Though Bentley reeled off a series of reputation-building victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race in the late ‘20s, its reputation since “the war” has been one of Grey Poupon-flavored placidity. One can practically hear the strains of “God Save the Queen” when sitting in a Bentley (but only in the rear seat, natch).
So the company decided it was time to pump up the volume a bit with a high-performance model derived from a genuine, if obscure, world speed record the company set. Finnish four-time world rally champion Juha Kankkunen piloted a Bentley Continental Supersports convertible across the frozen surface of the Baltic sea at 205.48 mph (take that, Ice Road Truckers!), breaking his own record of 199.84 mph set in a Continental GT in 2007.
Bentley exhibited the authentic record-setting convertible with Kankkunen’s name stenciled on the side to the New York International Auto show to underscore the accomplishment and its connection to the company’s new model, the Continental Supersports Ice Speed Record (ISR).
This new car’s turbocharged W12 produces 631 hp and 590 lb.-ft. of torque, which powers through a six-speed automatic transmission to launch the ISR to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. Redesigned, free-flowing intake and exhaust systems contributed to the car’s additional horsepower over previous models and give it an authoritative rumble.
The ISR is available in three paint colors, Beluga, Quartzite and Arctica White, with a dark gray metallic soft fabric top. Inside the sporty ISR features high-gloss carbon fiber dashboard surfaces.
Customers concerned about their contribution to carbon dioxide emissions will be pleased to know that the ISR is designed to run on E85 ethanol as well as gasoline. When the tank is full of E85, the car produces 70 percent less CO2, according to Bentley.
Bentley will build only 100 ISR convertibles, so get your order in quickly. And consider driving this one yourself, because the chauffeur could easily cause you to spill your Moet & Chandon while riding in the back seat.
DAN CARNEY is a veteran auto industry observer who has written for MSNBC.com, Motor Trend, AutoWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Better Homes and Gardens and other publications. He has authored two books, "Dodge Viper" and "Honda S2000" and is a juror for the North American Car of the Year award. Carney covers the industry from the increasingly strategic location of Washington, DC.