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Bentley Continental Flying Spur no rough ride, but tough on the wallet

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | October 17th, 2005

This is it, the new Bentley Continental Flying Spur. No more static displays, no more exotic spotting, it is now here, in person, looking better than I ever expected it to be. And what's more, I have the keys to take it for a drive.

You know I haven't had many days that were any better because testing this Bentley was just phenomenal.

Bentley Continental Flying Spur

If you think this is no more than a VW Phaeton with twin turbos and a longer wheelbase, you are probably just jealous of all the people who can have this car, and you can't.

I am already a huge fan of the Continental GT coupe, which is what the Flying Spur is based on, so how does it get along on the road?

Well, from the driver seat, nothing looks any different from the coupe. The dash is the same, the centre console and every button you can find is the same. Despite a more upright windshield, the view out is the same too. However, glancing in the rear-view mirror you'll notice that this car is much, much longer than the coupe. Now turn your head and look at the rear seats. There you have seating for three, with enough room to stretch your legs out as if you are traveling first class on British Airways.

You know, this would probably replace a lot of stretch limos currently in service for celebrities and dignitaries. Not only do you have the space, but it is also far more refined than any limo I have ever been in. It is also better looking than any limo I have seen. The design looks just right and you only get a sense of that when you see it in person. When I first saw the pictures of the Flying Spur, I thought it looked like a stretched banana, but in person it looks right. Design-wise, my favourite four-door is still the Maserati Quattroporte, but this plays a very close second.

Driving-wise though, this Bentley is better than you can possibly imagine it to be. The car I drove was a pre-production test vehicle, a hybrid of European and North American specs. This car is part of a North American tour to allow selected press and potential customers to try it out. The fate of this particular vehicle is sad however. Once the tour is finished, it'll be crashed by NHTSA, for safety data. So, between rolling off the production line and facing its fate at the crash centre, I had a fling with it to see what owners of this car would have to live with.

Like I said before, this is a phenomenal car.
For a car weighing about 2.5 tons, it moves like a much smaller, sportier car. The reason for that is the awesome W12 cylinder engine, of 6.0 litre displacement, producing 552 hp. The very second you prod the accelerator, this car just lunges forward like it was shot out of a cannon. This is one seriously quick car. Zero-100km/h gets covered in 4.9 seconds and top speed according to Autocar's test showed a satellite tracked top speed of 334 km/h. Yes, that makes it faster than its coupe counterpart, because it is a bit more slippery through that air (you see, it doesn't produce as much down force as the coupe). This also means that this limo is as fast as a Mercedes McLaren SLR and a Porsche Carrera GT. Only in the Bentley, your friends and their luggage can come along too.

That on its own should be enough reason to buy this car. However, when you stop being a speed freak and take a calming drive through town in comfort mode, it is a phenomenal luxury car. The suspension settings are great. In sport mode, it is tight, and composed, but the gearbox is a bit lurchy, too sensitive to your pedal input, not great if the lady in the back wants to keep her composure as she gets driven away. However, in comfort mode, it accelerates with a lot more grace.

If you need to come to a quick stop, that's no problem either, since this big Bentley has humongous brakes. It also handles very well too. OK, my drive wasn't through British style B-roads, but by the ease it goes around corners is just shocking for a huge car like this.

I absolutely love the steering on this car. In the past, the two cars I think that have the perfect steering feel is the Porsche 911 and the Subaru Impreza WRX, this Bentley places a close third, that's how nice the steering feels on this. The feel through the steering, at any speed is just perfect, no other way to describe it. If this was a rear-wheel drive car, I bet it would be an easy car to drift and control, because of the steering. However, this is an all-wheel drive car, so if you ever get this sideways, you are either very talented, very psychotic or in serious trouble.
This is one of the nicest cars I have ever driven. I love it, and if I was in the market for a luxury sedan, this would be on the top of my list. With prices starting around $230,000 it is the same as the Continental GT coupe. So you pick, big four-door sedan, or a svelte two-door coupe. Me, I'd personally take the GT coupe, cause I don't need the extra space, and I don't want to look like someone who borrowed his fathers car. However, if my father does win some big lottery, I know exactly what car he should buy next.

Special Thanks to Leo Rubino and Jorge DeCarvalho from Bentley Toronto for the invitation to test this vehicle.
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