two extra passengers suddenly makes a lot more sense. Bentley evidently thinks so, because the rear seats – an optional extra in the coupe – are standard kit in the convertible.
Removing the roof is also the best way to show off Bentley’s renowned handcrafted interiors, which in terms of fit, finish and quality of materials are in a league of their own. My test car quickly developed an enthusiastic fan club wherever it went. When we passed through Ouray, the historic gold rush settlement where John Wayne filmed True Grit, one local woman enquired about the car’s price then declared, with all seriousness, that she would sell one of her houses to buy one.
Despite its weight-loss program the Supersports is certainly no featherweight. In convertible guise it tips the scales at well over two tonnes, which makes its crackling performance - it’s only a second slower to 100km/h than the coupe – even more astonishing.
Open the bonnet and you’ll find the reason; a monolithic six-litre twin-turbocharged W12 engine capable of generating a frankly bonkers 621bhp (which is 620 more horses than Butch Cassidy had for his quick getaway).
The sedate streets of Telluride are no place to give this kind of power free rein (I think lynch mobs are outlawed in Colorado these days, but I wasn’t about to find out). Much better to take to the San Juan Skyway, an iconic route that snakes through the Rockies at 10,000 feet with CinemaScope views at every sweeping, unfenced corner.
On such a vertiginous road you want a car that’s not only a joy to drive but surefooted with it, and the Supersports was in its element. Its all-wheel-drive system is an upgrade from that used on the GT and directs power to the rear wheels with a 40:60 bias for greater acceleration and stability. With Electronic Stability Control keeping all four bespoke Pirelli tires glued firmly to the track and 800Nm of torque at my disposal, I found myself relishing every bend on the steep, zigzagging ascent to the high country.
The Supersports is a hugely exhilarating car, and delivers its thrills in a more refined package than any Ferrari of Lamborghini, which look like uncouth yobs by comparison. The herd of thoroughbreds corralled beneath the Bentley’s bonnet unleashes its might not in an untidy stampede, but in a finely disciplined charge that is all the more thrilling for the grace of its execution. Whether you let the excellent six-speed Quickshift auto transmission do the work or use the wheel-mounted paddles to shift gears, the Supersports will whisk you from gentle trot to breakneck gallop without fuss. Things remain unruffled in the cockpit too; even at high speed with the roof down there was little wind noise, and my cowboy hat (hey, when in Rome…) stayed firmly on my head at all times.
As a car for those who like to experience the great outdoors in unparalleled comfort and at great speed, the Superports Convertible is without parallel, and a summer’s day in the Rockies made a suitably epic backdrop. Blossoms floated in the breeze, waterfalls plunged from precipitous heights and the rarified mountain air made the snow-dappled peaks, pine forests and silvery aspens all appear in crisp high-definition. Perhaps it was a touch of altitude sickness, but as I thought of Butch and his gang heading for the hills, stolen greenbacks fluttering from their saddlebags, I had a half a notion to make a run for the Mexican border myself, taking the Bentley with me. Had I done so, it would have taken a very fast sheriff’s posse to catch me
|CAR: Bentley Supersports Convertible|
|ENGINE: 6-litre twin-turbo W12 |
|POWER: 621bhp (463kW) @ 6000rpm|
|TORQUE: 800Nm @ 2000-4500rpm|
|TOP SPEED: 325km/h|
|ACCELERATION: 0-100km/h in 4.1 secs|