Bentley’s Flying Spur may be new, but it’s very much a throw-back to a specific mark of old-world luxury: the chauffeured British sedan.
A cushioned cocoon in which to relax, or work, as you pass through the hectic world.
The Spur is a moving mansion with more than a few comforts of home. Your favorite leather chair, certainly, and a terrific, pricey stereo. Even a refrigerator. With a base sticker of $205,825 it costs as much as some houses. Or at the very least makes a nice down payment.
If an extreme sports car such as the Ferrari F12 is like a Richard Meier design, all gleaming sheaths of glass and mod angles, then the Spur is very upright, with solid, heavy lines at 17.3 feet long and 5,500 pounds heavy.
This is because it aims to attract the nouveaux riche -- especially in emerging markets -- who want the trappings of old money.
There’s a myth to this, however. Bentleys are assembled in Crewe, England, but the company is owned by the Volkswagen Group. Look beyond the oh-so-nice leather and wood, and you might detect a few Germanic overtones.
That influence is most obvious when you climb out of the back seat and get behind the wheel. Drop a foot onto the gas pedal, leave it there and the big boy blasts forward like it’s huffing nitrous oxide. The Spur is powered by a 6.0-liter, twin-turbo W-12 motor, also found in Bentley’s incredibly quick Continental GT Speed.
There’s an inspiring 616 horsepower, which will take the car to the unlikely speed of 200 miles per hour. And 590 pound-feet of torque moving to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds.
Not really what you’d except from an automobile as big as a house, is it?
The marriage of the uber engine and plush car results in predictably poor gas mileage, eking out a mere 12 mpg around town and 20 on the freeway.
The last generation model was called the Continental Flying Spur, and it was more based on the Continental GT two-door. The GT is a sportier car for a different customer, so the new generation four-door not only loses that part of the name, but looks more differentiated.
The twin headlights remain, but the outside lenses are now larger than the inset ones, and there’s even more mesh covering the upright grill. The rear three quarters is especially nice, with the roofline sloping elegantly, lending a sense of dynamism that the older model lacked. Still, there’s nothing too showy or outre -- it might upset the neighbors.
It’s the interior that is the Spur’s main selling point, from the leather-lined roof to more than 100 square feet of wood, Bentley says. All this is nice in a grandfather’s book-lined library kind of way, but I found the best sense of luxury the car provides is its quietness and cushy suspension.
The company went all out in an effort to hush up the outside world. Honking taxis are no longer your problem. The windshield and windows are tempered and the underside of the car specially engineered; even the mufflers are more effective. This can at times get weird. When the car is stopped you can’t hear the engine. I occasionally gave the gas a goose just to check.
The suspension, meanwhile, smothers bumps and rough road surfaces long before they reach the cabin. At one point I was driving a friend who moved to the rear and promptly took a snooze. His head, sunk into the recliner, didn’t even joggle.
He had 3.5 feet of legroom back there, and toys to play with when he woke up, including a touch-screen remote control about the size of a cell phone, which regulates the temperature and the stereo. There’s Wi-Fi, too.
I don’t know many people who are actually chauffeured, except for an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles. (He is indeed driven in a Bentley.) But even he likes to drive his own car sometimes.
Getting the big Flying Spur to scoot to cruising speed from a full stop is pretty fun, as it’s just so fast and unlikely in a car this size. It is an all-wheel-drive, and uses a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
But get too aggressive in corners and you’ll quickly back off, as the car rather mutely protests, its body swaying heavily. Not what it’s designed for, big engine or no.
But it is quite effective way to wake up somebody in the back seat, as I discovered when it was time to rouse my buddy.
There’s actually a level of sophistication further up: the Mulsanne, Bentley’s even pricier flagship.
I’m not sure what it would get you over the Flying Spur. Except, of course, a slightly bigger moving mansion.
The 2014 Bentley Flying Spur at a Glance
Engine: 6.0-liter, twin-turbo W-12 with 616 horsepower and
590 pound-feet of torque.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Speed: 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds.
Gas mileage per gallon: 12 city, 20 highway.
Price as tested: $242,000.
Best feature: Comforts of home.
Worst feature: Costs as much as one.
Target buyer: The commuter who prefers his movable cocoon.
(Jason H. Harper writes about autos for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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