Massive Price, Running Costs Won’t Phase Target Buyers
Amazing Performance, Cosseting Luxury, Beautiful Workmanship
**** out of 5
Recession Has Thinned Market, MPs Won’t Be Buying Now Either
“a confusing cacophony of bings and bongs, which might start to mean something after a few weeks of ownership”
“maybe a well-trained chauffeur is essential to get the best out of this car”
This might not be the best time to be reminded that there are still people out there rich enough to buy a Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed.
But buyers there are, although sales have slumped during the recession. I’ve spent the last week driving one of these amazing machines, which retails for an eye-watering £130,500 (unless you’re Rio Ferdinand or Wayne Rooney). The version I drove had some expensive options, including carbon ceramic brakes (£9,790), seat piping (£1,580), Naim for Bentley Premium Audio System (£4,840), and full-length rear centre console (£4,710). The unworkable satnav cost an extra (£1,190) and the impenetrable adaptive cruise control was £1,810 extra.
Luxury is of course the key word. From the moment you first grasp the beautifully embossed key fob, and until you marvel at the workmanship involved with the alloy fuel filler cap (£170 extra) – there was plenty of opportunity to do this; the car does about 14.7 miles per gallon – you realise that no expense has been spared.
Inside, the reek is of unsurpassed quality and attention to detail. The individual air conditioning in the front is opened by pulling a little tactile alloy lever, which might well have been the method for opening the fresh air ducts in the original 1923 Bentley “Speed” models. To shut it off you just push it back. The massive leather seats had the special Bentley piping design, and provide a massage as well as sliding backwards and forwards on demand. Chrome and walnut embellishments are everywhere. The clock is naturally a Breitling. This four-door model had a special full-length centre console in the back, with masses of legroom for the two rear passengers. The “Speed” derivative has a bit more power and goes a bit faster than the simple Flying Spur. Well, actually, it blasts through the 200 mph barrier, allegedly. There are two door coupes and convertible Continentals.
It’s what’s under the hood that really makes this car unique. Switch on the W12 cylinder 6-litre engine and it roars, howls into life, then quickly subsides into a barely perceptible and sophisticated background growl. (The W12 also appears in the VW Phaeton saloon; Bentley is a subsidiary of the German mass car maker). Venture out on to the open road and you will be amazed by its sports car like handling and flatness through the fastest curves. This car drives and goes like an Aston Martin even though it’s as big as a truck. Put your foot down and be amazed by the power and responsiveness, and fabulous, raunchy noise when you accelerate aggressively. Everything calms down when you reach cruising speed.
Just look at the numbers and boggle. This massive machine – it weighs 2,475 kg/5,456 lb – is so powerful it blasts to 60 mph from rest in 4.5 seconds. If you are in Germany and you can find an unlimited speed sector, you can zoom on to 200 mph.
The W12 engine is the most compact 12-cylinder engine in production, according to Bentley, although the competition can’t be very tough. The twin-turbocharged motor has 48 valves, four camshafts and continually variable valve timing. The gearbox is a 6-speed automatic. Keeping the handling sharp and the ride smooth is the four-link suspension at the front and a trapezoidal multi-link system at the rear. Most of the suspension is aluminium. Self-levelling air springs are standard
If you are smarter than me, you can try and engage the radar-based adaptive cruise control, which will detect vehicles ahead of you going slower, (presumably that will be all of them), cut your speed to avoid a collision, then, when you edge out to overtake, the system will sense when the road ahead is clear and automatically restore your pre-selected cruising speed, Bentley claims. (I’ve made this work on a Jaguar, so it can’t just be me). The SatNav system also scored a victory over my technology abilities. Intuitive it ain’t.
Maybe a well-trained chauffeur is essential to get the best out of this car.
The “Speed” develops 15 per cent more torque and nine per cent more power than the standard Flying Spur, with engine efficiency optimised by using lower friction, lighter-weight components and a new engine management system. Its front grille and lower air intakes are dark-tinted chrome, while at the rear wider rifled exhaust tailpipes hint at the power potential.
The 20 inch wheels have Pirelli P-Zero performance tyres which provide amazing grip. The self-levelling suspension sits 10 mm lower than on the standard car.
The Naim sound system with an 1,100 Watt amplifier is the world’s most powerful production unit and has 15 speakers. This also uses Digital Signal Processor technology, enhancing the listening experience further. The carbon brakes sound pricey, but are so durable the discs last the lifetime of the car and brake pad life is doubled. The boot is surprisingly shallow, but very long. It would take about 4 golf bags, but no trolleys. No worries; I suspect Messrs Ferdinand and Rooney have personal caddies to lug their clubs about. The boot lid opens at the touch of a button, and can be shut by pushing a button on the lid, just like in a pricey SUV like the Range Rover.
Just for the record, this car is not above criticism. It has sensors to warn if you are about to reverse into something, or bump into an object when parking. This sets up a confusing cacophony of bings and bongs, which I suppose might start to mean something after a few weeks of ownership. The windscreen wipers actually made a noise. I’d expected a Bentley to have silent wipers. I’m not sure why. And I managed to lock myself in the back. I escaped by scaling the “full-length centre console” and getting out the other side.
So this is what the rich drive about in, or probably, are transported by their chauffeurs. I consider myself lucky to have experienced the sheer pleasure and luxury of a car like this. Watching the flunkies genuflect as you park in front of hotels felt good. I suspect cars like this will just appear in history books before too long. Green fascists say Bentleys and their ilk eat up too much in the way of resources to be allowed in their brave new world.
Neil Winton – May 15, 2009
|Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed
|Engine:||6 litre 12 cylinder twin-turbo
|Power:||600 bhp @ 6,000
|Torque:||750 Nm @ 1,750
|Acceleration:||0-60 mph 4.5 seconds -0-100 km/h 4.8 seconds
|Top Speed:||200 mph-322 km/h
|Fuel Consumption:||claimed combined – 17 mpg-16.6 l/kms Wintonsworld test – 14.7 mpg-19.2 l/kms
|Length:||5,290 mm-208.26 inches
|Weight:||2,475 kg/5,456 lb
|Suspension:||self levelling four-link/ self levelling multi-link
|Boot capacity:||475 litres
|For:||beautiful pinnacle of motoring
|Against:||Rio Ferdinand has one, I think